In your words: standing up for right to speak at Enbridge hearings

A column in the Calgary Herald last week got Dogwood supporters so hot under the collar that they flooded the newspaper with more than 100 letters to the editor.

Running under the headline “Does everyone have a right to complain at Northern Gateway pipeline review?” Deborah Yedlin’s column questions whether all of the 4,000 people who registered to speak at the upcoming Enbridge public hearings should have the right to do so.

The answer was a resounding “yes!” Letter-writers also did an excellent job of pointing out the hypocrisy in Yedlin’s accusations about environmental organizations receiving American funding. Indeed, so many of the letters gave us goosebumps that we’ve decided to share excerpts from some of our favourites.

Thanks to everyone who wrote for standing tall for B.C.

In a democracy, in which my father fought 5.5 years to defend, all citizens have the right to speak, and any person who would deprive any citizen of that right to speak is in violation of the basic principles of partipatory democracy, and are insulting our veterans on Remembrance Day.

 – James Montgomery, Maple Ridge


A healthy democracy requires a robust and critical free press, meaning the right of media to speak freely about issues of importance – which is why I find Deborah Yedlin’s suggestion that such rights should be questioned when it comes to individuals both ironic and offensive. When newspapers openly question the right of citizens to speak in defence of their values and concerns, I feel concern for the health of the fourth estate, Canadian democracy and civil society. I am a business owner and the executive director of a business improvement association at that. I am definitely “pro busineses” but I also strongly oppose the Northern Gateway project and I most certainly feel that I have an inalienable and sacred right to be heard as a productive member of my community, province and country. The more important and controversial the issue the more fiercely we should reserve that right, not belittle it or question its relevance.

– Wesley Regan, Vancouver


What part of “public” and “hearing” is not clear?

– Michele Murphy, Victoria


I don’t believe I am complaining when I say that my family lives on wild salmon. I feel fortunate to live on the beautiful central coast of B.C., where we can fish for salmon. I have a fear that oil tankers sailing on the very stormy and rocky B.C. coast will run aground and destroy our food source. Remember the Exxon oil tanker disaster near Valdez? Shipping disasters happen no matter what assurances are given. Yedlin should consider the people who depend on the salmon to live. As go the salmon, so go the First Nations people . . . on our way to extinction.

– Gail Moody, Bella Coola


B.C. taxpayers will have to pay the bill and deal with the damage if an oil tanker carrying Alberta crude has an accident on our coast. Do we have a right to speak at the Enbridge environmental review? You better believe we do!

– Paul Manly, Nanaimo (Published in Calgary Herald)


Who will speak to the voracious multinational corporation who plans to use every means possible to push a project through?  A plan that is not about creating jobs, but about ravaging the earth in order to make a small number of people rich beyond belief and perpetuate carbon emissions. My family is Metis. My brother has supported his family for over 30 years in the oil and gas industry.  My sister, her daughter and twin grandchildren live in the Peace River.  I was born and raised on Vancouver Island within sight of the coastal waters at risk.  I have lived in Kitimat and Dawson Creek in my lifetime.  My grandmother and her family were from Athabasca since before recorded Canadian history.  I have contributed to the economy of this province, voted in the elections, volunteered and raised my family here.  Who has the right to tell me that I have no right to speak?

– Sandy Slobodian, Victoria (Published in Calgary Herald)


If only Canadian citizens and organizations funded by Canadians should be allowed to speak at this hearing, then maybe only Canadian companies with only Canadian shareholders should be allowed to make an application to do business in Canada. Then we would not have to have these hearings, because the oil would have to be sold in Canada and the pipeline would not be needed.  

– Ken Bigelow, North Vancouver


The Canadian anthem goes like this, “Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee”. Every single citizen in this country has the right to stand up for the good of the country. So, I say to you. I am one in 30 million, and I am standing up for my country. Oh Canada, I stand on guard for thee.

– Keegan Pearson, Saltspring Island


I find Yedlin’s concerns over U.S. “interference” without merit. Like the oil companies who will profit from this pipeline, Enbridge is itself a multinational corporation with substantial U.S. holdings, employees and investors. Americans have as much right to speak on this issue as anyone else. Were it believed that a substantial number of registrants – foreign or otherwise – were in support of this project, I have to wonder whether it would warrant any discussion at all in Alberta.

– John Carswell, Brentwood Bay


Yedlin has done the review process a likely unintended favour -her article has triggered reactions that will solidify “the right to be heard!” Is it possible that was her intent?

– Gerry Taylor, Victoria


Yedlin ignores the obvious explanation why persons and foundations from other nations oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline: because if the oil from the tarsands is allowed to flow to Asia, it’s game over for a livable climate. 

I’m grateful that foreign entities are pointing out Canada’s foolishness in investing in infrastructure that will have to be shortly abandoned as the intense weather consequences, which the world is already experiencing, grow ever more deadly. Canada used to be seen as responsible, credible and humane. What a change, when Canadian journalists call for a limit on the right to speak in a public hearing on a matter that will have impacts on every single one of us.

– Carrie Saxifrage, Vancouver


I could not live with myself if I sat quietly and allowed something this disastrous to happen on our coast. It is not only my right but also my responsibility as a steward of this place to speak for it.

– Keely Roden, Victoria


Why question my right to speak in the review process? Already so little voice is given to the people. Meanwhile, the “voice” of oil lobbyist’s money is deafeningly loud; it seems to be practically all our world governments can hear. Should we really think to silence the people further?

– Luke Turvey, Vancouver


My name is Dave and I reside in Smithers, B.C. I have a recreational cabin on Babine Lake, where a great number of Salmon of different species start their lives. My home acreage in Smithers is cut in half by a salmon be
aring stream. I own a boat in Prince Rupert where I recreational fish and take family and friends to enjoy the coast. As you can see, I am heavily involved in caring for clean water, wild salmon and a pristine coast. I have four daughters and five grandsons that will one day look back and ask if Dad had done enough to fight Enbridge to preserve this area for them to enjoy and live in. If people who do not live in this area but reside in B.C. cannot help me speak up against Enbridge, who then, can?

– Dave Anderson, Smithers


To borrow a phrase from the occupy movement, “This IS what democracy looks like.” 

– Joe Lanteigne, Madeira Park


Ms. Yedlin’s misdirected focus on the international funding of environmental groups obscures the true problem, which lies more in the direction of an undisclosed consortium of international oil companies funding Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project, and a pro-oil sands, pro-Northern Gateway federal and provincial government who do not protect the public interest.  But she must know that.

– Melissa Walter, Vancouver


I have signed up to speak at the hearings, with no affiliation to any foreign organization. I was born in Alberta and now live in B.C. In 2008 I lived in Kitimat and had the opportunity to sail the Douglas Channel. As we sailed I could not believe that tankers were going to navigate these narrow channels. If common sense alone could prevail and not greed, no one would attempt to do what is proposed for this area.

– Margie Grimble, Gabriola Island


No doubt columnist Deborah Yedlin, who wrote “Does everyone have the right to complain at a review” has never had to try to sponge oil off the feathers of shivering Murres and Guillemots as I have in two separate incidents of “human error” in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Just two species of thousands which stand to be impacted by human error which is inevitable with increased tanker traffic on our coastline. Year round our marine ecosystems harbour a complex diversity of species from large sea lions and whales to the smallest invertebrates and plankton which energize our food webs.  She may think they are irrelevant to someone from Alberta, but those of us who would have to live with the potential catastrophic consequences driven by the greed of governments and multi-national companies who think that profit can be justified at any risk to the environment must be heard. My Canada is not one where the greed of one province willingly degrades the natural capital of another.  Whether from British Columbia or any part of Canada, we have every right to ensure the protection of all our environment now and in the future, and claiming that it is U.S. money fueling the urge to be heard smacks of lazy journalism.

– Garry Fletcher, Victoria


I think that we should be celebrating the fact that so many people have signed up to have their voice heard; in a time of falling voter-turnout rates, it is exciting to be able to say that over 4,000 people want to take the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights in our country.

– Hannah Lewis, Vancouver


According to Ms Yedlin’s logic, no citizen of the world has a right to communicate a grievance against the policies of a corporation in another country.  In other words,  I as a Canadian cannot criticize the Chinese for lopping off shark-fins and leaving the animal to die a slow death, or Nike for running sweatshops in Bangladesh. Nor was it moral for Greenpeace to harass Japanese whalers. 

I disagree:  If you live and derive your sustenance from this planet you have a right to protest its destruction. The majority of British Columbians do not wish to see hundreds of huge oil tankers negotiating Hecate Straight. We require a pristine oil-free ocean to thrive economically.

– Rosemary Cornell, Vancouver


Deborah asked Canadians to be outraged. I am outraged, Deborah, but not because outside organizations are interfering. I am outraged that you are asking my fellow Canadians to believe that this is out about our natural resources only. Are we planning to sell this oil only domestically? No.  This is globalization. Global implies the entire world is implicated.  And it is.  We all have the right to an opinion about it, and we all have the right to share that opinion in the review process. Anyone who thinks that an oil spill, or emissions that will spell game over for our climate, would affect only those who live along the pipeline, or only Canadians, is terribly, tragically, wrong.

– Danette Jubinville, Vancouver


I am a student here in British Columbia.  I have the opportunity to surf on the pristine west coast of Vancouver Island. I am not the only animal paddling among the kelp and waves.  I often see seals with their big brown eyes popping up to examine at the strange creatures on surfboards. Hundreds of sea birds circle the stream mouth and sometimes I sit in awe as a pod of whales pass far out in the strait.  All it would take is one oil spill and this paradise would never be the same again.  It is my right to participate in the hearing.  I long to one day take my children out surfing and point out to them the eagles and the whales.

– Jesse Ashwell, Victoria

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