Not one person said yes: Joint Review Panel visits Skidegate

  • Mar. 30, 2012 5:00 p.m.

By Jeff King-The Joint Review Panel into the Enbridge Northern Gateway project has ended its first run of hearings on the islands, with two days in Skidegate last week (March 21, 22) following two at the end of February in Old Massett. Once again, islanders spoke with one voice. No Enbridge. More than 60 have spoken in both communities, all strongly for protecting Haida Gwaii from the damage oil tankers in the surrounding waters could do.April ChurchillMs Churchill asked the JRP to remember that the Haida are an integral part of the Haida Gwaii environment and have been since time immemorial.”We cannot put our precious homeland at risk. Only the rocks know how long the Haida people have been on Haida Gwaii. We are an ancient people. Our culture has developed over millennia here,” she said.”Never have (the Haida values of balance, interconnectedness and sustainability) been more important to the world than they are right now,” Ms Churchill said, “I know, we know, that this project would never have been proposed if our ancient principles had been considered.”Miles RichardsonMr. Richardson told the panel that in a just and fair world, the Haida would be addressing the Enbridge project at a negotiating table with the federal and provincial governments, but he made no bones about his and Haida opposition to the project.”If you want to further the dialogue and move forward, you could do one simple thing to this Enbridge proposal. Just say no.””When the Haida people say no, we mean it. We mean it with everything that we are and everything that we ever will be.”Mr. Richardson also spoke about the relationship between Haida Gwaii and Canada.”In Canada. the Haida Nation is an inseparable part. You cannot separate the Haida Nation from our islands, from our territories, and as long as Canada is claiming Haida Gwaii as a part of Canada, you cannot separate our people and our culture from the reality that is Canada.”He also talked about the Haida relationship to the islands, and said it’s their responsibility to protect Haida Gwaii. And he said it is possible.”We are all good people. Canadians are a good people. We have all the tools needed to resolve these issues. So let’s get on with it,” he said.”Canada can work. We can do this reconciliation, but people like you (the panel) need to hear the truth. These are our islands. This is our home. The rules we have in place are the right ones for this place.” Mr. Richardson said he was very proud of his nation and also proud of Canada.”I am also so proud of Canada today, because we found a way to make the map (of protected areas, including Gwaii Haanas and Duu Guusd) a reality. It can be done. We are going to find a way through this. But we need your help.Jason AlsopHaida Gwaii “is one of the very special places in the world. It is a very unique set-up and it is very important to us.” “It is not in the interest of Canada to have coastal cultures destroyed. We are an international people and we want to keep this alive and move forward. I hope you will consider what I have said and that you will say ‘no’ to this project.”Bea Harley”You always have to respect it. You have to respect everything in the sea.” Ms Harley told the panel that she had been diagnosed with diabetes four years ago, and had adopted a traditional Haida diet. “After two years, Dr. Morton told me I had reversed my diabetes. We must treat all seafood with respect.””I am a living example that we as Haida people need the fish and seafood for our health.””We do not agree with the pipeline. What’s going to go wrong is that there is going to be an oil spillDiane BrownMs Brown talked at length about Haida supernatural stories and then said “we as Haida people are responsible to take care of Haida Gwaii. Every Haida person has a responsibility to respect and protect Haida Gwaii and what grows on Haida Gwaii. That responsibility was taken up by our ancestors many hundreds of years ago.” “It is not easy to always have to fight to protect your homeland. We as a nation strongly oppose, as a grandmother I strongly oppose any pipeline or boats that carry the oil. One spill would devastate all of us.” “We need Haida Gwaii and everything that is in Haida Gwaii’s oceans and lands to survive.”Kathleen Hans”An oil spill would affect our culture. An oil spill would affect our feasts. I don’t know what we would serve if there was an oil spill.”Roy Jones Sr.Mr. Jones told the panel he had seen what an oil spill could do, because, years ago, a fuel barge leaked some oil onto his roe-on-kelp stock. “It ruined all the spawn on kelp. The oil spill was not very much, but it did serious damage to our. fishery. “If this project goes ahead, it would be bad for our island culture, it would be bad for our children and grandchildren, it would be bad for our great grandchildren and it would be bad for future generations.”James CowparMr. Cowpar noted that everything is connected, and that the Haida people are defined by these waters and their riches. He outlined some emerging industries such as aquaculture that will soon be important and said an oil spill would be a threat. “In the event of a spill, the result will be pretty straightforward. These industries will die.” “We are here to stay. We are here also as passionate Haida people and Haida Gwaiians to fight the good fight to prevent any negative impacts here on these islands.”Robert Mills”Our traditional foods needed for health and well-being would be impacted by any oil spill.” “There is no way we can contain oil spills. An oil spill will have a long-term impact. I am concerned we won’t be able to harvest and eat our foods for a long time.”Randy TennantMr. Tennant said he was an ordinary Canadian and wanted to say ‘no’ to this. “I am a very simple man. I live off the ocean. Many of my friends live the same way. (The ocean) is very important to us. He said he has fished all over the islands and just loves fishing, and he is trying to teach his son the respect it deserves. “It’s hard, eh,” he said, “cause he just wants to club everything.” Mr. Tennant told the panel the crab fishery was worth some $88-million some years ago, and that’s a lot of money, a lot of jobs to threaten. “This one doesn’t make sense. It seems like a big risk.”Jenny Cross”Our waters have sustained us since time immemorial. Haida culture is about waking up to the beauty of Haida Gwaii. it’s about the art forms, the language, the sounds and dancing. Haida culture is alive and well on Haida Gwaii. Ms Cross showed the panel a plate of seafood she was planning to burn as an offering to the creator, then took a cup of oil and poured it not on the plate but into another cup, asking the panel “if it went into our seafood, would you eat it? Would the chiefs eat it? Would the matriarchs eat it? Would our good people eat it? No.” She said an oil spill would be worse than genocide, and the Haida would become a shell of what they once were. “We would never survive an oil spill. No. Howa.”Nika Collison”The elders have said it over and over again. Our main law is respect. Respect all things and be worthy of respect yourself. It’s not only take what you need, but also within the limits of what the lands and waters can bear.” Ms Collison said Haida people have been taught not to put things into the water that don’t belong there, and said the ocean and waters mean everything. “It’s really more than just food. It’s a way of life. I learned that you cannot be richer than when you are eating the ocean foods of Haida Gwaii, especially when you are among friends.” She said a spill would poison the water and land, and could have a negative impact on people’s mental health as well. “Our home would die. We would not have a chance to adapt to such a sudden change.” Ms Collison said she had looked “at the other side” as well. “I do drive a car and all that stuff,” she said, “We have enough oil in Canada for us to use.” “If the water dies, Haida culture dies. This is why this pipeline cannot happen. Please don’t let it happen. How’a.”GuujaawGuujaaw told the panel the Haida people were not always as intense as they were seeing them and that “we don’t just eat. You are hearing a part of it,” he said, but not about the reality of fishing in cold weather, with a broken down boat, getting soaked and getting up before dawn. He advised the panel to get out onto the land and hear its sounds and smell its smells, “even taking, eating a fish. To us, that’s what’s at risk,” he said. “We do have the capacity to spoil this earth,” he said, “also, we do have the capacity to protect it. Thank you.”Thursday March 22After 40 minutes of wrangling over the admissibility of pictures and maps, the panel heard its first testimony at about 10:40 am. The day was set aside for the Village of Queen Charlotte, CoAst, MIMC and individual intervenors.Carol KuleshaMs Kulesha said Queen Charlotte had a number of areas of concern, including how rugged the coastline is, how biologically rich the waters here are and the changeable nature of the weather. “Hecate Strait can change from a lake to a raging sea. I know because I have been caught in it.” She told the panel that humans make mistakes, accidents happen, ships hit rocks, and oil spills. “The impacts will all be borne here,” she said.John BroadheadLike many participants, Mr. Broadhead outlined his history on Haida Gwaii, going back to the 1970s. He talked about a unique run of herring in Naden Harbour, which he thinks may predate the last ice age and told the panel that if you unravelled all the inlets of Haida Gwaii, the coastline, which would be 4,700 km long, would stretch from here to Prince Edward Island. Mr. Broadhead talked about the interconnectedness of the land and sea, where a quarter of the islands is no more than a 15-minute walk from the sea. He spoke of the richness of Burnaby Narrows, and of the sea lion rookery at the south of the islands. “We live in what has been called the highest energy coastline in Canada,” he said.”The story in 1977 (when offshore oil threatened the islands) is the same as the story today. The message from the people here is the same. We say no tankers. How’a.”Malcolm DunderdaleMr. Dunderdale outlined his extensive experience on the coast and with marine matters. He told the panel that Hecate Strait is the fourth most dangerous place in the world when it comes to wind and waves, and that chances are, in hurricane force winds, Haida Gwaii will run out of power, making search and rescue difficult. “If ever they get caught out there in hurricane-force winds, those big tankers act like sails. If ever they get blown onto rocks, we know what will happen,” he said. Mr. Dunderdale pointed out there’s one of the world’s largest magnetic anomalies between Haida Gwaii and Alaska, which makes compasses useless. And he said there is a 12 by 5 mile shallow bank in the middle of Dixon Entrance north of Langara Island that is ‘fairly shallow’ and a concern to him. Another worry Mr. Dunderdale shared with the panel is that of a collision between a tanker and a nuclear submarine. The US Navy operates an acoustic test facility in Behm Canal in Alaska, and submarines regularly use Dixon Entrance to get there. “The US Navy is not really very good at telling you where the submarines are and where they are going to be,” he said. “I am really worried about it.” In closing, he said “I have not met one person in any of the communities I have mentioned who is for the pipeline, for the tankers.”Kris Olsen”Despite the best practices, accidents happen. They happen all the time. Accidents happen.” “The risks of an accident happening in an area that holds so much value are just unacceptable.”Bill BeamishMr. Beamish told the panel he was a relative newcomer here, but wanted to make a presentation because he is stunned by the beauty of Gwaii Haanas.”Today I ask this panel to help us to prevent just one crude oil tanker spill…. because one is all it will take to destroy our beaches, sensitive habitats and living things, to destroy forever the ancient records of Haida culture and to ruin the way of life and economy of the communities on Haida Gwaii for generations.Your role is to consider all of the evidence on the record and to integrate environmental, social and economic considerations within the context of the application. I believe that once you do this you will clearly see that Canada has options, Enbridge has options but Haida Gwaii does not.”Ruth Gladstone-Davies”It is my greatest wish that this project be stopped. I am prepared to put my life on the line.”Benjamin Baird”The tourism industry on Haida Gwaii would take a devastating blow should one of these tankers hit bottom on the Hecate. I would venture to say I would be done for.” “It is best to err on the side of caution when it comes to travelling on the waters. Sometimes that means staying at home. That’s what I recommend for the Enbridge project.”Duncan White”I am extremely concerned. You have had plenty of testimony about how basically idiotic (this is).” “The risk factor is real. It will have enormous consequences for Haida Gwaii.” “How can any sane person even think about asking them to accept the risk of the Enbridge project, which will surely devastate their culture?”Evan Putterill”This project is not in the best interests of the community of Sandspit. Without the sportsfishing sector the Sandspit airport would not be viable. If the project were to go ahead, there would inevitably be catastrophic spills. It would push the community over the tipping point where it would not survive. We will fight (for our way of life). It’s a damn good one.”Heron WierMr. Wier told the panel he operates an eco-tourism business in Sandspit and that people come here to see the nature the islands have to offer. He suggested the large size of the proposed tankers might be a disadvantage to them in bad weather because their maneuverability is lower than smaller vessels. And he noted that the Sandspit economy, beleaguered after the demise of logging, is making a comeback through tourism, but would be threatened by an oil spill. “This industry will disappear and so would our town if there were ever to be an oil spill, which I believe there will be,” he said.Ian BenoitMr. Benoit told the panel of his experiences on the islands working in the summers as he went to university. “The problem of an oil spill is a risk too catastrophic to consider,” he said.Marvin Boyd”If something can go wrong, it will,” Mr. Boyd said after offering some anecdotes about the 423-foot Haida Monarch, which lost some windows 90 feet above the water in a storm some years ago. He also talked about the Queen of the North, which sank in 2006. “That vessel had a multitude of excellent navigational aids,” he said. “No one was looking at them.”Willy Davies”I am a proud fisherman, a proud son, a proud Haida warrior, a proud father. I will fight to the death to prevent the threat to our ocean of oil tanker traffic.”Mary and Trafton Williams12 and 11 years old respectively, they told the panel of their experiences at Swan Bay Rediscovery.”Please consider our future and say no to the Enbridge pipeline project,” Mary said, while Trafton said “if ever there was an oil spill my favourite place (Hot Spring) would be ruined. Please say no.”Laura Pattison”There is economic value in preserving the land the way it is. In Sandspit, we are on the brink of establishing a sustainable economy. The reason I am here today is to say I want my home preserved. I don’t want to see it destroyed.”Betsy Cardell”Any oil spill that reaches shore is just going to stay there. Based on our knowledge, clean up is just going to be impossible. We (Laskeek Bay Conservation Society) are opposed to the project.”Kevin BorserioMr. Borserio talked about his love of kayaking Haida Gwaii and his deep respect for Haida culture. “I can’t explain to you how pure it feels to eat a mouthful of ghow,” he said.”I pray here today for the unborn that can’t protect themselves. Stay close to the earth. May your concern for the planet be found deep in your bones and not hidden. How’a.”Josh Vandal”Enbridge, we do not want you here. You are not welcome on our lands. We will fight you for as long as you persist.”Niisii GuujaawMs Guujaaw said she was “heartbroken that the tankers are threatening our home.” “We all learn from our land and our waters. We do not want to lose that. Ms Guujaaw said she hopes to work as a marine biologist, and that dream would be ruined if an oil spill ever happened. “I wish someone could explain to me how such a threat to our lives could even be considered. Our oceans are not something to gamble with,” she said.Judson Brown”This connection we have with Haida Gwaii is truly relying on intergenerational food gathering where our young learn from our elders,” Mr. Brown said, then noting that a loss would be final.”There’s talk about mitigative measures,” he said, “I believe there are no mitigative measures available to rectify this loss. The spiritual connection relies on continuity. It is passed on from generation to generation. It is the collection of thousands of generations of Haidas living off of this land.”Severn Cullis-SuzukiMs Cullis-Suzuki said there are very few pristine places in world, and called for more protection.”These islands are one of the last strongholds of this natural capital. This is a place where I can raise my children and know they will not have to catch flounders full of cancer. This is a place I know we can keep a healthy connection with the land. This is a place where I know that they will be able to experience the traditional lands and seas that their father, their father’s father and their father’s father’s father’s great-grandfather’s experienced when they were children.””I have worked with people from all over the world, and I want to tell you there is no somewhere else. If we cannot carry out our commitment to protect the waters and lands here in Canada and here on the islands of Haida Gwaii, there is no one, there is nowhere else that will.” The day ended just before 6 pm, ending more than 30 hours of testimony to the panel on Haida Gwaii. The panel returns in June to hear from oral presenters.