In a small town, we know how to create our own entertainment. Whether it’s a community dance, a town meeting, or a farmers market, when we want to make something happen, we get talking and get organizing.
So when the small Terrace-based environmental organization I belong to, North West Watch, got together to talk about stopping Enbridge, it wasn’t long before we were planning a party.
After the disappointing National Energy Board approval of the project, our group, like many people in the North, felt we’d reached a critical point in the fight against Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline.
Agreeing that we’d rather not chain ourselves to tankers, we saw the clearest pathway to stopping Enbridge in First Nations legal challenges, especially in light of the recent Supreme Court decision on Tsilhqot’in rights and title.
The oil companies have endlessly deep pockets, and First Nations don’t, so we decided that fundraising is the best way for us to support these legal challenges. North West Watch began planning a fundraiser.
Our first big event, Singing for Salmon, was a huge success. We had great music, we cooked a spaghetti dinner for 125 people and we honoured Kitimat’s Douglas Channel Watch with an award. That night we raised $2,000 for First Nations legal challenges and $1,000 for Skeena Wild’s court case against Rio Tinto Alcan.
Since then we’ve raised another $1,000 from private donations. People approach me all the time, handing me $10 or $20 and thanking me and our organization for what we are doing.
Enbridge seems to have thought that they had the North in the bag. They thought their promise of jobs would have our traditionally resource-based communities ready to jump. However, our history of resource-based industries has taught us a thing or two.
First, very few of us believe in the number of jobs promised by Enbridge.
Second, the waters through which they propose to send bitumen-laden tankers are some of the most treacherous in the world. This area has had 100-foot waves recorded and is largely inaccessible in winter. We all know a spill or leak will happen; it’s just a matter of when.
Many of us who live in the North are here because we value the health of our water, our air, and our wildlife. Fishing, hunting, hiking, and skiing are part of the northern lifestyle. Northern Gateway threatens the natural systems that sustain our health and our way of life.
First Nations have been taking the lead in standing up to this project.
The Yinka Dene Alliance, a coalition First Nations in northern B.C. whose territory comprises 25 percent of the proposed pipeline route, initiated the Save the Fraser Declaration, an exercise of indigenous law banning tar sands pipelines and tankers through First Nations traditional territories. More than 130 First Nations have signed on.
Coastal First Nations including the Haida, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo, Haisla, and Gitga’at issued a declaration under indigenous law banning tar sands crude oil tanker traffic from their territories.
To date, eight First Nations have launched judicial reviews with the Supreme Court of Canada. They have taken a lot of risk with these court cases, and if they are willing to stand up, we can stand behind them.
The benefits of hosting and attending fundraising events such as Singing for Salmon reach far beyond numbers of dollars raised.
Watching first the NEB and then the federal government approve the project against the will of British Columbians left many people feeling helpless and unsure of what to do next. If we feel helpless, we tend to disengage. Participating in an event helps us to feel empowered, giving us a concrete way to get involved and make a tangible difference.
And not to mention, it’s just plain fun. No matter the occasion, when everyone gets together for a community event, we feel uplifted.
In that sense, Enbridge has given us an incredible gift. In our community and across the province, people are uniting from all shades of the political, cultural, and socioeconomic spectrum. This issue cuts across all boundaries, and in this diversity, there is strength.
I know other people can do what we have done here in Terrace. North West Watch is a small group, with a mailing list of 150 in Terrace area, and we’ve raised $3,000 ($1,000 to the Gitga’at and $2,000 to RAVEN). We challenge other groups to match what we have achieved.
For organizing support and inspiration, check out the Pull Together campaign launched by RAVEN and Sierra Club B.C.