Enbridge says new pipelines “national priority,” as whistle-blowers arrested

Published in Windspeaker & Raven’s Eye newspapers | January 2013 | Circulation: 145,000

Frank Brown, Heiltsuk from Bella Bella, speaks outside Joint Review Panel hearings into the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. Photo by David P. Ball

Frank Brown, Heiltsuk from Bella Bella, speaks outside Joint Review Panel hearings into the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. Photo by David P. Ball

More than 1,000 people protested against the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway project as its public hearings moved to Vancouver on Jan. 14, the largest anti-pipeline demonstration since the 4,000-strong “Defend Our Coast” protests in Victoria last October.

The next day, five demonstrators were arrested inside the hearings, where they blew whistles and spread “Climate Crime Scene” tape in defiance of the National Energy Board’s (NEB) decision to close proceedings to the public. NEB instead video-streamed the hearing in a separate chamber to avoid protests.

“After the huge demo… a few of us decided it was disappointing not to get in,” said Kim Heartty, one of those arrested. She has since had her assault by trespass charges dropped.

“The reason we did it was to further expose the illegitimacy of the hearing process because, of course, when the public gets arrested for going to a public hearing, that really speaks to how undemocratic it is…. It signified an escalation and a continuation of the resistance to the hearings.”

Later this year, the NEB’s Joint Review Process will make recommendations about Enbridge’s proposed $5.5 billion, 1,172-kilometre Northern Gateway pipeline, a project which would transport diluted bitumen from the oil sands in Alberta to a tanker port in Kitimat, B.C.

With environmental organizations gearing up for civil disobedience to stop the project, which they say has too great a risk of oil spills, supertanker accidents, and climate change, the latest demonstration also rallied against last year’s federal omnibus legislation, which stripped the NEB of its binding decision-making at the end of industrial reviews, allowing for a federal veto.

But with First Nations in the province vowing to put their bodies on the line to create an “unbreakable wall” against the proposal, Heartty said the joint review hearings are irrelevant, since Indigenous peoples have never given their consent any way. A spokesperson for the anti-pipeline Yinka Dene Alliance agreed.

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