Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel hearings in Vancouver: speakers urge shift away from oil
To avoid repeating the statements of those who came before them, many speakers cut to the chase: No pipelines.
Nicholas Read opened his statement at the Joint Review Panel hearing this evening with a few facts about himself, first telling the panel that he teaches journalism at Langara College.
“I’m also 57 years old,” he said. “And you’re probably asking yourself why I’m telling you this. The reason is that, when you are 57 years old, you’ve reached an age where you realize that very few things in life are all or nothing. All good, all bad. Black or white. However, to coin another cliché, there’s always an exception that tests the rule. And this pipeline project tests this rule. It is all bad. It is all wrong.”
With a nod to the rabbi coincidentally sitting next to him, he recounted to the panel an old Yiddish proverb.
“If six people tell you that you’re sick, lie down. If six people, or 60 or 600 or 6,000 tell you that a project is a bad idea, it’s a bad idea.”
The rabbi was David Mivasair, of Vancouver. Mivasair wanted to help the panelists with their decision by sharing some ancient Jewish wisdom. The story he told was written about 2000 years ago, he said, by members of an agrarian society.
“They have a story that says when God created Adam in the Garden of Eden, God took Adam around, showed him all the trees and said to Adam, behold how beautiful is my creation. Do not ruin it, for if you do, there’s no one to come after you to repair it.”
“To think that people had that kind of wisdom long before they even had the capacity to ruin creation is sort of astounding," he said.
“We also know there’s a very exciting movement going on right now called Idle No More and they’ve also expressed a very strong interest in keeping their lands clean,” she said. “I’ve never really seen this kind of unity. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to, no matter where I’ve gone, are completely against this pipeline.” She pointed to multiple surveys in different industries, including one commissioned by the Gitga’at Nation of Hartley Bay and one by Enbridge, that all concluded a majority of British Columbians are opposed to the pipeline. She said consensus among the scientific community is also extremely telling.
“When scientists from different disciplines and different ways of looking at the issue can come up with a 100-percent conclusion that we’re going to have a pipeline spill or a tanker spill, possibly both, that’s actually saying a lot.”
Rob Fleming, MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake and environment critic for the official opposition, expressed his disappointment that Christy Clark and the BC Liberals failed to provide either a written or oral statement to the review panel.
“A province like BC, with a civil service and expert scientists across many agencies like the Environmental Assessment Office … with all of that at its disposal it’s incredible to me that it wasn’t done.”
Marilyn Suddaby told the panel she was here because she had lost faith in politicians to protect the environment, and she criticized Enbridge for contributing to already high levels of pollution in other countries.
“I’ve been to 70 countries, including China and India. I just returned from India where air quality in Delhi was almost as bad as it was in China in 1998,” she said. “Back then, when we were there for three weeks, the sun everywhere in China looked like a faint ghost behind the smog.”
She said she believes Canada had the opportunity 25 years ago to become a leader in renewable energy. Instead, she believes the country is moving backward.
“To me, promoting pipelines in 2013 is like promoting blacksmiths in 1913. New technology had no place for them then, and today our society has no place to accept more pollution.”
To counteract the stagnation of repetition he imagined the panelists must face, Kevin Afanasiff decided to do something a little different.
“I need to think outside the box. I need to do something a little more creative, to leverage my skills to say something in a different way than everyone one else has said it.”
He performed a short song he wrote about the emotional pain that will result from the destruction of the environment.
He said wants to have something to say when his own future children question him.
“They’re going to ask me, what did you do? And I want to say that I actually took some legitimate steps to have my voice heard.”
Founding member of Greenpeace Bill Darnell compared the current climate situation to the spectre of nuclear war that was present in the 70s.
“I remember it very well. It was a constant, low-grade terror. We feared that a war would be fought in the skies above Canada,” he said. “Today Canadian and all people live with a background fear of climate change. I heard it earlier as I listened from the other room.”
He told the panel that he saw the power of public opposition then and he sees it again now.
“Ultimately, the collective voices and action were effective and the [nuclear weapons] tests on Amchitka Island were cancelled. Since then world has slowly retreated from the insanity of nuclear war,” he said. “We can also understand that people will not give up on creating sustainable conditions for humanity. It is my belief that he people of the province will not allow the pipeline to be built.”
Bryan Joe Jr. of the Coast Salish people said in no uncertain terms that he would camp out and block construction of the pipeline should it be approved.
“As First Nations, we put value in everything that the Creator has given us.” He said Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike and the rest of the Idle No More movement have shown that First Nations have woken up and will not stay silent.
“I never want to dip my paddle in oil. I want future generations of First Nations to experience what is left of our culture and regain what as been taken from us.”
American Mary Ann Kae described her experiences on research vessels off the BC coast and on recreational boats. She has seen first-hand both of the unpredictable nature of the proposed tanker route and of the inevitability of human error.
“One day in the Bering Sea, I was on watch and I was tired. The deck officer gave a course change order, which I repeated and then executed. But in my fatigue something went wrong and in some connection between my brain and hands I transposed the digits.”
This happened in broad daylight, she said, and with plenty of time to change course and avoid danger.
Kae begged the panel not to behave like her home country and allow Canada to become a petro-state.
“If a tanker wipes out the salmon and the edible resources on the shore, there goes the wolves, the bears, the salmon and the First Nations. Does Canada want to be responsible for the final extinction of all these cultures?”