My name is Magdalena Angel, and currently I am a student at Quest University Canada, located in Squamish BC. In 2009, I went to the Great Bear Rainforest for the first time with the Ecology class from Quest University. During this experience, our group stayed in Hartley Bay with the Gitga’at First Nations, where the community shared with us their culture and traditions. The leaders of the community also taught us about the issues that the community has faced, such as the sinking of the ferry Queen of the North in March of 2006, and its effects on the surrounding water. We also learned about the issues that the Gitga’at community was soon going to face, as the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal would threaten their way of life. During my experience in Hartley Bay, and I saw the incredible beauty of the surrounding natural environment such as humpback whales breaching and the white Spirit bear.

This was a very powerful experience for me and as a result, in 2010 I took the opportunity to volunteer at Cetacealab, located on Gil Island in Gitga’at territory. I worked with Hermann Meuter and Janey Wray, two whale researchers, who established themselves on Gil Island nine years ago. Here, I helped collect data for their ongoing research of whale populations. Spending more time in the Great Bear Rainforest exposed me to the pressing issue and risks of having oil tankers traveling through the narrow channels of this region. Working at Cetacealab, I had the opportunity to reconnect with the unique and amazing environment as well as the great people who live and work there.

During the past year, Norm Hann’s StandUp4GreatBear paddle and The Pipe Dreams Project have inspired me to take action and find a way to support the First Nations and environmental groups in their opposition of the Northern Gateway Project.

THE PROJECT:

From these experiences, I have grown fond of the Hartley Bay community and I am concerned for the future of what lies ahead and along this coastline. I want to support the First Nations communities, the environmental groups and people of the coast who are working hard to preserve the culture and the integrity of this beautiful area. For this reason, over the past year I have engaged fellow students at Quest University to help organize and participate in a canoe journey (GBR Youth Paddle) that will take place in Gitga’at territory.

In early June, myself, along with a group of Quest University students will travel to the Great Bear Rainforest, through BC’s Inside Passage and arrive in the remote First Nations community of Hartley Bay. Here, we will learn firsthand about the potential impacts of the Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal on Gitga’at culture and traditions. Participants will train and learn the techniques of paddling a First Nations traditional canoe, and along with youth from the Hartley Bay Secondary School, we will go on a once in a lifetime journey through the pristine waters of BC’s temperate rainforest. Together we will paddle from Hartley Bay to the Gitga’at’s spring-harvest camp in Kiel. We will journey through a portion of the proposed tanker route for the Northern Gateway project, the same area where the ferry Queen of the North sank in 2006. Once near the Southern tip of Gil Island we will visit Cetacealab, a whale research station to learn about the threats that oil super tankers would pose to recovering whale populations. At our destination in Kiel, participants will join the Gitga’at in traditional harvesting practices and bare witness to the unparalleled natural abundance of the Great Bear Rainforest.

With the Youth Paddle I aim to engage students with the realities of the pipeline proposal, while immersing them in a complete environmental experience and incorporating First Nations culture, and voice. A documentary film will provide a platform for youth to speak out and express their perspectives and opinions of the pipeline proposal. The Youth Paddle aims to support the Gitga’at people in their opposition of the Northern Gateway Pipeline project and to open avenues for collaboration among First Nations and non-First Nations youth. Participants will celebrate land and culture, and to promote a more sustainable future.

I am passionate and excited to organize this journey and contribute to the growing campaign against the Enbridge project. I am asking for your support of this project to help make the GBR Youth Paddle successful in June 2012. Thank you!