Northern Gateway Update

imageThe public hearings into the Northern Gateway Pipeline continue and appear to mark the beginning of a new political era for Canada.

Stephen Harper and his Conservatives have embarked on an unprecedented shift highlighted with dishonesty in an attempt to demonize anyone standing in the way of their economic ideology. This is a choice by the Canadian government to falsely divide Canadians through a call to arms against “foreigners”.

On January 9, natural resources minister Joe Oliver released an open letter addressing the federal government’s position on the Northern Gateway Pipeline. Oliver expressed the government’s disapproval of the democratic review process and goes so far as to attempt to undermine the entire process by labeling those in opposition as “radicals” operating under funding from “foreign special interest groups”. These intentionally misleading statements are an attempt to divide the Canadian population and ostracize the 4000 plus Canadian citizens registered to voice their legitimate concerns in the public hearings. It’s true that some BC environmental groups involved receive a small amount of funding from U.S. charities, but the amount is truly insignificant compared to the $30 billion of foreign investment in the Alberta tar sands over the past decade. I’ve been listening in on the public hearings, and I can assure you the vast majority of these so called “radicals” are long time locals with deep ties to the land they depend on. These so called “radicals” are an eclectic mix of First Nations elders, fishermen, local business owners and concerned citizens and together they represent the true voice of Canada.
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Another of the most unfortunate of Oliver’s misleadings is his attempt to declare the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline as being in Canada’s national economic interest. How exactly is it in our national economic interest to endanger the livelihood of the thousands of people who depend on our forests, rivers and coastline to make a living? How is it in our national economic interest to endanger the fragile ecosystems that have sustained First Nations people since time immemorial? How is it in our national economic interest to be exporting unprocessed crude to China? The quick and dirty revenue approach displayed by the Tories pays no mind to long-term sustainability or any type of healthy energy strategy. The fact is that the average Canadian citizen will gain very little from the Northern Gateway Pipeline. The project will merely appease the demands of our new best friend China while deepening the pockets of the big oil tycoons backing our federal government.

It is a kind of sad irony that as the government falls back on the same type of manipulation tactics employed during colonial times and uses them against the general population; it is the First Nations communities who are stepping up as our only line of defense. Just as they did with reservations and residential schools the government is trying to convince people that this project is in their best interest when in reality the opposite is true. I praise the numerous First Nations willing to stand up for what’s right, because when it comes down to it they will be the only ones who can stop this pipeline from going through. The “Save the Fraser Declaration” has shown that the majority of First Nations in BC stand united in their opposition to this pipeline. Without the informed consent of the Indigenous communities whose traditional territories stand to be impacted by the Northern Gateway Pipeline it cannot be built. That is of course if the government is to honour their own laws and those of the United Nations, unfortunately when it comes to respecting Aboriginal Rights & Title the Canadian government has a long history of corruption and deceit.

Despite Oliver’s statements no one is opposing all resource development projects. People are standing up against illogical and irresponsible development projects where the risk by far outweighs any potential benefits. First Nations groups are attempting to move forward with sustainable projects, projects that don’t endanger our precious rivers, sacred sites and traditional land use areas. As American author Terry Tempest Williams has pointed out, environmental degradation is directly connected to human suffering. You need look no further than Fort Chipewyan for proof of this. For people whose lives are inextricably intertwined with the natural world, this exploitation is a form of cultural genocide. When people have little to gain but everything to lose you can ensure they will fight. They will fight with a wholehearted passion that the Enbridge and government officials can’t even imagine.


Julian Napoleon, Dane Za/Cree
Project Coordinator, Redwire
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Check out Joe Oliver’s letter for yourself
Joe Oliver Public Statement
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