Ten-year-old First Nations girl urges Ottawa to ban oil tankers from B.C.’s north coast

Feature story - March 24, 2011
Vancouver — Ten-year-old Ta’Kaiya Blaney from North Vancouver, B.C., has a message for Canadian MPs on the 22nd anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill: don’t let our shores meet a similar disastrous fate.

The video plea, written by Ta’Kaiya and filmed at the Greenpeace office in Vancouver, comes just days before the second reading and debate of a federal private members bill to legally ban oil tankers on B.C.’s north coast, and encourages MP’s to support it. The video plea introduces the music video for an original song Ta’Kaiya recently wrote with her singing teacher, called “Shallow Waters.”

 She wrote her song after learning of Enbridge’s proposal to build twin 1,170 km pipelines to bring dirty oil from the Alberta tar sands to B.C.’s north coast. The pipeline is widely opposed, largely because it would bring hundreds oil supertankers a year to the Great Bear Rainforest, a beautiful and ecologically-significant region along a dangerous route for tankers.  

“The message of the song is, if we pollute and pollute and pollute, the ecosystems — biomes filled with land and sea life — will die. The beauty of the earth will be taken away when oil spills and everything will be destroyed,” says Ta’kaiya in the video. “My favourite line is, "If we do nothing, it will all be gone,” meaning, if we keep making careless decisions, our beautiful environment will be gone.”

Ta'Kaiya is from the Sliammon First Nation and her name means “special water.” Along with singing, songwriting, and acting, she is concerned about the environment, especially the preservation of marine and coastal wildlife. Her video, viewed almost 5,000 times on YouTube, was emailed to all federal MPs along with her direct plea: “I ask government and corporate officials such as yourselves: change your plans and stop the Enbridge oil pipeline. Please stop oil tanker traffic on B.C.'s coast and in waters around the world.”

“Ta’kaiya is a young girl who represents the voice of the next generation. This voice calling for protection of culture, food and environment is loud and clear. The question is: will Ottawa listen?” said Stephanie Goodwin, B.C. director of Greenpeace.

Twenty-two years after the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill, oil still coats Alaska's shores with a toxic glaze. Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council estimates that 21,000 gallons of the 11 million gallons of crude oil that bled from the stranded tanker Exxon Valdez on the night of March 23, 1989 remain in the subsurface. The oil spill clean up crew, which peaked at more than 10,000 person, removed oil from the beaches until 1994, when government officials decided to end the cleanup effort.

“Canada can still learn from the mistakes of our neighbours, be it the Exxon spill in Alaska or the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Goodwin. “The government of Canada needs to represent the will of its citizens and legally ban oil tankers from our coast so we can avoid another unnecessary disaster. We should not have to rely upon inadequate safeguards and sheer luck.”

Eighty per cent of British Columbians support an oil tanker ban in B.C.’s coastal waters. More than 70 First Nations in British Columbia have banned the transport of tar sands oil through their territories, including First Nations’ territories along the proposed oil tanker routes.

Follow Ta’Kaiya’s lead and send your own letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging his government to represent our voices and those of the future that say loud and clear “Protect the Great Bear Rainforest coast!”