2012 Kootenay to Kitimat Caravan to stop the Enbridge Pipeline

Report by Keith Wiley

The Kootenay to Kitimat Caravan meets Chief Namox of the Wet’suwet’en and Mayor Taylor Bachrach in Smithers.

PDF of this report: Caravansummingup4
July 24th, 2012
We’re on the road home now, driving past the glacier that hangs off Hudsons Bay mountain over Smithers. For once the Kootenay to Kitimat Caravan “geezer gang” is quiet. We are tired, and reflecting on ten days of travel, rallies, and meeting amazing people. Each of us has been surprised by the impact encountering these activists has had on us. Right off, our first night in Kelowna, we were welcomed with a picnic at Karen’s place. There were Council of Canadians folks and about a dozen others who are actively fighting the pipeline. Mae Jong-Bowles was there all the way from Prince Rupert with salmon she’d caught and smoked herself. Karen put us up for the night, fed us breakfast the next morning and sent us off to a loud and energetic rally outside the Kelowna mall.

In Kelowna, a strong bunch of local activists rallied in front of the Mall and then marched with the Caravan pipeline up to the highway.

That was just the first night of the trip, but the pattern of hospitality and enthusiasm persisted as we hit Kamloops, Williams Lake and Prince George. Our geezer gang is only four guys, but everywhere many more people came out to meet us. They came to hear our message that people in the southern interior, nearly a thousand kilometres from the pipeline route, wanted to support them and stop the pipeline. Everyone is appalled at the prospect of bitumen spills in BC lands and waters.
At each stop we would stretch out our props, 20-foot-long black cloth pipelines with banners on the side reading: “Stop the pipeline” and “Protect our Future”. We’d set up our small microphone amplifier, hand out leaflets and explain the Proclamation we were bringing to the communities on the pipeline route.
Sometimes Jim Terral would play his saxophone to set the tone while we put up our small display. He played “Study war no more” while supporters walked up to meet us in Burns Lake and Hazelton.
At these rallies we presented local representatives a copy of our Kootenay to Kitimat Proclamation with over 500 signatures from the Kootenays, Kelowna and even Kamloops.
Our Proclamation wasn’t always easy to explain. “It’s NOT a petition to politicians or people in power,” I would tell people at our events. 
“This is a message from our communities to you. And it’s a simple message: We support you and your right to refuse the pipeline access to your lands, waters and communities.”
But then I’d have to add: “No, you can’t sign this… this is a message to you,” That was a bit unusual, but once I made it clear this was for them, people everywhere from Nadleh to Kitimat would express real appreciation.
“It’s just great to know people so far away support us,” they’d say. 

In Hazelton, Gitxsan representatives joined us and put on a great picnic. Also with us was local MLA Doug Donaldson.

We weren’t on the road very long before we realized we were in for a more exciting time than we ever expected. Day one, at our second stop in Grand Forks, Mayor Brian Taylor met us, along with Margaret Steele and a couple of dozen folks. Everyone shook our hands and told us they were grateful we had taken on the project.
We found that same energy over and over and it became quite humbling. We were just four older men trying to do our small part to build up opposition to an environmental nightmare.
At each rally we also heard from activists who would explain their pipeline concerns and their organizing efforts. In Burns Lake, Carla Lewis, a Wet’suwet’en woman who had her young son holding on to her leg – told us how just the week before people in her community had done a lengthy canoe trip. They’d taken children out on the river in the big war canoes, camping out several nights. The threat from the pipeline had motivated them to to show the children life on the river. Our small rally grew very quiet as we listened to her. Carla’s voice quavered and she had to pause when she said her community’s way of life would be ended by a pipeline leak. 
Carla also first mentioned what several other people repeated: “We are grateful to Enbridge, because they have brought us together more than ever before.”
The First Nations communities are rallying to protect their lands from the pipeline, and several people told us how they are also uniting more with the non-aboriginal community than ever before.
For the four of us Caravaners, listening to the First Nations people was profoundly powerful. In Nadleh on Fraser Lake, Chief Martin Louis spent over two hours with us. He started out by explaining the huge pile of documents on his side desk, corporate proposals and government consultations he needed to respond to. He looked a little tired, but patiently explained his nation’s clarity on the pipeline.
But he told us much more. He explained how in 1910, their community had been ordered by the government to stop their traditional salmon fishery using weirs to capture salmon. Using nets and gaffs cut their share of the harvest dramatically.
The day we visited, he was most concerned about a news of a new plan from Rio Tinto Alcan to complete the second tunnel of the Kemano diversion, the water that powers the Kitimat aluminum plant. He worried that more northern rivers would be reversed to flow not into the Fraser system, but into the Kemano power plant. He explained that kind of diversion could end the salmon fishery,  drop the level of the river and the lake, and devastate his community.
We went with him to the Nadleh community store where a fundraising barbecue was helping send their young dancers to a special event in Vancouver. After munching down burgers, we presented Chief Louis with our Proclamation and again had to explain we didn’t want signatures. “This is addressed to you.”
Later in the Office of the Wet’suwet’en in Smithers, we met with John Ridsdale, Wet’suwet’en tradtional Chief Namox. On the walls of the offices we saw photos from the Freedom Train 2012 (the cross-Canada protest that went to the Enbridge shareholders’ meeting in Toronto) and other events. In the pictures were several Chiefs dressed in full regalia. We saw Chief Louis and Chief Namox standing together, looking serious and determined. When we’d met with Chief Louis we clearly the saw the weight of responsibility and the authority he carried. That impression was reinforced by those photos.

In Prince George, local people pulled together a roadside show for us. Regina Thomas came up and introduced herself, just one of many strong young pipeline opponents we met.

Our Caravan quickly became the story of the compelling people we met. In Prince George, a young First Nations woman came out to our small and somewhat impromptu rally and introduced herself, Regina Thomas, the cousin of Chief Jackie Thomas. She explained Chief Thomas was away at the Assembly of First Nations. This young woman couldn’t have been over 21, but she came straight ahead to welcome us. We encountered several women like her during the trip and they left a big impression. They were articulate, determined about stopping the pipeline, and clearly unafraid of standing up and saying so. 

NDP Leader Adrian Dix happened to be in Williams Lake the day of our rally there. He joined us and said some very encouraging words.

In Williams Lake, we were lucky enough to be joined by Adrian Dix who happened to be in the community. We were pleased to meet him and hear about 27,000 BC citizens signing on to the online NDP letter opposing the pipeline (www.bcndp.ca). He had encouraging words for us, with his firm commitment to stopping the pipeline.
And we met Kim Slater at that same rally. Kim is running the full distance of the BC pipeline along Highway 16. (See more at www.bandtogetherBC.com.) At events on her trip she is speaking to thousands of people about how we can move our society to less toxic energy than the tar sands bitumen. Canada is falling behind she says pointing out that Germany now gets more than half its energy from solar power. 
Kim said her feet were getting a bit chewed up, with 40 kilometres a day – the equivalent of a full marathon – on highway pavement, but her smile and energy were infectious. Her clear eyes shone, as she shook hands with nearly everyone at the rally. She is obviously determined to help us move to a sustainable energy future. Inspiring to meet.
The warmth and hospitality we were shown everywhere were also humbling for us Caravaners. In Fort St. James, Louise invited us all in to her home. We sat up late and talked about politics and the pipeline, and enjoyed getting cleaned up, showers all around.

John Olson and his daughter found us two great salmon, one for dinner, one for the next day’s picnic.

In Old Hazelton, John Olson promised to feed us with fresh salmon. “We’ll stop in at Walt’s place,” he said. There we went out back and saw big 20 and 30 pound salmon in large tubs. John hauled out two, one for that day’s dinner and the larger one he said he’d stuff for our community event the next day.
In Old Hazelton, John installed us at Jacob and Jessica’s place, great folks. Jacob showed off his talents with the barbecue, cooking up the salmon deliciously with some birch twigs for smoke. Joining us was Chief Dawamukh and his wife. We listened after dinner as he explained the Gitxsan house structure, headed up by traditional chiefs like himself.
In Kitimat, Chery and Ric Willis hosted and fed us. In Kamloops, it was Tom’s sister Heather and her husband Alan  Campbell, who invited us in. The kindness and generosity was wonderful everywhere we went.
We got to camp out too and spent two nights at ‘Ksan in Hazelton. The geezers enjoyed hanging around a small fire chatting with John Olson as the mighty Skeena River rushed along just a few feet away. At one point a little aluminum skiff came by, working its way slowly up the current. “Hey, it’s Walt,” said John. “How’s fishing?” he called out and Walt’s buddy in the boat held up what must have been another 30 pounder.
The Caravan quickly fell into a routine, early each day we did a public event with great assistance from local organizers. As we set up, Michael Gilfillan got out the cameras to record the event “just to prove we really did it.”  Jim turned on his audio recorder to capture interviews with many of the people we met. Tom Nixon, who insisted he could only be happy behind the wheel, quickly became our “wagon master” — helping load us up and on to the next stop.
Getting us back on the road was never easy, because all four geezers were constantly engaged in conversations with people. As soon as one chat wrapped up, another began. Finally, we’d have to get in the van to head on.
“Where’s the Caravan?” people asked us. We’d point to our single vehicle, an old blue Dodge Caravan, and everyone would laugh. I explained that many people had wanted to come, and had supported the Caravan project. But when the reality of a ten-day road trip became clear, it was too big a commitment for most. Finally, it was the geezers who had the time available, the freedom and to some extent the jam, to head out on an unknown adventure.
Driving a Caravan, using up fossil fuel, wasn’t ideal for the trip. But the way transportation works today, we were left with no option. Commercial buses would have cost much more and taken many days longer. Running or biking were not in the cards for the geezers. But with four of us in the one vehicle and Tom driving with a (mostly) light foot we kept fuel consumption down. 
Just the same, fuel was the big cost of the project. On the second last day, our $400 fund, including a generous contribution from the Nelson chapter of Council of Canadians, was running on empty. It was time to dig deep into the donation boxes that Jade Giessen and other Caravan supporters had put out in Kootenay businesses for a couple of weeks before we left. And what we found in the last two donation boxes? Good news! Over $100. We’d make it home!
We invited local people to come forward and speak at our rallies and the depth of knowledge and research quickly became evident. In Burns Lake, John Phair from Lakes District Clean Waters  explained that the pipeline would pass just about a kilometre from where we were rallying. A leak would quickly contaminate the river and all of Burns Lake itself. What we may not know, he said, is that the evacuation zone, because of toxic gases evaporating off a leak, would be at least 1.5 kilometres from the source. As any leak would quickly be carried  right round the lake, the entire community would have to be evacuated.
In Fort St. James, locals had debated spill risks with Enbridge engineers who showed contamination only running to the edge of their map. But when they were pushed, the engineers found a larger map which showed how the “dilbit” (diluted bitumen) from a leak would be carried at least a kilometre out into Stuart Lake, past a national historic site.
The Enbridge promoters came back later to Fort St. James to explain that a pipeline leak would create local employment for months, maybe years. And they promised they would leave the trucks and heavy equipment behind for the community when it was done. People we talked to couldn’t believe the arrogance of this “pitch” to the community. For one thing they pointed out, there is no clean up, really. With almost all pipeline leaks, something like 75 to 85 per cent of the leaked material is never recovered. It gets dug over and lurks in the water and soil, like a leaky old gas station storage tank.
Fort St. James Council later voted to reject the whole pipeline proposal.
In Prince George and other centres, people talked about what Enbridge calls  a “National Energy Transportation Corridor”. This “corridor” could start with natural gas pipelines running from northeast BC to liquid natural gas terminals in Kitimat. Several people we spoke with wondered if opening such a corridor would pave the way for a bitumen line, or even if the companies could decide at some point to convert the gas lines to carrying “dilbit”.
In Kitimat, Murray Minchin showed us his submission to the JRP (the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel which has been holding hearings on the pipeline proposal). His photos and maps detail how the line would emerge from a multi-kilometre tunnel under the mountain into avalanche and rock slide fields in the Kitimat Valley.
The people of Douglas Channel Watch in Kitimat also took us to the City Council to explain our Caravan project. At the Kitimat event the next day, local MLA Robin Austin talked about the latest BC government plan to sell the pipeline. 

The “geezer gang” at the Nelson Caravan send-off. Left to right: Jim Terral, Michael Gilfillan, Keith Wiley, Tom Nixon.

Other politicians also joined in at our events. In Hazelton, Skeena MLA Doug Donaldson spoke passionately about preserving the environment. NDP candidate Tom Friedman organized our event and spoke with us in front of Kamloops City Hall.
We saw that the consensus against the pipeline reaches deep into BC politics. An early boost for our Caravan project, just days before we were ready to leave, had come from our own Nelson City Council. Councillor Candace Batycki put forward a motion opposing the pipeline and endorsing our Caravan.  Nelson became one of the first half dozen BC municipalities to take a strong position.
We had expected to run into animosity, people who believe the pipeline will bring them jobs. After all, there is a high-priced campaign to convince Canadians the tar sands and the pipeline are crucial to fighting off recession and poverty. In the end, though, there was only one angry woman in a wheelchair in Kamloops. She said we shouldn’t be protesting, we should “get a business plan”. We need the energy, she said. Her angry attack on us got her quite a bit of media coverage too.
In our talks, I said the national debate on the pipeline is becoming an historic turning point. The people of Canada will no longer accept devastating industrial projects like this pipeline. The promise of economic growth and jobs at the cost of destroying so much of our environment just does not fly. Canadians get it: there is no economy without a healthy ecosystem.
We always outlined the basics, the frightening risks of a bitumen leak into inland watersheds, and the fears about over 200 tankers a year negotiating the Douglas Channel through the Great Bear Rainforest. I would always point out as well that the pipeline is part of a plan to triple production of some of the most carbon intensive fuel. “It really is a pipeline from the tar sands right into our planet’s atmosphere.”
People would applaud when I said the pipeline is $6 billion invested in going the wrong way. We could do far more with that money channelled into new sustainable plans to harness cleaner energy that does not wreak havoc with our climate.  
We’ve had a whirlwind tour. Driving back now we are tired, but talking a lot about what comes next. Still at the wheel, Tom pipes up: “The next time we do this…” but he is cut off right there by a roar of laughter. Our Caravan was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of adventure. But the direct connection with so many determined people is definitely motivating. Now we will go on to share our experiences, share some of what we’ve learned, and some of the ideas we’ve heard about changing our province and our country to a new path. Above all, we are more certain than ever about what the people of Canada will do first, and that is: stop the pipeline.
Opposition to the pipeline does not stop.
Keep in touch through our Facebook page: 
Kootenays for a pipeline-free BC or email us at noenbridgepipeline@gmail.com.

Kootenay activists opposing Enbridge proposal


Kootenay activists planning local opposition to the Enbridge pipeline

––Nelson, BC February 23, 2012

Nearly 100 people came out to talk about local opposition to the Enbridge pipeline proposal in Nelson on Thursday, February 23rd.

After hearing more about the pipeline and the tanker traffic on the coast, people took time to come up with local activities to show opposition to the project.

West Kootenay EcoSociety coordinator David Reid led the crowd through a group exercise to come up with action ideas. Supporting the First Nations, t-shirts, shareholder activism and local pipeline parties all came up as ideas and several groups formed to pursue some of these actions.

Two guest speakers outlined issues with the pipeline. Local biologist Wayne McCrory has worked extensively on the bear populations on the coast and the Great Bear Rainforest. Local energy expert Dan Woynillowicz talked about the national economic future the pipeline and the tar sands are creating.

McCrory explained some of the basics of the pipeline project.

“We’re talking about a three-foot diameter pipeline that’s going to come all the way across the Rocky Mountains. 1100 kilometres to Kitimat and there’ll be another smaller pipeline beside it that takes back this condensate.”

The pipeline will cross hundreds of BC streams and rivers including many large salmon tributaries, he pointed out.

But McCrory focussed on possible impacts on the coastal environment and the new traffic in huge oil tankers, some over a kilometre long.

“Two hundred and twenty more tankers a year. Some of them nearly as long as these channels are wide.”

He explained how the Exxon Valdez oil spill had damaged over 1,000 kilometres of Alaskan coastline, damage which continues to this day.

“The Exxon Valdez oil spill had only one mild turn for the tankers to get from where they loaded the oil to the open sea. There’s one hundred kilometres of channels from Kitimat to the open sea and there are five sharp turns.”

McCrory also questioned whether Enbridge has any responsibility or liability for the bitumen once it is loaded on tankers.

Local energy expert Dan Woynillowicz who works for the Pembina Institute pointed out that the proposed pipeline is part of a growing concentration of the Canadian economy in the tar sands.

He raised concerns, as he put it, on “What that means for the sustainability of our economy  over the longer term.”

Woynillowicz said that “that our current leadership in Canada may not recognize that the world is trending towards a lower carbon economy.”

He said the hazards of depending too much on the tar sands are already being felt. “We now have a currency whose value is correlated directly with the price of oil.” That means the value of our dollar goes through huge swings with the oil price. Woynillowicz explained how that makes investment difficult in manufacturing and other longer term and more stable industries in the country. “We are seeing a hollowing out of our manufacturing sector. Those jobs are not being replaced by jobs in the tar sands.”

Wayne McCrory focussed on how a tanker oil spill would seriously impact the rare, gene pool of the Kermode bear on small Gribbell Island, which is along the proposed tanker route from Kitimat. Recent genetic studies has shown that this island has over 45% white Kermode bears and is likely where the recessive gene for the white phase bear originated. He outlined how the incidence of white Kermodes varies from island to island and the mainland in the area, representing a version of Canada’s own Galapagos and evolution in the making. An oil spill along the Inside tanker route would devastate these small island bear populations, especially on Gribbell where clearcut logging and overfishing have resulted in diminished salmon runs. An oil spill would further decrease salmon for the bears as well as mussels and barnacles which the bears feed on in the intertidal zone, especially in years when the few small salmon runs on Gribbell are down. This will cause population declines and disruption of this fragile but globally significant gene pool.

Wayne McCrory also summed up a broader concern about exporting tar sands bitumen.

“We shouldn’t just think of the tar sands and the mountains the pipeline would go through, or the tanker traffic. We should think of the atmosphere, because it’s the atmosphere today that’s going to have the most devastating impacts with climate change in our lives,” said McCrory.

NEB censors input on key pipeline issue: tar sands expansion

CAROL LINNITT has an excellent expose of the National Energy Board on desmogblog.com.

She writes:

“The National Energy Board (NEB), the federal body tasked with overseeing the Enbridge hearing, issued a general directive one year ago designed to exclude input from prominent environmental groups critical of the astonishingly rapid expansion of the tar sands – an expansion that only stands to increase with the proposed pipeline. …

“The NEB justifies the exclusion – which denies some of Canada’s leading environmental scientists the right to talk about climate change, greenhouse gasses and Canada’s energy future throughout the hearing – rather crudely:

“…we do not consider that there is a sufficiently direct connection between the [Pipeline] Project and any particular existing or proposed oil sands development, or other oil production activities, to warrant consideration of the environmental effects of such activities…Subject to consideration of cumulative effects…we will not consider the environmental effects of upstream hydrocarbon production projects or activities in our review.” [emphasis mine]

The “other” pipeline, Kinder Morgan, springs a leak in Abbotsford

The Wilderness Committee has put out a release saying: “Kinder Morgan has confirmed there was an oil spill this morning at the Sumas Terminal and tank farm in Abbotsford, after residents phoned 911 and reported headaches and nausea from a heavy smell of gas in the air.”

This is near the end of the TransMountain pipeline which already has had several spills.

Harper calls pipeline critics “enemies of the state”

Andrew Frank of ForestEthics has made an affadavit, blowing the whistle on Harper’s undemocratic moves on the Enbridge pipeline.

“As I have detailed in a sworn affidavit, no less than three senior managers with Tides Canada and ForestEthics (a charitable project of Tides Canada), have informed me, as the Senior Communications Manager for ForestEthics, that Tides Canada CEO, Ross McMillan, was informed by the Prime Minister’s Office, that ForestEthics is considered an “Enemy of the Government of Canada,” and an “Enemy of the people of Canada.

Amazing. What a PM?

“Ethical Oil” joins media strategy to smear opposition

In a deliberate attempt to move public opinion against pipeline detractors, the Prime Minister, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver and the ethical oil lobby group released a sequence of negative and false messages.  These attacks on the opposition to the pipeline were a heavy-handed attempt to take the top news spots away from what was happening at the same time: the powerful testimony of the Haida at the NEB hearings. The real story here: the massive popular public opposition to the pipeline. (Note that ethical oil is an ethereal lobby group that one reporter noted “operates mainly as a website on a portable laptop”.

The authors of deepclimate.org posted a fascinating map of the back office staffing movement between the Prime Minister’s Office, Ethical Oil and the Conservative Party strategy trust.

Oliver’s extreme diatribe on radical foreign agitators can be found at the Globe and Mail.  His over-the-top rhetoric plays to the Conservative-minded.

Oliver writes: “Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade. Their goal is to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth.

No forestry. No mining. No oil. No gas. No more hydro-electric dams.”

Green Party LeaderElizabeth May wrote this telling rebuttal to Oliver.

May writes: “Your government has failed to present an energy strategy to Canada.  We have no energy policy.  We are still importing more than half of the oil we use.  Further, we have no plan to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, even as we sign on to global statements about the need to keep greenhouse gases from rising above 450 ppm in the atmosphere to keep global average temperatures from exceeding a growth of 2 degrees C.  The climate crisis imperils our future – including our economic future – in fundamental ways which your government ignores.

By characterizing this issue as environmental radicals versus Canada’s future prosperity you have done a grave disservice to the development of sensible public policy.”