Northwest British Columbia caught the nation’s attention on Saturday, February 4, when the Gitga’at Nation hosted “No Tanker” march and rally in Prince Rupert, that over a thousand people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds took part in to show their opposition towards the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project.
“We’re here today to ensure that this region, that British Columbia and that Canada knows we cannot have tankers… We need to ensure that our voices are heard, we stand in solidarity, we stop the Enbridge pipeline and we stop tankers from coming on this coast.” Said north coast MLA Gary Coons on Saturday.
The daylong event started at Mariner’s Park in the downtown core of Prince Rupert, where individuals started their march to the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre on a closed-off McBride Street. Several hundred people showed up, many of who waved homemade signs and wore ceremonial clothing or even covered themselves in oil. The march concluded with a drum circle in the middle of McBride Street before protesters went inside the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre for the rest of the day’s events.
The civic centre’s Russell Gamble gymnasium was practically filled to capacity for the beginning of the rally, with welcome speeches being given by Prince Rupert Mayor Jack Mussallem, MLA Gary Coons, Hereditary Chief Clarence Nelson of Metlakatla, Elected council members of Lax Kw’alaams Helen Johnson and Stan Dennis.
Hartley Bay’s own Bob and Cameron Hill were the MCs of the rally, and both voiced their concerns of a spill near their village, which is situated at the mouth of the Douglas Channel, which tankers would use to access the possible terminal in Kitimat.
“This is the life I have been brought up in. This is what I want my kids to enjoy. And I want them to have the life that I have had, which I consider to be the best life ever.” Said Gitga’at Councilor Cameron Hill on Saturday.
“Tankers would come and cross our channel and destroy all that we have lived by… This tiny community will stand with your support and stop tankers from coming in.” Bob Hill, treaty coordinator and negotiator of the Gitga’at, commented during the rally.
Throughout the day, there were a number of performances and speeches from a variety of different Enbridge opponents, such as Canadian rock singer Bif Naked and Canadian country star Shane Yellowbird, as well as Andrew Nikforuk, Peter Breeze, Fara Palmer, Rafe Mair, Garth Lenz, Murray Porter, Damien Gillis, Beth Humchitt, Ta’Kaiya Blaney and keynote speaker Art Sterritt.
“[Enbridge couldn’t clean the spill] in the Gulf of Mexico, they never cleaned it up in Alaska and they could never clean it up if we were ever to allow it to happen here.” Said Sterritt, who is executive director of Coastal First Nations, which represents ten aboriginal groups that are opposed to the project.
Hartley Bay resident Kyle Clifton mentioned that if the proposed project went through, and a spill ended up happening, it would be the end of his village.
“If there’s a spill near Hartley Bay, that will be the end for us… Enbridge says that they’re going to have the best spill capacity in the world, and it’s the best system. But the best system in the world only accounts for ten percent recovering of the oil spilt, so what happens to the other ninety percent? We’re stuck with it for the rest of our people’s time.” Said Kyle Clifton during Saturday’s rally.
If successful, Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway project would mean construction of twin petroleum product pipelines that would run 1,170 kilometers between Brudenheimn, Alberta and Kitimat, B.C., along the way crossing the rugged mountainous terrains of the Northern Rockies and Coast Mountains of British Columbia. One pipeline would carry 525,000 barrels of Alberta tar sands cruse oil per day to a new oil tanker port in Kitimat, with the second pipeline carrying condensate, a bitumen dilutor, to the east to be used in transporting the tar sands crude oil.