Don’t build a pipeline, build a new economic model

When the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel ruled in favour of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline and tankers project in December, we at BC-Yukon KAIROS, a faith-based organization working towards social and ecological justice, were sorely disappointed, but not surprised.

British Columbia, along with most of the western world, has based its economy on the right of individuals to pursue wealth, often at the expense of healthy communities and the natural world.

In our current economic model, companies and shareholders’ returns are perceived to matter more than the land that sustains all life.

After hearing over 1,000 submissions arguing that the Northern Gateway pipeline is simply not worth the risk to BC's jobs, communities, climate and natural environment, the panel ruled that “the project’s potential benefits for Canada and Canadians outweigh the potential burdens and risk.”

This statement is not only highly subjective, but very misleading. It suggests that the people who will reap the majority of this project’s benefits also face the majority of the risk. This is simply not the case.

Some individuals and companies, not all of them Canadian, stand to benefit greatly from further tar sands development and accessing Asian markets from the western seaboard. However, it is the citizens of BC who will live with the devastating consequences of oil spills and contamination; and people all over the world who have already begun to face the dire effects of climate change. From our perspective, no benefit of further fossil fuel development outweighs that risk.

We are at a watershed moment here in Canada. We need to have a national conversation about energy, and about how we define quality of life. We must begin investing in alternative energy technologies and build the infrastructure to support them. An economic model reliant on the destruction of wilderness is unsustainable and short-sighted.

A new economy for Canada can be based on what sustains life and protects diversity. The days of plunder and exploitation of the earth’s resources for human greed must end.

True leadership requires taking into account the future consequences of today’s decisions. This approach to economics is the only one that is sustainable and in the public’s best interest on our rapidly warming planet.

We were also disappointed to note the report’s inattention to Canada’s First Nations. While the panel recommended further consultation with First Nations directly impacted by the proposed pipeline and tankers before proceeding, it did not adequately address the firm rejection of the project by over 130 First Nations.

Canada is a signatory to the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. In the months and years to come, KAIROS will be standing with First Nations who support a new relationship with the earth and its peoples. We hope that British Columbians from all walks of life will join us.

Change and vision go hand in hand. Even if all 209 conditions imposed by the review panel were met by Enbridge, our network would remain firmly opposed to this pipeline and tankers proposal.

The Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal has no place in our vision of compassion and right relationship with the earth and its peoples.

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