Twenty-five people from both Fort St. James and Vanderhoof made oral statements to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel on July 19.
Before and during the proceedings for the oral statements, citizens and some of the oral presenters were waving signs at passing traffic along Highway 27 near the Stuart River bridge.
The Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel community hearings took place in the Sowchea Elementary school gymnasium from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m..
The speakers ranged in topic from the very personal to the more technical to the historical, but every single one spoke in opposition to the proposed Northern Gateway project.
The three members of the review panel, whose job it is to listen to all the information presented about the Northern Gateway Project and then either reject the project as proposed or approve it with or without conditions, have been travelling along the pipeline route and beyond to listen to oral statements.
The Northern Gateway Project would see a twin pipeline built from northern Alberta across British Columbia to carry diluted bitumen to a port in Kitimat where it would be loaded onto tankers.
The following are some excerpts and summaries from some of the speakers in order of their presentations, and the entire transcript will be available online at: http://gatewaypanel.review-examen.gc.ca/clf-nsi/prtcptngprcss/hrng-eng.html
Erickson spoke about the seismic activity in the area and how this poses a threat to the pipeline’s integrity over time, called the economic benefits a “flash of jobs” and said the creation of greenhouse gases by the pipeline’s construction and operation and its associated activities would offset benefits as well.
The pipeline project would be “leaving a time-bomb within our community” and “would have an untold stress on our people.”
“We are the people of this land,” he said. “We will always be the people of this land and we cannot under any circumstances, leave this land.”
“No heavy crude pipeline, built by Enbridge or any other company will be allowed in Dakelh territory.”
Christensen described his fear of an oil spill during the long winters in the area, due to the problems this may cause to cleanup efforts and his concerns for Hecate Strait which the loaded tankers would be navigating.
“Let’s slow down, leave some for the coming generations.”
Bergener was critical of the review process itself.
“I fear that this process is all about dollars,” she said. “I am concerned that the people who live in the north provide the pathway for a foreign investor to make value-added dollars from our oil instead of having those jobs at the source. I can understand that the government of Canada wants to diversify its markets, but that is no excuse for giving away potential in jobs or enabling the destruction of its land.”
“I am a salmon eater. I grew up on the banks of the Stuart River, Nakalcoh. I’m here to present a message, I want to speak on behalf of Chief Kwah.”
“The salmon, the rivers and lakes, the ocean, are all one. The salmon unite the people, the waters and the land. For thousands of years the salmon have sustained us. Now you come along and say you have a better plan for us, for the people, the lakes, the ocean. A pipeline. Progress. Your plan shows your lack of respect for our traditions, for life itself.”
“When I first heard of the Enbridge plan to cross the Stuart River less than three miles from Chief Kwah’s grave, I was shocked that it would even be considered.”
“The great Chief Kwah at the end of his life broke with an old tradition of cremation, asking instead to be buried along the riverbank near the mouth of Nakalcoh to welcome and honour and protect the salmon forever.”
“He drew his bow and sent an arrow into the future, today we are his arrow. We will protect and honour the salmon forever.
“My name is Louise Evans-Salt and I am the mother of three and the grandmother of six.”
She spoke about her concerns the passing of Bill C-38 may have on the review process, which has shortened the review process and limited the power of the panel itself and she fears will also increase the threats to species at risk. She also said she is very concerned about the rapidly increasing rate of oil spills.
“I have no faith in the Enbridge Corporation,” she said. “They have been cavalier and dishonest in conversations with us in this community.” “It is another sell-off of resources that need to stay in Canada to create jobs for Canada.”
“It is in the best interests of all Canadians to protect this beautiful land.”
“What do you want to be able to tell your grandchildren?” she said. “I want to leave them a legacy of life, not a legacy of death.”
Betsy Leon, Nak’azdli elder
“I would like to be able to speak on behalf of the land” she said. “Land is very precious to us.” “If the land is damaged, what are we going to turn to, what are we going to do?”
“Many an evening, such as one two nights ago, I floated in the lake after a swim. The same lake I learned to swim in and my children are currently learning to swim in. Just a few kilometres from where Pitka Creek flows into the Stuart Lake. The same creek that could border the edge of a massive six-diesel engine pumping station pumping bitumen and carcinogenic benzenes to and from this province’s beautiful coast.”
“By allowing this pipeline to go forward some Canadians will benefit. So will a lot of Americans and Chinese. Is that who Canadians are? A country of men and women willing to sacrifice a truly sustainable industry like tourism so China can get a screaming deal on oil?”
“I am asking the review panel to force Canada to be innovative again. Force us to be innovative with new green energy ideas and solutions. To be leaders in responsible governing and growth.”
Selena Lezone, Naka’zdli elder
“We know our rights as you know our rights, we just ask you to reconsider … and do the right thing, not only for you guys but us too.”
Kerr described some of her friends and neighbours who live along the proposed pipeline route, from Sandra and Randy Sulyma’s home on the Stuart River, near where the pipeline could cross the river, to a neighbour’s farm, where the pipeline would pass through his potato patch, to another woman’s home where the pipeline route is proposed to go through her kitchen.
“I may not agree with my neighbours … but I always trust them. I don’t trust Enbridge.”
“I don’t trust Enbridge to be a good neighbour.”
“This pipeline doesn’t just run through the bush in the middle of nowhere, it runs through people’s lives.”
At the end of her oral statement, Kerr called on the audience to stand in opposition to the pipeline and say “No” to the pipeline, and almost the entire room stood with her and said “No.”
She was chastised by the panel for the disruption, but the rest of the proceedings continued as before.
Labrush argued the economic argument for the pipeline would make more sense if the bitumen was being refined in Canada instead of being shipped raw to foreign markets.
“This defies rational explanation,” he said.
Anne Marie Sam
Sam spoke of the connectedness of the waterways and their importance to the culture of the Dakelh people.
“When we are a Dakelh people, we travel by water and we are here to protect our water,” she said. “This is a project that is profit for a few but consequences for everybody.”
“The river is the lifeblood of our people,” she said. “We as keyoh holders have not signed any agreement with Enbridge, nor were we consulted.”
“I know that the people of Enbridge are fools, because they don’t realize what it is to be a person … you can’t eat profits, you can’t eat oil.”
“My home, my farm, my trapline, are my life, they are all within the corridor of this pipeline.”
“Economics on paper can work but they’re not tied to culture, sustainability.”
“Any development in my opinion, should be mutually beneficial.”
“The province of British Columbia is one of the most beautiful places on earth and we’re here to tell you we want to keep it that way.”
She also spoke about Enbridge’s track record in the past and said this should be a reason not to approve the project they are proposing.
“If i was hiring a contractor to do some work in my home and got these kinds of references, would I hire them?”
Photos from the community hearings in Fort St. James will be posted on the Caledonia Courier Facebook page.