NDP Leaders Alex Atamanenko (left)

Emotional testimonies at JRP hearing

Kitimat recently held it's second round of Joint Review Panel hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project last week.

Sean Glanville

Kitimat recently held it’s second round of Joint Review Panel hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project Monday and Tuesday. The JRP gave local residents 10 minutes each to voice their opinions on the project, with roughly 50 people speaking over the two days. The response from citizens was an overwhelming no, with the majority of speakers in opposition to the project. Despite the vast economic gain the pipeline could bring to the region locals feel the risk is not worth the reward. Their sentiments echoed throughout the hearings was that it takes only one major oil spill to cause irreversible environmental damage to the region.

“The number one thing people want to talk about is potential for spill. We can not underestimate the costs of a spill in this region and the environmental and economic impacts,” says NDP Environmental Critic and Halifax MP Megan Leslie, one of many political dignitaries attending the hearings.

The JRP speakers came from a variety of generations and cultural backgrounds, and a number of them had to fight back tears when describing this land the seems to invigorate and revitalize their body, mind and soul. The NDP leaders on hand were taken aback by their stories. Words like authentic, truthful, emotional and eloquent immediately came to the fore in describing their testimonies.

“Listening to some of the testimony coming out of the JRP, it was particularly moving. The different perspectives from a young environmental activist, a grandfather, a First Nations leader, these people are unafraid,” says Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen.  “This is unusual for Canadians, to express their emotions publicly. It’s because so much is at risk, these folks were so honest in the face of so much cynicism in the face of the government and the oil companies.”

Former EuroCan Engineer Terry Brown, one of Monday’s speakers, re-iterated the fact that it’s inevitable that an accident will happen and eventually a pipe or gasket will fail.  He recalled one major project at the mill that had nearly a dozen failures within the first couple years.

A number of influential people from both Enbridge and the New Democratic Party, official opposition to the Harper Government, were in Kitimat for the hearings. Enbridge Executive Vice President of Western Access Janet Holder and Spokesmen for the NGPP Paul Stanway were on hand. In opposition, Cullen played host to NDP colleagues including Leslie and provincial MPs Fin Donnelly , Alex Atamanenko, and Randall Garrison.

It was Leslie’s first trip to BC’s West Coast and she was overwhelmed by the sense of place and the connection to the land citizens have here. “Our leader Tom Mulcair went to the oilsands last month to see for himself what’s happening there and I had the privilege of being on that trip, so it seems only appropriate to come here to BC’s Northern Coast to see first hand the proposed pipeline route,” says Leslie. “Being here it’s a little chilling, it’s amazing how people care about this project and stopping it because of the possible impacts and outcomes. It’s all negative what they see, whether it’s their livelihoods, economic stability, thier access to salmon and clean water, everybody has a personal story about this pipeline and it’s inspiring and a little overwhelming to see how unified everybody is, It’s wonderful.”

After attending the JRP hearings the NDP leaders held a Public Forum at the Best Western Hotel in Terrace Tuesday evening, followed by a boat tour of the proposed tanker route Wednesday morning.

“We’re going to get out on the water and look at some of the route that Enbridge is proposing and the places that will be put at risk. This has always been a land and ocean story,” says Cullen. “It will give us a better idea of the threats posed to our rivers and land and what impacts will be felt on the water and the people there.”

Recent events such as the Enbridge oil spill near Elk Point, AB on June 18 have raised further red flags regarding the safety of the NGPP. “We’ve had a number of spills in Canada in the past few months, and people have been talking about their serious concerns about spills here and pipeline safety,” says Leslie.  “We’re here today to be in solidarity with Canadians who are opposed to this pipeline. We’re here to listen to them, we’re here to talk to them.”

Recent Enbridge press releases claim they have secured support of 60 percent native partnerships in equity-sharing deals. The NDP leaders are skeptical to say the least of these statistics, despite the chance these First Nations partners could be reluctant to go public with their support.

“It’s a lie, and it really undermines the pipleines efforts. They continue to try to spin and insult First Nations while saying they want to respect First Nations, it’s ironic and tragic,” says Cullen. “You go to the First Nations and say ‘who signed up?’ and can’t find anybody.”

The NDP leaders were adamantly criticizing  a new boldness with Harper and the Conservative government, who have been backing the pipeline since days one. It seems the only thing standing in the way of this pipeline is the public opinion of BC residents.

“It seems like there’s a new double speak out of Ottawa and there’s a boldness to this new majority government. There’s an arrogance that’s even disturbing conservative voters. Some are saying this is not my Canada and not what I support,” says Donnelly.  “Hearing people talking passionately about their place and the economy they want to see supported, like the salmon, feel that this economic proposal is going to threaten their way of life and the kind of economy they want to build. We want to support them.”

Enbridge representatives were unavailable for comment at press time.

Just Posted

Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project searches for partners

TransCanada is renewing permits for its natural gas pipeline project to North Coast.

Coastal GasLink stops work to investigate archaeological find

OGC archaeologists are en route to the Houston-area site where Unist’ot’en report finding stone tools

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 5: Recap

Highlights and results from day 5 at the All Native Tournament

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 6: Preview

Look ahead to all the action scheduled for Feb. 16 at the All Native Tournament

Coastal GasLink prepares sites of construction work camps

Unist’ot’en condemn 14 ‘man camps’ housing 500-800 workers as threatening safety of women and children

VIDEO: Canada’s flag turns 54 today

The maple leaf design by George Stanley made its first appearance Feb. 15, 1965

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Plecas won’t run in next election if B.C. legislature oversight reforms pass

B.C. Speaker and Abbotsford South MLA says he feels ‘great sympathy’ for Jody Wilson-Raybould

Workshop with ‘accent reduction’ training cancelled at UBC

The workshop was cancelled the same day as an email was sent out to international students

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual touching

Accuser went to police, interviewed by Britian’s Daily Telegraph

Judge rules Abbotsford home must be sold after son tries to evict mom

Mom to get back down payment and initial expenses

Trump officially declares national emergency to build border wall

President plans to siphon billions from federal military construction and counterdrug efforts

Snow turns to slush, rain as it warms up across B.C.’s south coast

Some areas are already covered by more than half a metre of snow following three separate storms

Father to be charged with first-degree murder in Amber Alert case

11-year-old Riya Rajkumar was found dead in her father’s home in Brampton, Ontario

Most Read