Mayor Rob MacDougall promises council will discuss taking a stand on Northern Gateway.
The Fort St. James Sustainability Group presented to council last week, asking the mayor and council to take a position on the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, but the group was not alone.
The council chambers were standing room only, with community members from youth to seniors filling the audience space.
Bev Playfair, Kandace Kerr, Rosemarie Sam, Louise Evans-Salt and Keith Prince all spoke to council on why they were taking a position on the proposed pipeline and why they felt it was important for council to also take a position.
Playfair spoke first, explaining how she came to feels so strongly about the proposed development and its possible impacts.
“We have everything to lose, we have nothing to gain.” said Playfair. “This resource will not last forever, we all know that.”
She spoke eloquently about about the importance of the salmon and other fish species to the First Nations throughout history, and their importance to the culture and history of the area.
Rosemarie Sam, a Nak’azdli Band councillor, also presented the Nak’azdli position in openly opposing the proposed development.
“After careful consideration of Enbridge’s project … we’ve concluded that the Enbridge pipeline is banned from our territory,” said Sam.
Kandace Kerr of the Fort St. James Sustainability Group emphasized the importance of mayor and council taking a position on the pipeline due to its potential impact on the area.
“You folks are elected to represent the people in this room,” said Kerr.
She emphasized the importance of the active groups in the community in getting Enbridge to the area to visit and speak to community members.
Kerr cited many reasons for her own opposition to the proposed pipeline.
“Enbridge will tell you and Nothern Gateway will tell you and their consultants will tell you, the potential for a spill is one in a million. But it only takes one, and I’m willing to bet they gave the folks in Kalamazoo the same odds before they built that pipeline,” said Kerr.
She pressed the mayor and council to take a stand, given all the information Enbridge will be filing is now before the Joint Review Panel.
“Tonight feels like a time for courage, no other community in the direct line of this project has taken a position on this pipeline … I’ve taken a position on this pipeline and I speak up, because I feel I’ve got a responsibility to do so and I hope tonight that you’ll stand up for this community too.”
Louise Evans-Salt spoke to the work and research the Fort St. James Sustainability Group has been doing over the past year and a half since the group first formed.
“What we have discovered in the year in a half is it’s much more frightening than we actually thought at the beginning,” said Evans-Salt. “I think that if we build this pipeline we are once again investing in an industry that is not sustainable.”
“We really do feel like we’re in a David and Goliath scenario,” said Evans-Salt. “But, you know, David did overcome.”
Keith Prince was the final speaker, talking about the generations of his family who have hunted and fished the river, and he closed with a strong statement to the room which brought another round of applause.
“I know one thing for sure, as long as I breath, they will not cross the river,” said Prince.
Both MacDougall and Councillor Joan Burdeniuk thanked the speakers for their input. MacDougall did not want to discuss taking a stand until all the councillors were present, and Councillor Gingrich was absent from the meeting.
MacDougall did admit he personally opposes the proposed pipeline, but he felt it was necessary to hear from all sides.
Direction was given to administration to look into the options of holding a referendum or a public meeting to get broader input from the community.
If council does choose to take a stand, MacDougall said he would like to see it happen before the final intervenor hearings for the Nothern Gateway Joint Review Panel. The mayor also encouraged the public to continue to submit comments to council.