Stephanie Goodwin 
June 1, 2010

Pipeline opposition in Kitamaat Village

The BP oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico teaches us one thing clearly: oil spills, period.  Oil and water do not mix.

Greenpeace is working to stop Enbridge, an oil pipeline giant, from building pipelines from the tar sands to the Great Bear Rainforest.  If successful, they would bring more than 200 crude oil tankers through the beautiful but rough coastal waters of northern B.C. for the first time ever.  

Two months ago, the Coastal First Nations made a formal declaration banning tar sands oil from their territorial lands and waters.  This ban is supported by over 150 First Nations, businesses, organizations and prominent Canadians.  Despite this ban, Enbridge filed for federal approval to move forward with the project only a few days ago.  

Last Saturday I realized that the struggle to keep our coastline pristine is far from over. More than a thousand people flooded the tiny village of Kitamaat Village in beautiful northern B.C., where the pipeline would end and the oil tankers begin, to oppose the Enbridge project and stand up for their coastline.  

We feasted all together on a traditional coastal dinner (crab, halibut, eulachon, and sea cucumber) that highlighted the abundance and fragility of the sea.  Bellies full, we were inspired by the powerful words of many First Nations leaders from across British Columbia sharing their knowledge of the land and the sea and declaring their commitment to stand united to stop the Enbridge pipelines project.  

Chiefs address the audience.Gerald Amos of the Haisla First Nation that hosted the event said it best. “Every day more and more people, from all walks of life, are coming together to stop this dangerous project.  They are sending a very clear message: Enbridge oil spills will not be allowed to destroy our territory.”  The blockbuster schedule also included Council of Haida Nation President Guujaaw, Art Sterritt of the Coastal First Nations, and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

The link was made between the Enbridge proposal and the larger global community responsibility by eloquent speakers Dr. David Suzuki and Exxon Valdez spill biologist Dr. Rikki Ott, who just returned from a tour of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Dr. Ott made it clear that while the largest oil spill in U.S. history continues to rage without an end in site, there is still oil coating the Alaskan coastline where the Exxon Valdez ran aground more than twenty-one years ago.

Chief Larry Nooski of the Nadleh Whuten First Nation, whose territory the pipelines would cross if built, said “We need to collectively stand up and say no to Enbridge.  We don’t want to see another oil spill.  There have been too many.”

At the end of the day as I stood outside looking at the billboard the community had erected that says “We say NO to Enbridge oil” I could hear the songs of First Nations being sung to the beat of a unified drum.  It was then I understood: Enbridge doesn’t stand a chance against the movement growing among us against this project.

We can support First Nations and our coastline by telling Enbridge that ‘We say NO to Enbridge oil’.  Visit PipeUpAgainstEnbridge.ca to take action.

Stephanie Goodwin is the B.C. Director for Greenpeace Canada based in Vancouver, British Columbia.