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.

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“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?”

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