On June 17, after years of resistance from environmental groups, citizens, and opposition parties, the Conservative government signed and approved the Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline. The pipeline, which stretches across Alberta and British Columbia, has been in the works for the last few years, despite many Indigenous communities and Canadian scientists coming out to oppose the plans Enbridge has lain out. The fact that the government is ignoring these communities, sadly, should surprise no one.
The pipeline, which is $7.9 billion dollar project, will see the shipment of crude oil to Asian markets. The Toronto Star remarks will put Canada on the path to becoming a “global petropower,” something the big business loving Conservatives no doubt envision for Canada’s future.
However this is just another example of the voices of citizens being lost in the government quest to appease big business. The pipeline’s approval will affect all peoples in Canada, especially those who reside in the affected areas. We all know too well the devastating effects of oil spills. Look no further than the 2010 BP oil spill to see the devastation caused. Since the newly greenlit project was proposed, there has been fierce opposition from environmental groups as well as ordinary citizens who fear the damage the pipeline could have on one of the most beautiful areas of the country.
The coverage on the pipeline appears to be generally focused on these environmental concerns, which are extremely important, and the approval signifies a total disregard for environmental issues by the federal government. However, something that also should not be overlooked is that it’s also, not so shockingly, another example of this government’s continued role in colonialism across this country.
Harper’s Conservatives, with the approval of the pipeline, are continuing to drive home the message that Indigenous peoples in Canada are to be ignored. The Northern Gateway pipeline will cross large amounts of unceded territory, without the consent of many of communities that reside on the land.
While it should be noted that agreements do currently exist between Enbridge and around 60 per cent of the Indigenous groups who will see the pipeline cut through their land, this still means there are groups that have not agreed and will therefore have to face the pipeline crossing through and destroying their land, without their consent.
While the continued ignorance of Indigenous populations across the country is hardly new news (one only needs to look at the total lack of action over missing and murdered Indigenous women to see the level of government concern for Indigenous rights), the Northern Gateway pipeline is yet another case that cannot be ignored.
However the fight is far from over. Five lawsuits are currently on the table against the pipeline, and three of the five come from First Nations groups in British Columbia. The pipeline project also is not scheduled, according to accounts, to begin construction until 16 months from now – a great deal of time that could see growing opposition.
Canadians should make their voices heard about the pipeline through whatever means are at their disposal. Over the next few weeks it can be guaranteed that there will be demonstrations against the project in cities across the country for people to make their voices heard. If you are more of an armchair activist, you should also be in contact with your MP – there will be an election in 2015, and no doubt the pipeline will become an election issue. The NDP and Liberals are currently claiming that they will fight the issue in parliament.
With support from wider swaths of the Canadian public, there is the chance that the pipeline could be halted. This is something that would be beneficial to all Canadians, especially those who will watch their land be destroyed if the pipeline comes into fruition.