Greenpeace increases anti-oil campaign in HG

  • Jun. 7, 2015 5:00 a.m.

By Stacey MarpleHaida Gwaii ObserverThe Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza visited Haida Gwaii last week in a bid to raise awareness about its People vs Oil campaign. The 36-member crew, which included six people from as many First Nations, set sail from North Vancouver May 19 to Haida Gwaii to help connect coastal communities opposing pipelines and super tankers. The campaign specifically targets Arctic oil drilling. According to Greenpeace, Shell is currently preparing to send its fleet of Arctic oil drilling and support vessels to the Alaskan Arctic, where it plans to begin exploratory drilling July 1, which would mean increased oil tanker traffic along B.C.’s coastline. Greenpeace has a long-standing relationship with many First Nations from around North America, but the mission to Haida Gwaii is the first all-indigenous delegation in Greenpeace history. The Crew and delegates were welcomed to Skidegate by a traditional Haida canoe along with Haida drumming and singing from the students of Sk’aadgaa Naay Elementary School. Hereditary chiefs and other members of the Haida Nation were welcomed aboard the ship for a tour and brunch.As the ship laid anchor in Queen Charlotte harbour for several days, the public was invited aboard for toursMasset’s Victor Thompson was aboard the vessel representing Haida Gwaii. Mr. Thompson was asked to join the campaign when he was aboard the ship for a ceremony recognizing a First Nation design for the campaign, used by Greenpeace, in Vancouver.Mr. Thompson said he was honoured to join the movement, and to show the other delegates, who had never been to Haida Gwaii, his home.Other than a case of seasickness the delegates said the mood was positive, and they were committed to their campaign. Audrey Siegl  of the Musqueam nation spoke passionately about her nation’s history and continuing battle to save their territory. “It is uniting to have Greenpeace working with first nations,” Ms. Siegl said. Following the breakage of a pipeline and the spill of 79,500 litres of crude oil along California’s coast last week, Ms. Siegl added the timing of their voyage highlights just how unprepared we are to handle a spill off Canada’s west coast.”The difference in the time of the response and the equipment deployed in English Bay versus Santa Barbara demonstrates that the west coast is not ready for increased fossil fuel traffic. It took four hours for the Canadian Coast Guard to arrive at English Bay and 12 hours to deploy the oil booms. In California, authorities responded almost immediately. “But of course, that oil in California will never completely leave its shores. This land and this water is never going to be the same after what happened in English Bay, to say nothing of what would happen to the coast from a more catastrophic spill. This is not the future my ancestors envisioned.””The only way to efficiently safeguard our coasts is to say no to pipelines and supertankers, regardless of where the oil comes from, tar sands or the Arctic. For our coast and sacred waters, they mean exactly the same.” Aboard the Esperanza, the Observer asked delegates how the people back home reacted to the news of their joining the Greenpeace campaign. All delegates agreed they were both surprised and proud. Taylor George-Hollis from the Squamish Nation. Candace Campo from the Shishalh Nation, Robert Holler from the Anishinabe Nation and Michael Auger from the Woodland Cree Nation in Alberta were along with Mr. Thompson and Ms. Siegl on the ship as delegates. The nations represented on the MY Esperanza all have been faced with oil development on their territories and the risks associated with oil transportation. Greenpeace says those most severely affected and threatened by oil development are coastal first nations of British Columbia. They are on board the Esperanza to connect with each other and the rest of the world to “bring a single message of hope: people will prevail and our coasts will not be devastated.”

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