Northern Gateway Statement

I did an oral statement to the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel on the 30th of January 2013 in Vancouver. The Vancouver hearings were one of the locations where the public were not present and viewed from a different place. There has been a lot of complaints in various media about this and about the level of police presence at the hearing venue. I disagree with those complaints.

Whether a presenter comes from a technical viewpoint or, as I did, from a very personal viewpoint, there is a limited time to put a statement on the record. I believe that it is vital that our opposition be part of that official record, even if the government has diminished the review process with their rhetoric.

I had researched technical and economic aspects of the project, but then had seen people much more qualified in those areas present at various hearings before me. One fellow just a half hour or so before me spoke on the economics from a very expert view and made reference to previous testimonies of the same highly qualified people that I was going to. Expert people had said what I wanted to say and did it with the weight of being highly qualified in their specific areas. I did not think my best contribution could come from those technical and economic areas where I am not expert.

In my statement I touched on those things in order to give the panel context for my thoughts, but the points I made — the reasons I must oppose the project and the strength of my convictions — came from a very personal point of view. I said things that were difficult for me to say. I tend to choke up when thinking about my niece, my kids, and children in general in this sort of context because I think we have let them down terribly and I am fearful for the state of the world we are passing on to them. I used strong words about Canada. These were hard to say as I have lived with pride in Canada as I thought it was. I find hope now in carrying that pride for what Canada may become.

Speaking before a panel in a room with lights and cameras and microphones and strangers is stressful enough to anyone, such as myself, not comfortable with public speaking. Adding in disruptions, however well meaning, is disrespectful of the presenters and may throw them off.

I needed my full ten minutes and I needed that orderly space to get through what I had to say and have it put on the record. I was grateful for a quiet place to sit before I presented and for not having to wonder whether there were going to be disruptions. Knowing that disruption would be relatively likely in Vancouver I think that the panel struck a good balance between keeping the hearings public and keeping them secure.

At the same time I was pleased to see protesters with signs outside the hotel. That presence buoyed my spirits on the way in.

My statement follows. There were a few errors in the transcription. I have notified the Review Panel via a process advisor email address and am hoping the errors can be fixed on the record. I have made those corrections below. The numbers (paragraph numbers I guess) are as they appear on the hearing transcripts.

— ORAL STATEMENT BY/EXPOSÉ ORAL PAR MR. IAN STEPHEN:

30693. MR. IAN STEPHEN: Okay. Thank you for the opportunity to speak and for all your work. I was thinking the other day about the patience and stamina it must take to do what you’re doing for so long. We’re grateful.

30694. I acknowledge that we’re meeting on unceded traditional territory of the Coast Salish people. I imagine their ancestors must be dismayed to see the changes that have occurred around this place.

30695. I’d like to begin by building some context ahead of the points that I’m really here to say, a little bit about why I’ve come to be saying the things that I came to say. When I first registered to speak before the Panel I had pretty grand ideas about what I would say about the project. I wanted to talk about it in terms of the direction of development that it represents, a broader energy policy and climate change.

30696. I was disappointed to learn that despite a definition of environment that includes land, water, and air, and despite a list of factors to be considered that includes environmental — cumulative environmental effects in combination with other projects and activities, that the Panel is not able to look at these issues in the broader scope of sort of the two ends of this pipeline, the tar sands and the climate change from the use of the fossil fuels.

30697. We see the same sort of thing here in B.C. with the siting of net-pen salmon farms, where they look at the location of a farm individually and no one looks at the cumulative effect of the farms up and down the coast or the complete systems that they’re operating in.

30698. I don’t understand why we evaluate things under these narrow spotlights instead of in the full light of day. But being unable to change it I narrowed the scope of what I would speak on. So I started building an argument around the economic aspects of the project but as the hearings progressed I saw people far more qualified than myself, even today, speaking to those aspects.

30699. So next I thought about the safety aspects of it. We know that running tankers in and out of narrow waterways is not safe. Our government knows that. That’s why in February 2007 Canada’s Ambassador to the U.S. delivered a diplomatic note to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission saying that Canada would not permit tankers to sail the passage between New Brunswick’s Deer and Campobello Islands.

30700. This was reiterated in 2010 by the Canadian Consulate in Boston that Canada would not allow fuel tankers through that channel because of concerns over the potential impact of a spill.

30701. The narrowest point there is actually between Campobello Island and a small island called Indian Island. No doubt somebody could just remove that little island, but as it sits, looking at Google maps with their distance measuring tool, it appears the narrowest point there is 1.8 kilometres wide.

30702. Northerngateway.ca tells me that our Douglas Channel is 1.4 kilometres at its narrowest, 400 metres narrower than the place where we won’t let the Americans run tankers through.

30703. There’s talk of course of local pilots and escort tugs but we’ve seen local pilots fail to navigate our waters safely and we’ve seen the escort tugs up at Prince William Sound, one of them ran into Bligh Reef in 2009, the same spot that the Exxon Valdez had run into 20 years earlier.

30704. But I didn’t think — I hope that I’m not bringing any new information with these things. And at one point I became discouraged and considered not addressing the Panel at all. The government used an Omnibus Bill to shorten the time that the Panel has to do its work and it put the final decision into the hands of the Governor-in-Council, Governor-in-Council of course being a body of this government, the same government that has called the pipeline a national imperative and has called opponents of it radicals and enemies of Canada, it calls me these things. It seems to me that their decision is a foregone conclusion.

30705. So given the experts that have gone before me and my belief that the recommendations of the Panel will have no bearing on the government’s decision, I wondered why I should come here. But then I read again the Panel’s Procedural Direction #5, which says:

“The Panel is interested in hearing your personal knowledge, views or concerns…”

30706. Including:

“…who you are and how the Project will impact […] you; your views on whether the Project is in the public interest; your position on the decisions the Panel should make; […] and on […] terms and conditions that should be applied…”

30707. So I thought, okay, my opinion is something I’m expert in, I’ll bring that. I also read that the Panel would consider sustainability to include socio-ecological integrity and civility, intra and intergenerational equity, and democratic governance.

30708. If that is correct and if I understand those things correctly, then perhaps my experience is illustrative of some of the reasons that this project should not go ahead.

30709. I started off my presentation with an acknowledgement of traditional Coast Salish territory. A short time ago, that would not have crossed my mind. My grandfather came from Scotland in 1912 and fought overseas for Canada with the cavalry in World War I. He worked for a bank for a while and then bought a farm in 1935. And my grandmother’s family, they’ve been in Canada much longer, but they were all Scottish stock as well.

30710. My father worked in mines and then was a prospector my whole life. I grew up working in his office and working summers in camps in the Yukon and Northern B.C. I’m a tradesperson now, an electrical contractor.

30711. We, Stephen’s, have an appreciation of nature but we’re people that define ourselves by our work. And speaking for myself, nothing would make me angry faster than something getting in the way of work being done without a pretty good reason.

30712. I became aware of climate change, global warming we called it back then, around the time Canada ratified the Kyoto Protocol. And I did some reading on the subject, and the government seemed to be handling it, so I went back to work.

30713. Then this Northern Gateway proposal came along and I started paying attention again, and I realized that the government is not taking care of the climate change thing; quite the opposite. I learned that it’s already too late to keep average global warming to the 2 degrees that scientists think is the threshold of acceptable risk.

30714. I learned about ocean acidification and biodiversity loss, and rising sea levels, and food security, and population growth, and the inland benefits of the salmon cycle. I learned about the tar sands and the people of the Athabasca. And I began to learn about First Nations, and Treaties and unceded lands here in B.C. and the say that they can have in these issues.

30715. And I learned about my own family. I learned that my mother’s side of the family, which no one talked about when we were kids, it turns out her side of the family, five and six generations back, are all Métis and First Nations. I was shocked to learn that because I thought how does a person grow up their whole life completely unaware of half of their heritage. But it seems that’s a common story among the Anglo Métis, the indigenous part of the family was just not talked about, and it seems to me that that’s kind of a microcosm of Canada itself.

30716. The pipeline issue interconnects with all these other issues and then “Idle No More” came along and with the generous welcome of the Stó:lō People, where I live in Tcil’Qe’uk Chilliwack, I learned that First Nations culture is not, as I had come to understand in school, a thing from the past, but it is alive as I am and more so perhaps, in that it will be vibrant long after I’m gone.

30717. Over this period, my father has passed away and a new baby came into our family. She is one year old. I am here for her.

30718. Back to the items from Procedural Direction #5; this is who I am now and the impact this pipeline has had on me. The Canada I thought I lived in has turned out to be a Euro-centric illusion. We don’t have justice in this country and we don’t have a healthy democracy.

30719. The pipeline is only one small piece of all this, but it is a piece absolutely contrary to the public interest. It leads us on a path that is divisive and destructive and cannot be tolerated for the health of the land, the sea, the air, or the country.

30720. This Panel should advise against this project and knowing that the government means to ignore a recommendation against the project, the Panel should demand conditions so onerous as to be impossible for the Proponent to meet or for the project to proceed without laying clear for all to see the treason of the government that allows it.

30721. Failing that, the pipeline will continue to impact me and my family, as I continue to oppose it. To sit in front of the excavators if necessary and to go to jail if necessary, as that is what I expect they do with people that place themselves in front of excavators.

30722. Even if the pipeline is rejected, as it should be, the impact on me has been profound with all of the issues that it has led me to learn about. For the sake of our young and our future generations, I have become, to some degree, the radical that my government prematurely accused me of being. I still have my contractor’s licence, but I haven’t had time to use it lately. There’s too much work to do.

30723. Thank you for hearing me.

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One Comment on “Northern Gateway Statement”

  1. Gordon widsten Says:

    I totally agree with your position Gordon Widsten


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