As hearings into the Northern Gateway Pipeline resume in Edmonton, a mass protest organized by opponents of the controversial project is being planned for the B.C. legislature in Victoria.
The sit-in, which organizers call an “historic act of peaceful civil disobedience,” is scheduled for Oct. 22 to protest the proposed pipeline that would bring bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands to Kitimat on the west coast. Tankers would then ship the oil to Asian markets.
The risk of oil spills and irreversible harm to our tourism and fishing industries from these pipelines and tankers is just too great.
— Environmentalist Tzeporah Berman
The protest will be attended by business, First Nations, environmental, labour, academic, medical, and artistic communities across Canada, according to Greenpeace Canada.
Over 80 community, union, business and First Nation leaders have publicly endorsed the protest, including Stephen Lewis, David Suzuki, Maude Barlow, and Naomi Klein, Greenpeace said.
“There are moments in history when it’s clear that our elected leaders are failing us and it is necessary to take a stand,” said author and environmentalist Tzeporah Berman in a posting on Greenpeace Canada’s website.
“Today we are stating our intention to defend our coast and calling on others to join us. The risk of oil spills and irreversible harm to our tourism and fishing industries from these pipelines and tankers is just too great.”
After a break on Sept. 8, a Joint Review Panel resumed hearings in Edmonton to assess the environmental impact of the $6-billion project. The hearings, mandated by the Minister of the Environment and the National Energy Board, are scheduled to conclude by April 2013 and include public consultation.
On Monday, lawyers for an aboriginal group fighting the project questioned Enbridge officials about the possibility of Chinese investment buying control over the pipeline and oil supply. Lawyers for environmental groups raised similar concerns earlier this month.
This week for the first time, Enbridge officials will have an opportunity to address questions at the hearings.
Janet Holder, Enbridge’s executive vice president in charge of western access, said in a news release that the company “believes that the concerns expressed by Canadians to date, and particularly those living in British Columbia, can be addressed in a reasonable and responsible way.”
While proponents argue the 1,170-km dual line is needed to open up Canada’s oil exports to Asia and will add billions to the GDP, opponents and those living along the route fear the fallout from possible spills.
The Victoria sit-in aims to build on the success of other protests against oil sands expansion and proposed pipelines that have taken place in recent years.
The August 2011 sit-ins in Washington, D.C., that helped delay approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and the September 2011 sit-in in Ottawa are noted by organizers as inspirational examples.
“We hope people from all walks of life and from across the country join us in Victoria and defend the natural beauty and cultural richness of the B.C. coastline,” said Chief Jackie Thomas of the Saik’uz First Nation, whose territory in central B.C. would be impacted by the pipeline.
“We will be there to show the widespread opposition to tar sands pipelines and tanker proposals and to show the strength of the support for First Nations people’s rights to land and title and the internationally protected right to free, prior, and informed consent on any development impacting our traditional territories.”
In another effort to stop the pipeline, a petition started by Kelowna resident James MacGregor has surpassed its goal of 10,000 signatures and now aims to reach 20,000. MacGregor plans to deliver the signed petition to Ottawa on Oct. 1.
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