Joint Review Panel hearings in Victoria: speakers say panel should broaden its scope
Leader of the BC Greens says the question before the panel is one of equality, diversity
Jane Sterk, leader of the BC Green Party, said she believes the question before the Joint Review Panel is about more than just the environment. She said it’s one of diversity and equality beyond the scope strictly laid out by the panelists. She cited democratic representation, gender and sexual equality and neocolonialism, drawing links between them all.
“The underlying value relates to cooperation and understanding, rather than domination and control. This project application is founded in the latter.” She said the health of the community depends on cultural, sexual, spiritual and biological diversity.
But Sterk has hope for the change that could be spurred by the process.
“It has raised the question of who should decide what happens in a jurisdiction. It is a ‘by the people, for the people’ moment in history that may allow we as Canadian to redesign how we make policy and for who.”
Throughout the day, the panel faced further criticism of the process. Esther Callo opened her by questioning what she saw as an imbalance in the responsibility placed on speakers.
“While I as a citizen must swear an oath on the bible to express my opinion in public, Stephen Harper has lied and cheated his way to majority government,” she told the panel before turning to address the applicant table.
“I assume you’re representing Enbridge?” she asked. “Why doesn’t it say? I have my name here twice.”
Panelist Kenneth Bateman interrupted her.
“This forum is not to make political aspersions toward others or to advocate action that don’t relate to this process. We would have appreciated if you’d respected the process.”
Henry Summerfield told the room that in spite of having invested in Enbridge, he couldn’t support the pipeline.
“As a retired person, I do need dividends, they’re important to me. But not dividends at any price,” he said. “When I invested in Enbridge, I never envisaged one of its projects would be a threat to so many things.”
Nancy Issenman told the panel she couldn’t remember ever feeling as strongly about anything as she does about the Northern Gateway pipeline. Upon informing herself about the project, she made a promise.
“I will put my life on the line to stop this from happening.” Six months later, she traveled to northern BC to spend 10 days with a group of Wet'suwet'en First Nation people who set up camp in the path of the proposed pipeline. “It was a life-changing experience for me.” She said it showed her who the authority on the project should be.
“What truly, deeply affected me during those ten days was stories of away of life that continued in spite of attempts to wipe it out,” she said. “We need to learn from those who have a multi-millennial relationship with the land.”
Fourteen-year-old Rebecca Hansen was the youngest speaker to appear before the panel this week. Looking down at her cue cards only occasionally, Hansen told the panelists about her trip up north last summer.
“In Kitimat, you couldn’t see across the little channel because there was so much fog coming in,” she said. She said it’s clear to her that Northern Gateway is wrong for her province.
“This pipeline is not made to fit BC. BC is being made to fit this plan.” Then she spoke about her aspirations for the future.
“I want to be a marine biologist when I grow up. I want to be teaching people how our ocean works, not how it works after a spill. I don’t want to talk about it in the past.”
Retired teacher Rita Bijons said the climate change brought about by tar sands development is threatening students’ futures.
“I always believed my students had a bright future. I no longer believe that.” She spoke of rising temperatures, extended heat waves and other extreme weather, citing recent news that the Canadian Forces will now be billing provinces and municipalities for costs associated with disaster relief. The Department of National Defence has always been permitted to recoup costs incurred helping out in such crises as floods and wildfires, but typically waived that cost. The DND has decided to start taking advantage of the rule.
“When cities become uninsurable, who assumes the cost of breakdown?” she asked. “The public.”
Michele Murphy was one of the last speakers of the day, and gave by far the shortest presentation.
“To tell you the truth, I have little faith in this process, sadly,” she said. “So I didn’t spend a lot of time figuring out what I want to say. What I want to say is no.” She said she would be out with all the others to stand in the way of the pipeline should the project go through.
“I hope you don’t end up with blood on your hands because I think this is going be a serious fight if this goes any further.”