This week, another northern B.C. community – Prince Rupert City Council – decided to state its opposition to the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. The fact that the local communities of Prince Rupert, Terrace and Smithers all oppose the pipeline should not come as surprising news. We’ve been hearing this over and over again at the public hearings in every community along the pipeline/ tanker route in BC’s northwest. What is news is democratically elected leaders from these communities are choosing to speak out against this project. They’ve joined the MP, MLAs, and First Nations leaders from the region in saying “this project is bad for the coast, bad for jobs, and bad for our economy.” Leaders at every level of our democratic system who are accountable to the people of this region are saying no to this project. This raises the question of whether a single project should be allowed to run roughshod over the democratically expressed wishes of the region most likely to be negatively impacted.
This opposition cannot be dismissed as special interest groups following narrow-minded agendas. These are elected leaders voicing the interests and values of the communities they represent. Affirmation of the legitimacy of these perspectives is fundamental to the operation of democracy. It is the grounds upon which we claim sovereignty as a nation. The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline has triggered a much deeper and more important discussion about respect for democratic process.
In other words, it’s not just the environment, and not just the economy: the rights and aspirations of Canadian communities are at stake. Should respect for these rights and aspirations be part of the National Public Interest?
It’s up to each of us to answer that question for ourselves. WWF encourages you to think on it and put your thoughts down on paper in the form of a submission to the Joint Review Panel. The JRP is accepting such submission until August 31, and they are specifically asking for “your views on whether the Project is in the public interest”.
This region is one of the world’s ecological treasures, akin to the Amazon or the Great Barrier Reef. This is a place of global significance, whose value Canadians are responsible for safeguarding . The stakes here are high, so please – put the effort into reflecting and expressing your views. The integrity of our coast and of Canadian democracy is in our hands.