After attending the first community hearing for Enbridge’s controversial Northern Gateway project last Saturday in Comox, I am inspired and optimistic. Local after local stood up to speak out for our coast, giving incredibly compelling, well researched and at times heartfelt presentations to the review panel. The panel seemed genuinely interested and receptive, and I thought to myself: how could they not turn this project down when it is so clearly not in the best interest of British Columbians?
2,200 protesters met the review panel in Comox, B.C. on March 31.
Then, the very next day, the panel canceled the first day and a half of hearings in Bella Bella after they were greeted at the airport by peaceful Heiltsuk First Nation protesters. Apparently the panelists feared for their safety in one of the most hospitable, accommodating communities on B.C.’s coast. Go figure. On the tail of the Heiltsuk hearing cancellations, the Nuxalk, another Central Coast First Nation, withdrew from the process citing the federal government’s failure to honourably consult – a valid concern considering the feds were recently warned about their “unreasonable” consultations with First Nations.
It will be interesting to see how the next few rounds of community hearings unfold. Thousands of Canadians – First Nations and non – have registered to voice their concerns about Northern Gateway to the panel. If their presentations are anything like those given in Comox, the panel will have a difficult time justifying the approval of this mega-project. Then again, they may not be the type of people who like to sleep at night.
One thing is for sure, and you can bet the panel will hear it over and over again: British Columbians will not be silent on this issue. It is our coast and our decision. Whether it’s through more peaceful protests, the community hearings or full-on First Nations court challenges, we will stop Northern Gateway and its tankers from plying our waters. It is, after all, in the best interest of Canada.
Katie Terhune is the Energy Campaign Manager for Living Oceans Society.