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Solidarity at the Coquihalla Summit about Trans Mountain Pipeline

Hope, British Columbia. On August 17, 2013, thirty Indigenous Tribal Leaders, environmental activists and residents of Lower Mainland and Interior communities met at the Coquihalla Summit to talk about the transport of diluted bitumen on the Trans Mountain pipeline route. They gathered near the old toll booth site on the Coquihalla highway and later examined nearby spill sites along the pipeline. There was unanimity of opposition to Kinder Morgan’s plans to continue shipments of this dangerous and toxic substance. 

“It was an honour to stand with the dedicated individuals who took the time to participate in the Coquihalla Summit strategy session” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. "The diversity of participants is an undeniable reflection of the growing opposition to the Harper government’s efforts to increase the production and transport of tar sands heavy crude," said Phillip.

The event was organized by David Ellis, a former commercial fisherman and fisheries planner, whose current work takes him to First Nations communities throughout the Fraser watershed crisscrossed by the pipeline. From his travels and research, Ellis has become alarmed about the effects of bitumen spills on the environment and local communities. 

I would like to thank David Ellis for his tenacity and diligent efforts to expose the reality of the 'leaky garden hose' known as Kinder Morgan's 60 year old Trans Mountain Pipeline,” said Phillip. Kinder Morgan’s plans to increase their TransMountain pipeline to increase the carrying capacity to 890,000 barrels a day.

“It is time for the Prime Minister of Canada, the National Energy Board and the Province of BC to act now,” said Ellis. “They must close down the aging Trans Mountain Pipeline and forbid all future heavy oil through the Fraser watershed. If such action is not taken immediately, I predict a major leak will occur this winter, and bring economic catastrophe, to the western Canadian economy.” 

"Insanity! Absolute insanity," declared Grand Chief Stewart Phillip. "Clearly, Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline is the oldest, most rickety and subsequently the most dangerous pipeline in the Province." "In light of ongoing reports and evidence of leaks, this pipeline needs to be shut down and subjected to a thorough inspection."

“This pipeline has changed hands many times and millions have been made each time, with government backing,” said Chief Art Adolph, Xaxli'p (Fountain) and Chair of the Lillooet Tribal Council. “Proper management is needed to protect the ecosystems we depend on. Currently we have organized crime at the highest level between government and industry advancing their own agenda—counter to court rulings. In our ancient stories regarding proper management, sometimes Coyote dies when not adhering to teachings and is brought back to life. Not so, if the Fraser River dies after an oil spill. 

“I’m here because the state of our waters and our way of life is being compromised, said Chief Shelly Leech, T'it'q'et Tribal Chief (Lillooet). “The fish keep our culture alive. We need to pull together and take a stand against things like these pipelines that threaten our way of life—the way of life for everyone.” 

Chief Archie Patrick, Stellat'en First Nation, Nadleh Bun (Fraser Lake) said: “Nadleh means ‘where salmon returns’ but we can't even drink from that lake any more. We lived in harmony with it for many years. We have to act on this pipeline issue.

Chief Garry John, Tsal'alh (Seton Lake) and Chair of the St'át'imc Chiefs Council added: “Kinder Morgan just can't maintain their own pipe! We need the wild foods, but will soon lose them if this continues.

“This area is vulnerable to leaks and spills and can cause irreversible harm to the watersheds and wild salmon, a keystone species that unites us all,” said Eddie Gardner, a member of the Skwah First Nation (Stolo). “Having this pipeline continue to flow bitumen is already a risk too high, let alone plans to double the pipeline through the existing ‘right of way.’ We need a ‘right of way’ of clean water, land and air and protection of renewable resources like our wild salmon for the benefit of future generations.” 

Bitumen does sink, and it can lead to long term leaching of toxins that will threaten salmon and the long-term ecology of our waterways,” said Stan Proboszcz, Fisheries Biologist with Watershed Watch. “We must give greater economic value to ecosystems and the services they provide.” 

David Luggi, Band Manager, Stellat'en First Nation, former Chief, Carrier Sekani Tribal Council: “We spent 8 years fighting off Gateway, it is time governments began to hear the people.”
“The Exxon Valdez oil spill taught us a harsh lesson of the devastating affect to the ocean environment and on the daily lives and livelihood of people, whose tattered lives are still uncertain today,” said Roy Sakata, a former commercial salmon fisherman and resident of Ladner. “That was 20 years ago. Increasing pipeline oil transportation with a 60-year-old system with its associated pipeline leaks and breakages and increasing oil tanker traffic with the imminent potential of collisions and groundings are not acceptable.”

“There is no net economic benefit for BC,” said Michael Hale, a Chilliwack resident and member of the PIPE UP Network. “The tar sands bitumen is all for export, not for BC’s needs. There are better alternatives in green jobs, renewable energy and electric transportation. We have to conserve our natural wealth for future generations,” said Hale. 

Mr. Rod Mariner, retired manager, B.C. government streamside management program and a founder of Greenpeace, spoke of environmental campaigns that have changed the world. “Do not forget their have been many huge victories, after our Greenpeace cruse to Amchitka, the U.S.Government shut down all nuclear testing. We will shut down this pipeline!

Hope resident and member of the PIPE UP Network, Sharlene Harrison-Hinds said: “Many Hope residents are concerned about protecting their water these days.” She recalled the Viet Nam war protests. “Just like then, it is ‘united we stand,’” Harrison-Hinds concluded.

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