Closing arguments about proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline
Of the ecosystems, economies, and communities of the Great Bear coast, Art Sterritt has this to say: “This is not our back yard. This is an integral part of who we are.”
Art’s words are in my mind as I board the plane from Vancouver for meetings in Toronto. Today, as the Joint Review Panel for the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline through the Great Bear Sea hears closing arguments from intervenors, I am thinking with gratitude and admiration of all the people and organizations who are taking time this week to address final concerns about arguments presented by Northern Gateway proponents.
The Coastal First Nations’ submission to the JRP, which Art read into the Panel record on Monday, echoes many of the points raised by other organizations and shared by WWF. In short, the risks to coastal ecosystems, wildlife, economies, and communities are enormous; while the benefits to the coast, to BC, and to Canada are minimal. Art also highlights legal obligations to recognize First Nations rights and title that have not been addressed. “This project,” Art concludes, “is not in the public interest and should be rejected.”
These are strong and determined words, and WWF agrees wholeheartedly. But the words that stay with me are these: “This is an integral part of who we are.” This is certainly true for the Coastal First Nations whose past, present, and future are inextricably connected to healthy seas and to their successful work to build a thriving economy that sustains the tremendous natural capital of the region. And it’s also true in a broader sense for all of us.
The choices we make about how to look after the Great Bear – a Canadian treasure, and one of the richest and most spectacular ecosystems on Earth – are integral to what it means to uphold our Canadian heritage. The choices we make about how to rise to the urgent challenge of climate change, and how to diversify our national economy and energy strategy away from single-minded emphasis on exports of raw bitumen, are integral to shaping Canada’s future prosperity and our opportunities in a fast-changing world.
This is not about how we manage Canada’s back yard, far away on BC’s rugged northern coast. This is integral to who we are, and who we wish to become.