British Columbians from many walks of life — from the Occupy Everything kids to the Raging Grannies and everyone in between — are poised to send the Enbridge pipeline folks a message of resounding clarity this coming Monday.
If you hate the idea of a pipeline pumping thick black bitumen across the north, and if you are equally disturbed at the prospect of oil tankers steaming up and down our narrow coastal fjords, then you will be on the front lawn of the legislature on Oct. 22.
“Defend Our Coast,” an environmental action group endorsed by unassailable eco-luminaries like Maude Barlow and Stephen Lewis, has organized what is being billed as “potentially the largest act of peaceful civil disobedience on the climate issue that Canada has ever seen.”
Frankly, I suspect that billing is over-reaching, but I have no doubt the gathering will be large and persuasive.
The organizers claim that more than 80 influential leaders from the business, First Nations, environmental, labour, academic, medical and artistic communities plan to attend the mass sit-in.
The nature of a tolerant society being what it is, Defend Our Coast has no control over who shows up at its event. Nor can it control the efforts of special interest groups to hijack the agenda.
I’m thinking here of the combative “People’s Assembly of Victoria” and the “Unis’tot’en Solidarity Bloc.”
The assemby is even suggesting that anyone who wants to attend the sit-in must first attend its “day of action” training session on Sunday.
Our sense of pipeline urgency has been heightened by the cocky rhetoric of Enbridge brass. Speaking at a B.C. Chamber of Commerce Energy Summit earlier this month, Enbridge executive Janet Holder insisted the project is “definitely not dead.”
She said the company is “still investing a lot of time, effort and money … and we’re going to do what’s necessary to make this project happen.”
Enbridge seems to feel it already has its B.C. passport stamped because it has the support of 20 First Nations bands located within 80 kilometres of the proposed twin pipelines. However, when the Canadian Press contacted more than 20 First Nations along the B.C. Route, only one confirmed making a deal with Enbridge.
For us on the coast, the biggest concern remains the issue of oil tanker traffic. Retired engineer Brian Gunn, based up Island at Strathcona Park Lodge, says Enbridge has not taken into account that more than 200 oil tankers will be sharing narrow channels annually with several hundred Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) tankers from new LNG terminals near Kitimat. A spill is inevitable, he predicts.
At the end of the day, it seems unlikely this contentious debate will be decided by well-intentioned concerned citizens camped on the legislature lawn or by well-heeled Enbridge PR teams stretching the truth and bending reality to their will.
It will most likely be settled in the Supreme Court of Canada by our nation’s premiere lawmakers weighing First Nations’ challenges.
Nevertheless, we still have an obligation to engage in the discussion right now and to make all our voices heard loud and clear. It seems the legislature lawn is as good a place as any to make a stand. M