Mark Worthing, http://www.martlet.ca
Enbridge must know something we don’t. Despite efforts the Martlet was unable to hear or find anyone at the March 31 Comox Joint Review Panel (JRP) hearings for the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project who was in favour of the pipeline project that would send oil tankers out of Kitimat, B.C. to Asian markets.
“We have a lot of relatives up the coast in Bella Bella, the Haisla, Nisga’a, and different areas,” says Andy Everson, K’omoks community leader and Northwest Coast artist. “And it’s important to help their initiative, their drive to stop this pipeline because it’s running through their traditional unceded territory and I don’t believe that it’s right for them to push it through without permission from the hereditary leaders of the territory. I’m willing to do whatever it takes. Right now we’re all trying to do this all peacefully and in good order and come together. And I think that if necessary that things will have to escalate and we’ll have to really oppose with force, if necessary, this pipeline being built.”
The three Joint Review Panelists cancelled hearings April 2 in the coastal community of Bella Bella Monday because they said they felt they were in an “unsafe environment.” They then allegedly told community leaders that no protest signs or placards would be allowed if hearings were to resume. This, followed by the Conservative government’s federal budget that has chopped the environmental review process of such mega-industrial projects, like the Enbridge pipeline and the proposed Raven Coal Mine to a two-year limit, begs the question: Why ask for the public’s input if you don’t want to hear it?
“Panel staff met with community leadership today to talk about logistical issues and what would be the best way to receive the oral traditional knowledge would be,” said Kristen Higgins, communications officer for the National Energy Board.
Higgins told the Martlet on Monday that panelists in Bella Bella were figuring out how to continue the hearings, but members sitting in on the meeting with JRP staff and panelists held with community leaders tweeted that the JRP told the community that no protest signs or placards would be permitted if the hearings were to resume. The JRP resumed Tuesday, April 3 at noon.
The Comox hearing, which went ahead as planned, was attended by more than 1 000 people in opposition to the pipeline.
“It threatens Vancouver Island and it threatens British Columbia,” says John Hird, a Comox resident with 38 years of commercial fishing and coastal marine navigation under his belt.
“There are 300 oil tankers about come onto this coast, about one a day,” says Hird. “The largest waves ever recorded in history are on the top of the Queen Charlotte Islands [Haida Gwaii]. It’s one of the most dangerous passageways of water in the world. To think that an accident is not going to happen here is delusional. We need to support these kinds of movements. And young people need to get out and vote, and change the way we vote in this country — to go to some form of proportional representation, not the system we have now. The only way you can change or work with democracy is to become part of it.”
While 40 or so people gathered inside the hearings in Comox to listen to a 10-year-old boy tell the panelists that oil and water don’t mix, and a presenter representing the Sea Kayak Association of B.C. (SKABC) explain the rugged terrain where the tankers would traverse, hundreds more gathered outside the hearings chanting “No, No, No, No.”
A community forum with panelists, and a movie screening about the pipeline project followed the rally in a nearby elementary school with some people discussing the nature of, and need for, direct action if the proposal is pushed through.
Buses organized by environmental, student and community groups to go from Campbell River, Nanaimo and Victoria to the hearings saw anti-Enbridge banners coming off of the highway into Courtenay. They passed critical mass cyclists with a chorus of solidarity honks and waves as the southern Vancouver Island pilgrimage to the hearings was underway.
Given the incredible outpouring of opposition and civil society mobilization to end the pipeline proposal, and the fact that the company continues to carry itself with confidence leads one to believe that they must know something that we don’t — the Harper government will push through this pipeline.