The Harper Government approves Northern Gateway

Yesterday, the federal government of Canada announced conditional approval for Enbridge‘s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline which would move diluted bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands to Kitimat, where it would be loaded onto tankers which would then navigate the winding Douglas Channel, then go on to China.

This project has been opposed by hundreds of scientists, most of the First Nations in British Columbia, every environmental organization with an interest in the province, and a majority of British Columbians.  Why, then, has it been approved?  Alberta has bitumen to sell.  China wants it.  Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised it to China.  The fastest and most most direct way to get it from Alberta to China is a pipeline across northern British Columbia.

Let me emphasize this point.  Some poorly-informed and/or dishonest supporters of Northern Gateway have accused those of us who oppose it of hypocrisy if we drive a vehicle powered by petroleum products.  That is simply ridiculous.  Northern Gateway has nothing whatsoever to do with the domestic production or use of petroleum products.  No, it’s all about Alberta selling bitumen to China.

Stephen Harper long ago declared his position.  He believes that it is in Canada’s “national interest” for Northern Gateway to proceed.  Many of us here in British Columbia see it differently.  We think that it’s about putting our pristine forests, rivers, and coastline at serious risk of destruction for the sake of Alberta selling more oil to China and we say “No!”

Most of the First Nations say “No!”

The Yinka Dena Alliance and many other First Nations groups have declared that they will vigorously oppose Northern Gateway in the courts.  You can help with the cost of these legal challenges here.

The Unist’ot’en Camp, a grass roots movement of the Wet’suwet’en people, is on the front lines of direct action to prevent Northern Gateway from going through. You can help with monetary donations or with your labour.  More information at

The Haida Nation has very clearly stated that they will not allow tanker traffic related to this project to pass through their waters.

The District of Kitimat, which is the municipality that would most likely profit most from Northern Gateway, recently held a referendum on the project.  A clear majority voted against it.

Despite all this, Prime Minister Harper very clearly wants to see this project proceed.  If he tries to push it through, there will be conflict.  First, this conflict will be in the courts and it will be an expensive battle.  There are reasons to think that the First Nations of British Columbia will prevail in court.  For example, the 1997 Delgamuukw decision recognizes aboriginal title.  However, if the court challenges fail, there is still the will of the people whose lands and waters are threatened by this project.

Who should have the final say?  Not the federal government, not the courts, not the corporations.  The people whose lands and waters are most at risk from this project, that’s who should and will have the final say.  If the courts fail to stop it, the people will stop it.  Enbridge and the federal government can expect civil disobedience on a large scale.  If they still do not understand what they are being told, I’m pretty sure that they can expect direct action.  We’d be likely to see the destruction of equipment and the forcible removal of pipeline construction crews.

Most of those whose lands lie in the path of this pipeline have said no and they have made it reasonably clear that they are not prepared to back down.  Does Prime Minister Harper really want to pursue a course that can only result in violent confrontation between federal forces and the ordinary people who live in northern British Columbia?

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