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In Victoria, Joint Review Panel hears criticism and complaints about proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Posted by Joan Russow
Sunday, 06 January 2013 10:17

bY Erin Flegg Jan 4th, 2013

Several speakers at the Joint Review Panel’s community hearings in Victoria believe the courts will make the final decision, not the panel

Protesters gather outside the Delta Hotel during the Joint Review Panel hearings
 
Protesters gathered outside the Delta Hotel during the Joint Review Panel hearings in Victoria on Friday to protest the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Photo by Erin Flegg

“No matter what this panel says or does, the Government of Canada is going to turn around and say [the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal] is going through,” said Construction worker Michael Neate as the Joint Review Panel hearings kicked off today in Victoria.

Neate, who splits his time between Victoria and the Cowichan Valley, arrived at the Enbridge community hearing this morning in jeans and a warm sweater, ostensibly to speak to the National Energy Board panel, but he said the real audience for his comments is the Prime Minister.

As certain as Neate is that Harper will approve the Northern Gateway Pipeline -- he says Canada's economic ties with China mean the government is almost sure to approve the pipeline, which will bring oil to Asia -- he is equally convinced that First Nations have the power to stop the project.

“I don’t think [First Nations opposed to the pipeline] will let this project go through. I think this is a total waste of time.”

When the hearings broke for lunch, a crowd of about 50 demonstrators representing different organizations gathered outside the Delta Hotel to speak out against the pipeline. Activities included a dunk tank, gamely occupied several times by man dressed as an oil executive in a wet suit underneath a business suit.

Topics for the day ranged from the environmental impact of oil spills to the potential loss of tourism dollars and First Nations’ constitutional rights. Amid stories of childhoods spent on the water and in the forests, many speakers prefaced their remarks with a caveat, insisting they were no radical environmentalists, had never been to protests or spoken out before now.

Every one of the 24 speakers were vehemently opposed to the pipeline.

Lawyer Drew Mildon believes that constitutional rights make the hearings at best premature, and at worst moot.

“At the end of the day,” he told the small groups of panelists, media and guests, “whatever decision the panel comes to risks being overturned by the court.”

He spoke about the role the landscape plays in the narratives human beings use to define themselves, saying that to destroy the land is to rob First Nations of the many stories attached to their land.

“I think the company went in thinking it was 20 years ago and they could run roughshod over Aboriginal rights. It’s a new day and age.”

Mildon is a lawyer for First Nations' groups, but said he spoke today as a private citizen on behalf of his own family. He said he won’t be questioning Enbridge panelists at legal hearings later in the year, but if the pipeline goes through, he intends to be involved in the judicial review to overturn the decision.

“I swore an oath before I went in today, and I think this pipeline will never go through.”

One of the last speakers of the day was Lloyd Skaalen, a retired RAF pilot and son of a Norwegian immigrant.

Skaalen said that if the government had listened to its scientists and its universities, Enbridge Northern Gateway wouldn’t be up for debate in the first place. He said it’s up to the public to elect leaders who aren’t in the pockets of corporations.

“We have the opportunity to prevent this kind of hearing in the future by choosing the right politicians and by keeping their toes on that line.”

Last Updated on Sunday, 06 January 2013 10:24
 

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