Photo by Jerome Kashetsky

On December 1st a group of Great Bear Youth Paddle supporters attended an incredibly inspiring and empowering event at the Rio theatre in Vancouver. The event was called “The Tar Sands Stop Here!” and it involved First Nations leaders and long-time activists such as Rex Weyler and Naomi Klein. We were excited to hear what these people had to say about the oil controversies.

Naomi Klein shared with us her experience in Louisiana during the BP disaster and, with sadness, called what is left of this area, “a hole in the world.” She described oil as a curse, and the Tar Sands as a curse and a blessing at the same time. The Tar Sands are a blessing because they are land-locked, and as such, the government cannot turn the oil into money until it reaches the coast to be shipped to China and the U.S. Naomi also said that the Tar Sands are a blessing because, with the widespread opposition that keeps on growing, “We can block these pipelines and give the Tar Sands a heart attack.” This fuelled the crowd with energy because we all felt like part of a movement that can succeed. The growing opposition to the Enbridge Pipeline now includes 130 First Nations, and Naomi stressed that we need to thank First Nations people and the Fraser Declaration for protecting all of us, the BC province, and the West Coast that we treasure.

Naomi denounced our current government and its actions in overlooking the political process. She recounted a recent interview with Stephen Harper in which he praised the Enbridge Pipeline.  The facts are that the Northern Gateway Pipeline project is currently under review and First Nations people have banded together to say NO to it.  Yet, Stephen Harper is treating the project like it is already a reality. Naomi continued on to say that, “This is not a government; they are paid lobbyists of the oil industry.” This is a powerful statement that I hope really makes people think about our government’s actions, especially during ongoing discussions about the Kyoto Protocol at the UN Climate Change Conference. At the conference, Canada was awarded two “Fossil of the Day Awards.”  Our country won first place for lack of action in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Is this the reputation that we want to have as Canadians in the international arena?

As Canadians, living in a beautiful, environmentally rich, highly developed country, should we not hold ourselves and our government responsible for maintaining the well-being of the environment and the citizens of this country? As we benefit and enjoy the luxuries that come with our standard of living, don’t we have a responsibility to ourselves and to our brothers and sisters in the developing world? As First Nations Chief Reuben George said, “we are all Indigenous people; we are all people of the earth,” and as such I think we should act in solidarity to one another.

I know what you’re thinking, but what do we do if we don’t let the pipeline go through? What about the economy? A few weeks ago, a friend and I went to see David Suzuki speak at UBC. David eloquently stated that the global economy “blinds us to the ecological and social effects [of our consumption habits].” Suzuki explained that the economy is not the end, the be all and end all, it is just a tool that we created to help us in achieving a means to something else. But we are confused, it seems, and think that we must “serve it” in order to keep it growing forever. Present environmental degradation, social injustice, and global revolutions are beginning to challenge this idea and will hopefully lead us to the realization that this idea of endless growth is impossible. When we ask, “But what about the economy?” we need to realize that the system is flawed and that we need to come up with a better system. The negative effects of our allegiance to the economy are already visible, as our consumption grows dangerously and as developing countries deal with the negative effects of climate change.

The issue of building an oil pipeline across two provinces that would pose the risk of an oil spill through First Nations territories, the beautiful Great Bear Rainforest, and the BC coast, is not only an issue about building an oil pipeline. The issue with the Enbridge pipeline is that by allowing this projects to go through, Canada commits to continue the expansion of the Tar Sands, and continue its ever-growing fossil fuel emissions. By allowing the Enbridge Pipeline to go through, Canada will not take a stand for social justice and environmental justice, nor will our government prove to have long term goals that will benefit future generations. Instead, the project will put the BC province at risk of disaster, seeing that the potential of an oil spill will be larger than the well documented Exxon Valdez spill.

So what can we do? Become informed, watch a documentary, read the Natural Resources Defence Council Report, join an activist group in your local community, spread the word about the GBR Youth Paddle, and most importantly write a letter to Stephen Harper expressing your genuine concern as a Canadian citizen and get others to do the same!

To help the GBR Youth Paddle donate to our cause!

Relevant info:

Canada an embarrassment at climate talks – CBC
Canada should cooperate on climate change or go home- David Suzuki Foundation

Prime Minister gets personal – Global BC (video)

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