A little over 65 people came to Fishermen’s Hall in Prince Rupert on Tuesday night to try to build the foundations of a much more political and media-focused movement to fight the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.
The meeting was born from the disappointment of local pipeline opponents with the Enbridge Joint Review Panel’s hearings in Prince Rupert about two weeks ago; hearings which they felt criticism of the pipeline had been stifled by procedural rules. Tuesday’s meeting was arranged within an hour of them ending.
The purpose of the meeting was to try to determine the most fundamental parts of what a political movement needs to be effective. The people who came were split up into brainstorming groups to determine three things:
First, what are the goals of the new group?
Second, to do a “Social / Environment Scan;” where do various people, groups and governments sit on the issue and what groups should they try to engage?
Third, What issues should they bring to the public’s attention that will engage as many people in Canada as possible?
After about an hour of discussion all the groups came back together to share their ideas, which would then be given to the new movement’s organizing committee to consider. While there were many, many different ideas but there was some noticeable overlap between the brainstorming groups.
One of the most popular goals was to create some kind of united front to fight pipeline by bringing the various individual groups with a stake in halting the project in to work together. Another was to find someway to get their message out in a way that will resonate with the public and get people to be engaged with the issue.
Emboldened by the City of Prince Rupert’s decision the previous night to formally oppose the pipeline, there were also suggestions of applying political pressure to other municipal councils to get them to do the same. One group pointed out the need to get the rest of BC as engaged on the issue as the northwest of the province is.
When it came to whom else the so far unnamed movement should reach out to, besides the usual Canadian NGOs and environment groups, there was a lot of talk of connecting with groups in the US that successfully fought to have the Obama administration delay another Canadian oil pipeline, the Keystone XL. Not to mention groups from Alaska with knowledge about the fallout of the infamous Exxon-Valdez oil spill.
Many participants also stressed the need to try to get as many First Nations involved with them as possible and not just in BC, but also in Alberta and across the country.
Some suggested that they should approach unions, even oil-sector unions, for support to argue how exporting unprocessed bitumen would cost Canadian jobs.
There was also talk of working with the Occupy Movement or organizing in communities through colleges and seniors’ centres. There was even a suggestion that they approach the Prince Rupert Port Authority and BC Tourism to see if they will come on-side.
There were also plenty of ideas on how the movement should get its message out. While over half of the night’s participants were over 40, there was plenty of talk about using the Internet, social media and creating interesting YouTube videos in the hopes that they could go viral. A national media strategy was also high on the priority list.
One suggestion was to create a MythBusters-type website or videos that would seek to debunk claims made by pipeline proponents. Another was an easy to read online database of information doing much the same thing.
There was talk of letter writing campaigns to Parliament, fighting to prevent Enbridge sponsorship of events in the region, talking to Albertan sport fishers who frequent the north coast every season, have high-end restaurants in Vancouver talk about the need for wild fish from the north to name only a few of the ideas.
Which of these ideas will come to form the basis of the movement’s activities is largely up to the organizing committee, which will deal with all of the finer details. At least 20 people have volunteered to be on the committee so far including city councillor Jennifer Rice and SQCRD board member Des Nobles.
The group will continue to meet at Fishermen’s Hall to hammer out other important details like how exactly the movement will fund the media-media war they hope to bring against the pipeline’s proponents.