This year has seen a tremendous showing of solidarity to stop the planned tar sands pipelines that, if built, will bring oil spills and increased climate chaos.
The plans for the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline include a 1170km-long pipeline to ship tar sands synthetic oil from Alberta to a port in Northern BC. The proposed route will pass over 1,000 salmon-bearing streams and rivers, and will require over 200 oil tankers into and out of the port each year. The Federal government gave their approval to this project subject to 209 conditions in June of this year. The proposal for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline extension is still before the National Energy Board. Kinder Morgan is proposing to build a second1156km pipeline running from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, BC that will run alongside the existing one. This will result in oil tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet that runs north of Vancouver and Burnaby increasing from 60 tankers per year to 408 per year.
At the end of 2013 the Yinka Dene alliance announced the creation of the solidarity accord. The Solidarity Accord is in support of the Save The Fraser declaration. The Save The Fraser declaration is a statement by over 130 indigenous nations within the Fraser River watershed that states: “We have come together to defend these lands and waters from a grave threat: the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines project. This project . . . and the federal process to approve it, violate our laws, traditions, values and our inherent rights as Indigenous Peoples under international law.” They continue, “We will not allow the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, or similar Tar Sands projects, to cross our lands, territories and watersheds, or the ocean migration routes of Fraser River salmon.”
The Solidarity Accord pledges: “We, the undersigned, say to our First Nations brothers and sisters, and to the world, that we are prepared to stand with you to protect the land, the water and our communities from the Enbridge pipelines and tankers project and similar projects to transport tar sands oil.” Unifor and the BC Teachers’ Federation have signed the declaration.
At the same time Yinka Dene Alliance also launched Holdthewall.ca, where people can sign up to pledge to support the signatories of the Save the Fraser Declaration. There are now 26,000 signatories to this pledge.
2014: a year of resistance
All this year, the First Nations in BC have led the fight to stop the pipelines.
At a gathering on April 12, hereditary and elected leaders, elders, youth and other representatives from the First Nations of the Yinka Dene Alliance provided their reasons for banning the tar sands pipeline from their land to Canadian officials. Chief Fred Sam of the Nak’azdli First Nation explained, “Our decision to refuse consent for the Enbridge pipeline is a decision according to our own laws. It is binding and clearly set out in the Save the Fraser Declaration.” He continued, “This gathering is about our people giving the reasons for our rejection of the Enbridge pipeline, in our voices, on our lands, under our laws.”
In May, representatives of several nations travelled to Calgary to speak to Enbridge's annual general meeting of stock holders. Over 2000 supporters sent along letters to deliver to the company. Yinka Dene Alliance member Jasmine Thomas told the meeting, “We will continue to uphold our legal ban against this project and will assert our Aboriginal rights and title to the fullest extent possible. Whether Canada, or your company, decide to move forward with this pipe dream despite all opposition, thousands of Canadians have committed to hold the wall with us.” She then dared the company to come to her land and “look our people in the eyes, and say face-to-face that Enbridge does not believe our nations have the authority to say NO to its unwanted project in our own unceded territories?”
Thousands in Vancouver joined the Convergence 2014 march and rally to Protect our Sacred Waters from Tarsands Oil. The event was organized in June by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and included a march across the Burrard bridge in Vancouver.
In July, Eight First Nations, four environmental organizations and the trade union, Unifor, went to the Federal Court of Appeal seeking leave to judicially review the federal approval of the Enbridge project. The step of seeking leave to appeal before the appeal is heard is an extra step to the legal process added by the Harper government in 2012 to make it harder to contest National Energy Board decisions. Their first victory came in October when the Federal Court of Appeal gave all the cases permission to go forward. The court cases include 5 judicial reviews of the report of the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel, 9 judicial reviews of the federal cabinet approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, and 4 appeals of the National Energy Board certificates approving the Enbridge Northern Gateway project.
In November: victory on Burnaby mountain! Protests led by Tsleil-waututh First Nation and Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE) won a major victory against the tar sands pipelines. Kinder Morgan began exploratory drilling on the mountain to support their proposal to the National Energy Board to drill a tunnel through the mountain. The charges against protesters who defied the company's injunction were dropped, Kinder Morgan was unable to get its injunction extended and was unable to complete its survey work on Burnaby Mountain. This was possible due to the work activists across the province have done for years, and the growing solidarity with, and support for, the First Nations on whose land these ecocidal projects are being built.
You can support these crucial efforts. Go to Holdthewall.ca and sign the solidarity pledge. At the website pull-together.ca you can donate directly to support the court costs and help build on line and off line fund raising events. Next year we can all join together to spread the protests to actions in our workplaces, college and university campuses and neighbourhoods across the country.