Children’s voices cry out against Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline
An 11-year old girl in traditional native clothing was one of two children who brought a sobering note to day five of the hearings in Vancouver on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project.
In a compelling presentation to the three person National Energy Board (NEB) panel, Ta’Kaiya Blaney of the Sliammon Nation just North of Powell River, told the members “maybe you won’t be around in a century from now, and maybe you feel you don’t need to worry about how we’ll live in 2113, but we do.”
Blaney says growing up with grandparents who are closely tied to the land and sea has given her a clear view of how life is changing. “The contrast from three generations ago has warped and changed so dramatically by industry, a majority of our traditions are now gone because of a lack of healthy animals, land and resources.”
The 11-year old is no stranger to microphones and addressing the public on the importance of culture, traditions and lives of indigenous people. Blaney has been an outspoken voice at rally’s, festivals, schools and youth conferences all over Canada. Despite her youth, she has delivered her message of the joy and significance of her coastal BC environment to a UN conference on youth and the environment in Indonesia and at the UN Earth Summit in Rio Janiero in 2012.
“On our industrial road of destruction, we are in a car running off a cliff, and the car is running on oil. Put yourself in the shoes of your great, great, great, great, great, grandchild in the possible future we’re heading to and imagine their struggles,” said Blaney. “Today we worry about tsunamis, volcanoes, the economy, the stock market, housing, electricity and jobs. A century from now the grandchildren of virtually everyone here might be living, afraid of the world we left them.”
Blaney was one of two children who addressed the panel on Friday about their concerns for the future. Fifteen-year old Zoe Craig left school to plead with the panel to reject the Northern Gateway project. The Musqueam Nation member told the panelists:
“I am only 15-years old, but I understand that the world has energy needs that must be met. But I do not believe that this is the correct path for our long-term future.”
Photo of Zoe Craig (right) with Asia Czapska from Justice for Girls
“It is evident that citizens from big to small are in full support of Mother Earth.... it’s not hard to understand why. Just ask the people of Kuwait, Mexico, the West Indies, the Persian Gulf, of Angola, of South Africa, France and many more,” said Craig. “And don’t let us be next. Please, protect your children, your grandchildren and the generations to come.”
Thirty-year old elementary school teacher Elke van Breemen told the panel that “my right to live in one of the most naturally pristine parts of the world belongs to me.
“There is no way to compensate for the loss of a majestic coastal ecosystem that your grandchildren and my children won’t be able to experience firsthand.”
Two dozen other speakers, including marine biologist, charter boat captains, grandmothers, and fathers like Christopher Miller also addressed the panel. “The potential for irreparable damage to the environment is irrefutable,” said Miller, reflecting the opinion of the majority of presenters during the morning and throughout the week.
Van Breemen was the 198th and last speaker to address the NEB panel this week. Of those 198, every single person expressed opposition to the project. An NEB official says the board has received more than 1,400 letters, with the vast majority of those opposed to the project. A handful of BC municipalities have expressed support, owing to the number of jobs and services that a major construction project could deliver.
The panel will be in Kelowna for two days starting January 28. Another 134 people are scheduled to address the panel when it reconvenes in Vancouver to hear oral statements for three days starting January 30.
Upon completion of the community hearings and oral statements, the panel will resume the questioning phase of the final hearings in Prince Rupert. That phase continues until mid-May.
Final written and oral arguments will take place from mid-May to June 30 with a final report and recommendation due December 31, 2013.
To find out more context about the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, read Extract: The Pipeline Wars vol. 1 Enbridge