_In May of 2010, Enbridge Inc. submitted a proposal to build a controversial 1,172 km pipeline that would link Alberta’s Tar Sands to the North Coast of British Columbia, and for the first time introduce crude oil supertankers to BC’s northern waters. These supertankers would navigate through the narrow channels of the Great Bear Rainforest, one of the last truly wild places on earth and home to humpback and killer whales, sea lions, eagles, ravens, wolves, Grizzly bears, and the legendary Spirit Bear. The Great Bear is also the traditional territory of 28 First Nations whose histories, identities and spirituality are inextricably linked to the landscape and wildlife.
_If Enbridge’s pipeline is built, the abundant life and fragile ecosystems of the North Coast could quickly be lost. The scope of the proposed pipeline project has set the stage for a disaster that would eclipse that of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. More than 250 crude oil super tankers would have to navigate the narrow waterways and 90 degree hairpin turns of Douglas Channel every year. Even with safety measures already in place, significant shipping accidents are occurring along the proposed tanker route. In 2006 the BC Ferries’ Queen of the North sank at the entrance to Douglas Channel, and is still leaking oil into the surrounding waters.
__The proposed pipeline is undergoing an environmental assessment by the federal government, which is supposed to protect the public interest in developments like Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project. But with eighty percent of British Columbians opposed to oil tankers in our northern waters, how does a project like this continue to push forward? These federal assessments have a history of approving 99% of projects. The three board members responsible for the decision on the pipeline proposal all have ties to industry, and the board lacks any representation from B.C. Even if the board does listen to the overwhelming opposition from the public, the current government focused on energy development and export can over-ride the decision and push it through. When faced with marginalization and few options, B.C. has a legacy of citizens stepping outside of the restrictive official processes. The people who stand to loose everything from an oil spill will not be marginalized; the scale of resistance building against the Enbridge pipeline has set the stage for this to be a defining moment in Canadian history.
Situated within a so-called democratic system in which 80-percent opposition is not sufficient to halt a project backed by barrels of oily wealth, this film explores why we must search for our own ways and create our own spaces to have our voices heard. An oil spill will not engulf Enbridge’s corporate headquarters, the mansions of its executives, nor the corridors of Ottawa’s bureaucratic machinery. Oil will tar the kelp that brushed the team’s kayaks, wash on the beaches where they landed to rest after long hours of paddling, and choke the abundant life and fragile ecosystem of the North Coast. Through their journey, the Pipedreams Team has become deeply impacted by their experience, irreversibly entangled in the Pacific Northwest, and awakened to a world of power, politics and the question of democracy.
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Check out these other great organizations working to stop crude oil tanker traffic on our coast.