One of the most difficult aspects of trying to stop large corporations like Enbridge from bringing oil tankers to our coast is an intrinsic imbalance of power and accountability.
Enbridge has tanker loads of money, which give them significant power and influence in the public domain; but they’re only truly accountable to their private, individual shareholders. This is why it’s been so important for me to actually go to Enbridge’s annual general meetings (AGMs) over the past two years.
By arranging to attend as official representatives of Enbridge shareholders, I and whoever comes with me have a once-in-a-year chance at holding Enbridge CEO Patrick Daniel to account, by asking him point blank questions on the record. For representatives of First Nations who make it to the AGM, it’s a unique chance to assert their jurisdiction in front of senior executives, the Board of Directors, shareholders, and the financial media.
This year the AGM team included myself, Vice Tribal Chief of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Terry Teegee, Chief Namoks (John Ridsdale) of the Wet’suwet’en, and Nikki Skuce from our colleague organization Forest Ethics.
I’m not gonna lie; trips like this are always stressful. There’s the logistics (e.g. my Greyhound bus broke down on the way to Calgary), the preparation, making sure media know why you’re there and what you’re doing, and the worry up until the end that something’s not going to go according to plan.
But somehow it always works out, and this time was no different. Super Calgary volunteer John Vickers pulled through with an entire series of professionally designed posters to be used as rally placards outside the meeting; we were able to speak with TV and print media about the issue; John and Terry did an amazing job of asserting First Nations’ jurisdiction over the project; and, we got Patrick Daniel on the record admitting to three crucial points:
(1) That Enbridge hasn’t been completely upfront with all of the shippers they’ve been negotiating with about the inadequacies of the review process for the project.
(2) That the broad opposition to Enbridge’s oil pipeline and tanker project creates “significant” risk for the company, which the Board of Directors discusses virtually every time they meet.
(3) That the “protocol agreements” that Enbridge has signed with some First Nations don’t actually indicate support for the project, and that at current count, there are zero First Nations he is aware of that are publicly supporting it; in contrast to the 28 who are publicly opposing it.
These statement’s by Daniel proves what we knew all along, the Enbridge project is on shaky ground. More importantly they give us the opportunity to drive home the message that Enbridge is in for a fight they can’t win.
We wouldn’t have achieved these three important admissions without the help of Dogwood supporters, who chipped in to cover my travel costs, as well as those of Terry Teegee. Forest Ethics, our colleague organization, chipped in to pay for Chief Namoks as well as for their own campaigner Nikki Skuce. Additionally, Trillium Asset Management, a socially responsible investment firm based in Boston, and two Dogwood supporters provided shareholder proxies to attend the meeting.
Check out some media coverage of our trip here: