MP Cullen talks about the land at Enbridge review panel hearing

  • Feb. 17, 2012 12:00 p.m.

by Alex Rinfret–MP Nathan Cullen was repeatedly shut down as he attempted to address the Enbridge Northern Gateway joint review panel in Prince Rupert this morning, with an Enbridge lawyer raising several objections to his presentation.At one point, panel chair Sheila Leggett ordered a five minute break so Mr. Cullen could revise his speech to meet the strict guidelines set out for oral evidence at these hearings. At another point, a Metlakatla dancer was ordered to leave the room by security after she banged her drum in support of Mr. Cullen.Mr. Cullen, who received with loud applause several times, said he was dismayed that he was prevented from talking about his experience with Enbridge and his experience talking to many residents in the Skeena-Bulkley Vally riding about how they will be affected by the pipeline.The MP, who is running for the leadership of the NDP, started his presentation by talking about trust – trust of Enbridge, trust in the safety of pipelines and supertankers, trust of the joint review process, and trust of the federal government.He then spoke about his first interactions with Enbridge officials, saying that he had been invited to a meeting in Vancouver several years ago to discuss the proposed pipeline and the company’s plans for consulting communities throughout his riding. The officials told him they had raised $100 million just for promotion of the project and community engagement, but Mr. Cullen said when he asked where that money had come from, they wouldn’t tell him.This prompted the first objection from Enbridge lawyer Laura Estep, who interrupted Mr. Cullen and asked the panel to stop him from speaking on this subject. “It is argumentative, it is a political agenda,” she said, to loud boos from the audience.Ms Leggett asked the audience to refrain from either applauding or booing, and told Mr. Cullen to restrict his presentation to his personal evidence about the project, as directed in “procedural direction #4″ regarding oral evidence.Mr. Cullen responded that he had read the procedural direction carefully, and believed he was following it. He then started talking about his experience with Enbridge and the Gitskan First Nation, but was repeatedly interrupted by Ms Leggatt, who said the topic was not appropriate, and that he should constrain himself to stories about the land.Mr. Cullen responded that the land is the people, and the people are the land, and that he believed the conduct of the company before the pipeline is built, and the effects that the project is already having on communities, are appropriate topics for the joint review panel.Mr. Cullen told the panel that the pipeline and tanker traffic will have an enormous impact on the land, the waters and the people of the north coast. He spoke about the Queen of the North and how Hartley Bay is still waiting for that disaster to be cleaned up; how he has driven a boat through Douglas Channel on the same route as the supertankers will travel; how he has lived all over the world and there is no place like this, where land, culture and people are so interconnected.”When the panel seeks to understand what is being put at risk here, it is not a meal, not even a job but an entire culture and way of life,” he said. “You have to understand what the implications are. It’s everything – it’s everything.”

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