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20,000 people #StandWithScience and say “No” to Northern Gateway. Will the Federal Government do the same?

On May 26th, 300 scientists from across Canada sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking him, in the strongest possible terms, to reject the Joint Review Panel’s report recommending approval of the Northern Gateway oil pipeline project.  It was a bold statement and brave move for scientists. With the weight of an imminent decision on Northern Gateway descending upon Canada, the lead authors decided not to remain silent on five significant flaws in the JRP’s assessment.   WWF felt strongly that the voices of these scientists needed to be heard, and not only by decision-makers.

Humpback whale, Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada

The flukes of a Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) breaching near Gill Island in the Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia © Andrew S. Wright / WWF-Canada

Everyday Canadians have a stake—both immediate and long-term—in the outcome of this decision, which could send oil pipelines and super-sized tankers into one of Canada’s most globally significant ecosystems. That is why, on June 3rd, we launched the #standwithscience campaign.  We asked people across the country to amplify the scientists’ concerns and, through our collective effort, send a strong message to Canada’s government. In less than a week, 20,000 people took a stand. Their action echoed across social media channels and provoked a defensive response from the pipeline proponent itself.

Here is the letter these 20,000 individuals signed: 

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

Canadian scientists from across the country wrote to you urging you in the strongest possible terms to reject the Joint Review Panel’s report on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway oil pipeline and tanker project. They outlined, clearly and with evidence, the significant problems with the assessment.

I am standing with science and with Canada to say that “No” is the only acceptable answer to the Joint Review Panel’s recommendation and to the Northern Gateway oil pipeline and tankers.

It’s not safe for Canadians. It’s not safe for our environment. And it is not in this nation’s best interests.

Today this letter will be sent to Prime Minister Harper.  Will it influence the decision he ultimately makes? We hope so.  We hope it adds to the cumulative momentum of public opposition to this project, to the voices of First Nations and B.C. communities whose lives will be most impacted by the outcome.  It is now up to the Prime Minister whether he chooses to hear or ignore those voices.

bald eagle

Close up of a Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) soaring through the Negetl’/Nekite Estuary Conservancy, British Columbia, Canada © Tim Irvin / WWF-Canada

But no matter what the Prime Minister chooses to do, he will do it now under the gaze of the tens of thousands of Canadians who spoke up.  He will do it before a Canadian public that is informed and paying close attention.  Before Canadians who can, and will, hold him accountable.

As the scientists’ wrote in their letter: “The Canadian electorate expected the JRP ruling to present a balanced and appropriate consideration of the risks and benefits…drawing upon the best evidence.” We expect nothing less in the ultimate decision.  And there is only one appropriate answer:  No.