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REPORTING · 6th September 2010
Walter McFarlane
There were 5 police vehicles in the parking lot of Riverlodge on Tuesday August 31st. The Joint Review Panel was meeting in the community room to receive public consultation on the issues which they need to address, further information which Enbridge should submit to the project and locations where they should hold public hearings.

Presentations were a combination of the above topics and additional information about why the people or groups who presented were in favour or opposed to the pipeline. The morning began with a promenade of leaders from the Coastal First Nations who made up a majority of the morning speakers, starting with Chief Councillor Dolores Pollard and Gerald Amos from Kitamaat Village.

There were several key topics presented by the Coastal First Nations. The first was how their communities felt alienated by the Joint Review Process. All of the First Nations presenters invited the members of the panel to meet in their communities during the official hearings.

Arthur Sterritt stated it took $25,000 just to get the First Nations Leadership from the Sacred Circle into Kitimat. “That’s just to get here. That’s to hire boats to get them here and hotels for the night,” said Sterritt.

Sterritt explained there was an 80 mile zone where people who wished to attend any panel hearings would be able to receive money. However, several communities would have used up the majority of this funding attending just one of these three panel hearings (one in Alberta, one in Prince George and one in Kitimat) this week.

The second item was the traditions of the Aboriginal People of British Columbia and how the tanker traffic would disrupt their way of life with or without a spill. All of the First Nation’s Speakers pointed to the rivers and ocean as a source of food and as a source of culture for their people.

The rights of the First Nation’s People was also a hot topic brought up multiple times through out the meeting. Several groups reminded the panel that treaties were never signed in British Columbia, others pointed rights which were given to them, not by Canada, but by the United Nations which the pipeline would violate. Most importantly was the fact the aboriginal people have title to the land.

“We’re talking about a tanker route through my territory, you have to ask permission to go through there,” said Chief Archie Robinson. “Go to the Aboriginal people first and consult with them.”

Pollard herself took a bite out of the Joint Review Panel for not following Haisla protocols by not putting their leaders first at the top of the agenda or asking them to hold this panel in Kitimat, both of which are a Faux Pas because Kitimat is in Haisla territory. To top it off, they gave her a gift out in the hallway of Riverlodge rather then in a formal location which Pollard described as demeaning to the cultures and traditions of the Haisla.

It was Sterritt who concluded his presentation by telling the panel: “And the last thing that I wanted to say before going is just to remind you that Coastal First Nations have issued a tanker ban on the Coast of British Columbia and so considering a pipeline that has no place to go would be kind of a waste of time don’t you think? So as long as our tanker ban is in place, this might be a pretty useless exercise.”

Sterritt had earlier clarified that the Coastal First Nations were not against development claiming they were promoting it. “[We] have signed a reconciliation agreement with British Columbia where we are doing a clean energy action plan for the Northwest.” Sterrit referred to various types of clean energy projects they are working on.

Topics brought up by other presenters for the most part included the now obligatory environmental impact statement of a spill. Common themes were the question of how the government keeps talking about going green while allowing this project to go forward, the need to wean people off of petroleum based products and requests for the panel to look at the Tar Sands, the Pipeline and the Tanker Traffic together. Jasmine Thomas presented on what is taking place in Alberta as she lives in the region.

The topic of shipping raw unprocessed oil was brought up several times. Remis Zitkauskas compared this exercise to giving away money and our inheritance. Keagan Schopfer stated this project would ship 18,000 jobs from Canada. Another topic which was brought up was the fact that the TERMPOL documents are private with no public access.
Several presenters asked for a complete study of the wildlife and habitat of the west coast. Joy Thorckelson released “Homing Fruit Flies” at the beginning of her presentation after spraying an attractant at the presenters table. At the end of the presentation when the fruit flies did not home in on the attractant, she stated there was no data on why they did not return, maybe they were squished, flew away or found a different attractant. She stated Exxon made the similar arguments when the fish did not return in the years following the Spill in the Alaska Sound.

Natural forces were also asked to be considered. Several First Nations leaders commented on the hazards of the shipping route itself. Among the rest of the presenters, Kelly Marsh asked the panel to consider earthquakes and avalanches in the mountainous areas where the pipeline will be buried. He also told the panel areas where the pipeline would be placed might not be accessible year round due to weather conditions.

Pat Moss from the Friends of Wild Salmon requested an inquiry similar to the Thompson inquiry. She stated one reason for this was because the previous inquiry was cut short when the pipeline project pulled out in the 70s and the inquiry was supposed to have been resumed if Pipelines ever came to Kitimat again.

Several people spoke in favour of the pipeline, arguing it would help economic development. Ron Burnett suggested building a highway to Houston along side the Enbridge and LNG pipelines.

Sean O’Driscoll argued pollution was a way of life as Alcan would continue to create pollution as the modernization would not reduce pollution to 0. He added there were hundreds of tankers sunk during world war two which did not destroy the marine environment and were never cleaned up.

The hearings went on for three days. Although they started with a vast amount of presenters on Tuesday, only 4 people were left to present on Thursday. By this time, there was little left to say which had not already been said. The panel thanked all the people who presented, particularly the leaders of the Coastal First Nations. They announced they would be having their final consultations in Prince George this week.