Following the federal government’s approval of the Northern Gateway Project last Tuesday, hundreds gathered at Mariner’s Park for a peaceful protest against the oil pipeline project on Friday evening.
People of all ages and cultural backgrounds took part in the rally, many displaying anti-oil signs and wearing First Nations regalia. The event included a number of speakers, with many stressing the need for unity in order to prevent the project from moving forward.
“No matter what nation you are or where you are from, let your voices be heard. This is not about Aboriginal people … it’s about all human beings in British Columbia. We need to come together,” said Lax Kw’alaams hereditary chief Murray Smith.
“We need to stay focused on the fight that lays ahead. Enbridge has billions and billions of dollars to fight us. But united, we can say no.”
Lax Kw’alaams Mayor Garry Reece echoed those sentiments.
“No money in the world will make us support something that will destroy our sea resources and the environment,” he said, adding there’s no guarantee a spill wouldn’t happen.
Pansy Collison also spoke on behalf of the Haida Nation.
“For many years our ancestors guarded our lands, they secured our lands for the future generation … Harper underestimates the power of the people who can stand up and take action,” said Collison.
Arnie Nagy of the United Fishermen’s and Allied Workers Union said the labour movement will walk along side First Nations in their battle against Enbridge.
“We are going to win the day, and Harper will rue the day that he decided to declare war on the honest, hardworking people of Canada to line the pockets of the rich,” Nagy said.
In order to be successful in their fight, Prince Rupert’s Christa Barette said Northern Gateway opponents must stay positive.
“We need to visualize us coming together and joining in a non-violent way. We need to picture this coast staying clean and pure like this forever and be confident about it,” she said.
Mayoral candidate Lee Brain, the son of a global oil executive who made a powerful presentation to the Joint Review Panel in 2012 about his experience working at one of the largest oil refineries in the world, said there also must be a vision for the future.
“Coming together also means that we need to start moving ourselves forward and figuring out what it is we actually want … I know it feels good to get riled up and angry about things, but at the same time that we have to hold the line, we also need to start moving forward and build a model,” he said.
Other speakers included Ta’Kaiya Blaney, a young Sliammon First Nation environmentalist, and representatives for the Haida Nation, with the Gitxeen Tsimshian Dancers also performing at the rally.
And while hundreds gathered in protest of the project, Enbridge Northern Gateway project leader Janet Holder acknowledged the company has more work to do following the June 17 federal approval.
“Our team and I will continue traveling throughout British Columbia and continue speaking with people in their communities because today is just one step in a long process towards building a safer, better pipeline,” she said.
“The Northern Gateway project team, Enbridge, and our funding partners will also continue the important work of building trust with Aboriginal communities along the proposed route. … we need to do more and, in the days ahead, we look forward to building on our progress,.”
As for the next steps for the company, Holder said the project team will review the decision and continue to work toward meeting the 209 conditions set out by the Joint Review Panel.
“Our company understands that economic development and environmental protection must go hand in hand
~ With files from Shaun Thomas