A huge rally took to the streets on Saturday in British Columbia’s Prince Rupert, opposing Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline which would transport Alberta tar sands to Kitimat, primary access point along the province’s northwest coast.
Nearly a thousand people rallied in the streets of Prince Rupert to protest the proposed pipeline project. The demonstration was hosted by area First Nations, including the Hartley Bay First Nations community, a small village situated at the mouth of the stunning Douglas Channel, located approximately 90 miles south of Prince Rupert.
Other area B.C. First Nations, environmentalists, residents and local leaders all turned out in support of the rally. Hartley Bay councillor Cameron Hill is a leader of the pipeline protest, previously stating he would give his life to stop the project.
“Because I don't know any other life. This is the life I have been brought up in. This is what I want my kids to enjoy. And I want them to have the life that I have had, which I consider to be the best life ever,” Hill said on Saturday, according to CBC News.
The pipeline project is mapped to travel across northern B.C., traditional First Nations territory, ending at Kitimat, Canada’s strategic gateway for energy exports to Asia. The project is currently being reviewed at National Energy Board hearings and First Nations leaders were in Ottawa this past week voicing their concerns about the federal government’s excitement over tar sands developments in northern Canada.
Dallas Smith, president of the Nanwakolas Council, spoke on behalf of fellow First Nations, even though the project would impact territory he is not a part of. “I think the opposition is based on the risk,” he said, CBC notes. “But there's more at hand, there's a relationship that needs to be built with the federal government right now and this is going to be really tricky to manoeuvre around, making sure that the whole relationship doesn't get caught up in this issue.”
The issue involves a potential for catastrophic disaster due to oil spills in Canada’s pristine north. Some of Canada’s best wilderness fishing is found in the Douglas Channel region. Most of the tanker traffic associated with the pipeline project would travel through the area.
Opponents argue the risk is too great for the benefits the pipeline would offer while Enbridge supporters claim an increase of as much as $270 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product.
Bob Hill, treaty coordinator and negotiator of the Gitga’at and MC at Saturday’s rally, said “no matter how careful we are in improving technology and the safety concerns we have, there’s always the chance that human error will enter the equation and do the damage to the environment,” according to the Vancouver Sun.
The demonstration in Prince Rupert drew the support of Prince Rupert politicians as well, with Mayor Jack Mussallem and city coucillors taking part in the march. Councillor Jennifer Rice noted the protest was a symbol of unity, stating, “We may associate negative feelings and negative emotions with this project but the irony of it is that actually brings people together,” CBC reports.
Pressure is expected to increase over the Northern Gateway project after U.S. President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline proposal last month. The political posturing has forced the Canadian government to expedite alternative avenues for exporting its highly corrosive tar sands.
Alberta tar sands.
Canada's Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, went on record in January by labeling opponents of the country's energy development program as "radical groups" with a "radical ideological agenda."
Enbridge offered no comment on Saturday’s rally.