The environmental risk is too high to allow Enbridge’s proposed tar sands pipeline and tanker project to BC’s north coast to go ahead. That’s the message Dogwood initiative, Forest Ethics, and representatives of two BC First Nations took to federal Minister of Natural Resources Lisa Raitt this May.

Raitt holds pen on Gateway

Minister Raitt is (unless there is an election or cabinet shuffle) the government official who eventually would have to sign off on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project were it to go ahead. This assumes of course that the joint National Energy Board/Canadian Environmental Assessment review process approves the project following its review that should begin later this year; this would likely happen given the NEB/CEAA’s history of approving virtually every project presented.

BC First Nations’ brought their concerns directly to Minister Raitt. Wearing traditional heavy blankets and headdress signifying the lineageof the Fireweed and Beaver Clans, Gerald Amos of the Haisla First Nation and Chief Kloum Khun of the Wet’suwet’en Nation performed a’Mixing of the Waters’ ceremony in front of Raitt’s Milton constituencyoffice. They used water collected from their home territories, which are threatened by Enbridge’s proposed project.

Ceremony demonstrated unity and strength

The ceremony was asymbolic and powerful gesture of the unity of their cause and thestrength of their commitment to protect the salmon, eulachon,shellfish, and all that has been the source of their enduring culturesover millennia, from the devastation of oil spills. 

Surrounded bythe cameras of local media, the Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary Chief also delivered a vial of tar sands bitumen to Raitt’s office, speaking of hissolidarity with the families of Fort Chipewyan, and all of the peopleand communities suffering at the foot of Canada’s fastest growingsource of greenhouse gases.

A better process would seek to minimize conflict

Raitt is championing the Conservative government’s intention to get more pipelines built faster, speaking recently about the need to cut through more red tape in the pipeline approval process.

Raitt will find that the best way to speed pipeline approvals is not to simply ‘cut red tape’, but to do a better job of minimizing conflict with First Nations and other affected communities.  That means seriously dealing with the realities of today – global warming and increasing legal recognition of Aboriginal rights and title – in the process. Dogwood, Forest Ethics, and Sierra Club Canada put out a media release on this point.

A project that enough people oppose will experience delays no matter how slim the approval process

A project that enough people oppose will experience delays no matter how streamlined the approval process; in fact the more streamlined approvals get the more people may oppose it on the grounds that their voices don’t have a meaningful forum.

Canada thus needs a pipeline assessment process that (a) recognizes title and rights, that (b) reconciles proposals with the emergency of climate change, and (c) that otherwise asks ‘should this pipeline go ahead’ before it asks ‘how can the pipeline go ahead’.

With respect to Enbridge’s tar sands pipeline and tanker project to BC’s north coast, Raitt should have her answer to (c). The answer is no.