There comes a time when you need to take a stand, when the processes that were designed to protect us have so broken down that we have no choice but to do so. That is quickly becoming the case with Enbridge’s Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline.
Over 130 First Nations have signed the ‘Save the Fraser’ declaration stating their opposition to Northern Gateway, many of which are trying to protect their unseeded traditional territory.
At community hearings across B.C., the Joint Review Panel (JRP) heard from 1,161 people. Only two spoke in favour of the pipeline proposal, 1,159 spoke against it. The vast majority of over 9,000 written comments to the JRP were also against the pipeline. So was the B.C. government. Despite the overwhelming opposition of British Columbians, the JRP gave the pipeline the green light.
Now the decision lays before the Prime Minister, a longtime supporter of the tar sands industry who has proved time and again that the interests of communities and the environment are second to oil industry profits. One just has to look at his track record of muzzling scientists, gutting environmental legislation, and suffocating dissent to know what decision he is likely to make.
Against this backdrop are the threats. Threats of an oil soaked coastline, of tar sands bitumen spills into salmon bearing streams, of violations to First Nations rights to land and title, and of devastated coastlines and tourism economies.
On the global stage, by accelerating the growth of tar sands development, Northern Gateway symbolizes Canada’s failure to do its part to combat the immense and growing threat of climate change.
When all the letters have been written, the petitions signed, politicians lobbied, lawsuits filed, and meetings held, what are we to do if the government still fails to listen to science, reason, the constitution and the wishes of the people most directly affected?
The decision to take peaceful civil disobedience is never an easy one. (It isn’t made when unwanted decisions are made through just and fair processes.) It comes after much deliberation and usually only after all other avenues for reasoned discourse have failed.
Northern Gateway is leading us to that point. If Prime Minister Harper tries to push this pipeline through, despite the reasoned and overwhelming opposition, we must be ready - as Saik'uz Chief Jackie Thomas said, to stand in front of the bulldozers.
If that time comes, we will engage in peaceful civil disobedience - not out of anger (although there are many reasons to be angry) but out of love. Out of love for our communities, love for our environment, and love for the world we want for our children and grandchildren. We will stand together because we know there are better, smarter, and healthier ways to produce energy, run our vehicles, and power our economies than the tar sands will ever offer.
A better British Columbia, and a better Canada is possible. It’s time to make it real.