Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline is facing growing opposition as Canadians protest the project that seeks to pump roughly 525,000 barrels of petroleum from Alberta to British Columbia’s coast per day. Tensions escalated this month as the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel (JRP), an independent body mandated by the National Energy Board (NEB) and the Minister of the Environment, arrived in the Vancouver Lower Mainland for hearings opening on January 14.
The hearings were immediately ‘greeted’ by concerned British Columbians who want to protect the sanctity of their province’s landscape, indigenous communities and wildlife. On January 14, thousands marched in a noise rally to ‘welcome’ the Enbridge hearing to Vancouver, bringing together Idle No More members with members of the greater public opposing the pipeline.
Ultimately, the debate is about two contrasting visions for Canada: one where the country becomes the playground for oil industry interests that garner fast profits at the price of our environment, and another that favours the democratic process of using natural resources without risking the sustainability of our climate, communities, and reputation.
Over seventy First Nations in Alberta and BC have spoken out against the pipeline and supertankers that would threaten and damage their territories.
The hearing was closed to the public and took place at the Sheraton Wall centre, with citizens relegated to satellite sites several blocks away to view the hearings via webcast. The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has written to the president of the NEB, expressing dismay that the hearings were not “open, transparent and accessible” to the public. Because the Board closed the hearings without proving a “real and substantial risk” to the administration of justice, Lindsay Lyster, the President of BCCLA, has criticized the hearings as “potentially unlawful.”
On January 15, the efforts to exclude the public led six activists to storm the hearings, blowing whistles and cordoning off the hearing area as a "climate crime scene." The protesters were arrested, but released from jail later that afternoon. Sean Devlin, one of the protesters, later stated:
Climate change is killing thousands of people every year, primarily in developing countries and Indigenous communities that are the least responsible for creating this problem. Despite this fact, the Joint Review Panel has instructed those participating in the hearings not to talk about climate change. This is a shockingly irresponsible move considering Canada’s tar sands contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. New fossil fuel pipelines are an irresponsible step in the wrong direction.
Further resistance to the hearings occurred on January 18, when hundreds gathered outside the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre to form a great blue ‘uberdrop,’-a community art project organized by local artist Zack Embree and activist A.J. Klein.
In a news release, Embree explained the project as “combining community and art in order to draw attention to the need to protect land and water from resource extraction projects such as the Proposed Northern Gateway pipeline…”
Coastal First Nations also protested through creative means, using a twenty-five-foot long representation of a whale to signify their opposition to the pipeline and reiterate their fight for their sustainable lifestyles and culture.
The hearings have since moved onto Kelowna where similar protests are being held.
For more information on how the pipeline will negatively affect Canadians, or to sign a petition voicing your concern with the project visit http://www.leadnow.ca/canadas-interests.