Dear Premier Clark,

As one of the Greenpeace activists in the October 16th protest at Kinder Morgan’s tar sands facility in Burnaby, I wanted to write to you prior to your meeting with Premier Redford on November 5th.  I want you to know why I was willing to risk arrest, and why I took action to stop Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s tar sands expansion plans. 

I was born in Alberta and have spent most of my life there. I have watched as the growing influence of the oil industry has slowly corrupted democracy in that province and I’ve seen what the tar sands industry is doing to the place I called home. 

When I flew over the tar sands for the first time I remember feeling like I was looking at some desolate planet because I saw nothing but wasteland from horizon to horizon. The beautiful boreal forest that had been there for centuries was gone - scraped away so that the largest shovels on the planet could dig in the earth for tar sands bitumen.

I also remember the first time I came to B.C. and being astonished by how beautiful the province was. I sat in awe as I watched the ocean tides roll in and the mist come over the mountains. B.C.’s natural beauty is one of the main reasons why I moved to Vancouver. I liked that that on any given day I could go down to the sea and see marine life – perhaps even a whale swimming off shore.

That’s why I was horrified when I heard of plans to ship massive amounts of tar sands bitumen to the coast.

Having seen the damage done to my home province, I knew in my heart I couldn’t stand by and watch as new pipelines through B.C. helped expand the tar sands even more. Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion together would deliver more than 1.5 million barrels of tar sands bitumen to the coast each day, bringing more than 700 tankers a year to the west coast.

If there was ever a tar sands tanker spill, the damage it caused would likely be irreversible. Tar sands bitumen tends to sink in water, which makes it almost impossible to clean-up. Residents in Michigan are still dealing with the effects of a tar sands spill in the Kalamazoo River more than two years ago. Imagine trying to clean up a giant spill in the vast Pacific Ocean, with massive swells, strong currents and raging storms.

 Even without a spill, the noise pollution from all those super tankers could drive away the orcas, which are already at risk.

Premier Clark - no spill response system will ever be able to eliminate the damage a tar sands spill would cause. No amount of royalties would be worth the risk.

When you go into your meeting with Premier Redford next week I urge you to listen to the voices of over 130 First Nations that have already said they don’t want tar sands pipelines or tankers crossing their lands and waters.

Please defend the coast. It’s what a real leader would do.


Jessie Schwarz