The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Community Hearings are nearly complete, with two remaining sessions scheduled in Kelowna and Vancouver at the end of this month. Come February, the Joint Review Panel will move into the “Questioning Phase” of the final hearing, scheduled to end in May of this year.
The hearings have provided an opportunity for the pipeline’s opposition to state their concerns with the $6 billion project. Thousands of individuals applied to participate in the hearings as official ‘intervenors,’ to the chagrin of the federal ministries appointed to carry the process out. At this time last year federal Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, accused ‘radical’ environmentalists and ‘extremists’ of intentionally over-burdening the hearings.
Yet many of those who live along the proposed pipeline route feel their concerns are legitimate and deserve to be heard, whether inside or outside the scheduled sessions.
Some of the creative opposition British Columbians have expressed is captured in the short video 4000 Reasons, featured below. Created by the conservation group, Driftwood Foundation, 4000 Reasons shows that for every intervenor, you’ll find another reason not to build the pipeline.
DeSmog asked Driftwood Foundation director, Wes Giesbrecht, to explain the inspiration behind the film and the festival it highlights.
1. What is the Driftwood Foundation?
Driftwood Foundation is a registered charity which was formed in Smithers, British Columbia, in 1991. Our purposes in forming were to sponsor cultural events that would draw attention to the beauty and unique nature of the Bulkley Valley and to use research to promote full and informed public involvement in recreation and resource plans.
2. What was the original inspiration for the 4000 Reasons film? And can you explain the film’s title?
The film is a snap-shot of the two-day 4000 Reasons Festival, an event that was planned by our directors over a nine-month period. In keeping with our mandate, we wanted to use the arts to draw attention to the beauty of this area and the threat to it posed by this pipeline.
The title is a response to Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver’s statement that over 4000 people were ‘clogging’ the system by registering to appear before the Joint Review Panel. We got the idea for this title from a festival performer who said that if 4000 people were going to speak to the panel that would be 4000 reasons to not build the pipeline.
3. What do people in your community feel is threatened by Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline?
The Skeena watershed (the Bulkley River is one tributary) is one of the few large watersheds in North America that is still intact. The people in our community are most concerned about the quality of water in our river and the threat to our wild salmon stocks that this pipeline poses. Our wild salmon resource supports a healthy and attractive lifestyle, a resource that is a significant economic factor in attracting people from all over the world.
4. Do the people in your community feel like their voices are being heard by Enbridge?
I think people feel that despite the cynicism about the effectiveness of the Joint Review Panel process, the chance to speak to something about which they are passionate has been a unifying and positive thing. I also think people are hoping to influence the decision makers (JRP and the Federal Government) rather than Enbridge.
5. 4000 Reasons features a lot of creative expression from pipeline opponents. What is the value of artistry in a battle that seems dominated by political ideas of economy?
While economic arguments are important they are often incomplete and don’t take into account quality of life issues that are often overlooked in deciding the validity of industrial proposals. The artistry seen in this film flows from the performers strong emotional connection to place. I think the value of an artistic presentation is that it can reach a different and more diverse audience than a simple economic argument can.
6. Do you feel average Canadians understand what the concerns of British Columbians are?
It’s hard to say, although this issue has certainly gained a lot of national and international attention. I think the message that this is about First Nations rights, wild salmon rivers and a pristine coastline has been received by most Canadians.
7. Do members of your community feel they have the power to stop the pipeline’s construction if it is approved?
I think they feel empowered by the overwhelming opposition to this pipeline that the communities in the northwest have shown. They also know that if the pipeline is approved there will likely be many legal challenges issued before any construction starts.