A guest post follows from Josh Paterson, who is formerly a lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law, and recently appointed Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association. Josh’s remarks are his own personal opinions.
Good evening. I’m happy to be here in unceded Coast Salish territories to address you this evening, to express my unreserved personal opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project.
I would like, first of all, to say that, with respect, I am deeply disappointed that there is no audience in this room to hear, physically in person, to witness, what I or what anybody else has to say or to see in person how this process works. I believe that it is a violation of the open courts principle for this body, a court of record, to have closed itself off from the public in Victoria and Vancouver in this way. I am a constitutional lawyer and I believe, with respect, that that the Panel exceeded its jurisdiction in closing the hearings to open public access without sufficient justification under the tests laid out by the Supreme Court of Canada. As such, I believe the closure of these hearings to be unlawful.
In my practice I have studied the law on this issue, and I have studied and written on public participation processes in environmental assessments. I was, in fact, until December, a member of the National Energy Board’s Land Matters Group steering committee, helping to provide advice to you, the Members, through the staff, on the Board’s policies and processes. As someone who has dedicated time and energy to the improvement of the Board’s processes in the public interest, I would very much encourage you to revisit your decision. I know that you and Monsieur Caron, the Chair of the NEB, have received a letter about this this morning (http://bccla.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/20130114-NEB-Letter.pdf) with details of legal argument and I would really encourage you to consult it before these hearings are done. I will leave it there for now.
I speak in my own personal capacity here tonight, not on behalf of any organization. Some of you may recognize me following you around from town to town in another capacity, to your various hearings, but this evening I speak for myself.
As I know you have heard from people like me all over British Columbia, and throughout the unceded traditional territories of the many First Nations opposed to this project, this project is a threat to so much of what we hold dear, proposed by a company that – with respect to their legal counsel here – has shown us that we can’t trust it with our environment and our communities.
The many oil tankers that this project will entail pose an unacceptable risk to the communities, the families and the existing economies of the north coast. People in BC have been clear, and let me be clear in my own personal opinion, that there is no amount of risk, however minimal, of an oil spill that is acceptable. We will simply not entertain any risk of an oil supertanker spill on the north coast. I have had the privilege of travelling and meeting people in every corner of the pipeline route in northern BC, as I know that you have. I cannot speak for the people of those communities. But I can speak with them, and stand with them, and I stand right next to them in their opposition to this project.
The proposed pipeline would cross many many rivers and streams, as you know. No matter how many rivers and lakes the federal government may un-protect with its omnibus bills, each of these rivers and streams are important. The pipeline crosses three of the major watersheds of BC, the Peace/Athabasca, the Fraser and the Skeena, as well as the Kitimat river. We cannot afford to entertain any risk of a pipeline oil spill into these watersheds – and we know from Enbridge’s own record: Enbridge means risk, despite the best efforts that they may make. Enbridge means risk.
Here in Vancouver we sit at the mouth of the Fraser river system. The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline will cross the Fraser’s headwaters at many points, including the Salmon, the Stuart and the Endako rivers. OIl can be poisonous in water at parts per million. Our communities downstream cannot accept the risk of this pipeline project crossing us upstream, particularly not when considered in tandem with all of the other pressures on this watershed. AS a Vancouverite, I say no to this project.
The pipeline would also cross the Morice and Bulkley and Kitimat river systems before it arrives at the sea, jeopardizing the way of life of communities throughout the interior and northwest and on the coast. As a southerner, I stand with northerners against this project.
Throughout the province and all along the coast, people are looking for new economic activity, but they are not looking for this. People are looking for economic activity that does not put all of the other economic activity at risk, that is sustainable and that accords with their values and way of life. I stand with the workers and the fishers in saying no to this project.
I also stand with the Indigenous peoples all across the lands known as British Columbia who have made clear that their Indigenous laws do not permit this project into their territories. The Coastal First Nations declaration and the Save the Fraser Declaration make clear that this project is not permitted under the unextinguished laws that continue to hold authority over traditional territories throughout BC. Those nations stand in an unbroken wall from the coast to the rocky mountains, and from the US border all the way through to the Arctic OCean. As a settler, I recognize the authority and the jurisdiction of the Nations in whose lands I live, work, and benefit, and I stand with our Indigenous hosts in saying no to this project.
As have all the hundreds of people who have gone before me and the hundreds who will come after, I therefore ask you to recommend to Cabinet that this project not be approved. I ask you to respect the will of thousands of British Columbians, hundreds of whom have spoken to you and recommend that this project not be approved.
I ask you to uphold the honour of the Crown and to respect the decision and the jurisdiction of the many First Nations along the pipeline and tanker route and, as they have, to say no. I ask you to listen.
As I said before, I’ve been to many of these hearings across the province. I’ve read many of the transcripts. I know what you have heard and I know what people have been saying to you from all across the province. I ask you to listen, to open up your hearts to what you’ve heard throughout this province on this project and to recommend to Cabinet that this project not be approved.