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Comment: Coastal First Nations stand firm against pipeline

Pipelines and tankers are a hot topic these days, with the federal government set to make a decision by June about whether to reject Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal that would bring more than 225 oil tankers a year through the heart of a region

Pipelines and tankers are a hot topic these days, with the federal government set to make a decision by June about whether to reject Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal that would bring more than 225 oil tankers a year through the heart of a region that includes the Great Bear Rainforest.

We don’t yet know whether the federal government will listen to the people of B.C. and reject this dangerous pipeline and tankers. So the upcoming rally in Victoria on Saturday is a timely moment for British Columbians to raise our voices of opposition loud enough to be heard in Ottawa.

What we do know is that Coastal First Nations have already made a decision. We have declared a ban on oil tankers in our traditional territories. We have made our position abundantly clear. We have spoken to Enbridge shareholders at their annual general meetings and will be there again this year, to let them know in no uncertain terms that this pipeline is a bad investment that will never be built.

We have spoken our hearts and minds to the joint review panel, we have retained lawyers, we have organized rallies and taken to the streets, we have opened up our homes to share our stories with journalists from all over the world.

The facts are clear. Accidents happen, cleanup is impossible and taxpayers will be on the hook for the costs of spill response. First responders would likely suffer respiratory and other health issues from working in toxic environments. Oil tankers near the Great Bear Rainforest would put at risk our jobs, our communities and our very futures.

In the face of a veritable onslaught of advertising from Northern Gateway and a constant stream of federal bureaucrats trying to tell us what is good for us, our decision has never wavered, and we are not alone. Almost 200 First Nations, the Union of B.C. Municipalities, a majority of British Columbians across the province and, most recently, the town of Kitimat, have rejected Enbridge’s project.

Will the federal government listen to British Columbians and respect our aboriginal rights to make decisions about the land we have called home for thousands of years? If the government seeks to ram through this unpopular pipeline, there is no question that pipelines and tankers will be an election issue in 2015.

The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and tankers are not in the interest of this coast or this country. Our well-being is dependent on the health of our lands and waters. And our lands and waters are now dependent on us.

With a federal election on the horizon, if people stand together and speak loudly enough, even the most oil-friendly politician will be forced to back down. Together, a different future is possible.

Art Sterritt is executive director of Coastal First Nations.

In Victoria, the national day of action begins Saturday, May 10, at 12:30 p.m. with music at the Beacon Hill Park bandshell, followed by a march to the legislature at 1:45 p.m. and a rally at the legislature at 2:30 p.m.