Ten minutes to say your piece

From January 14 – 18, more hearings will take place in Vancouver.
These are public comment periods, meant to open up the floor for people to share their values, knowledge and aspirations for the future of BC’s coast. The technical hearings – which delve into the details of the project itself – will resume again in March, in Prince Rupert.
I can imagine that many of these individuals have been practicing with friends and family, considering very carefully what they want to say. It can be intimidating as the proceedings for the hearings are rather formal. I know because I’ve been to several of these presentations, back when the National Energy Board’s 3-member panel was up in the Northwest communities of BC. It was remarkable to see how heartfelt and meaningful these presentations were. You can read through a summary of excerpts from these presentations here.
In many cases the room was full of presenter’s families and friends, there for encouragement. This won’t be the case in Victoria or Vancouver, where the Panel has decided to limit public involvement in the hearings, and instead set up a public viewing room some 3km away. The decision was made ostensibly to allow things to go “smoothly.” I think I know what they’re talking about – people were visibly and vocally moved by many of the statements that I witnessed, and they didn’t shy away from expressing their feelings. One room even broke into O Canada. When people would applaud a statement, I was surprised to hear the Panel continually chide the room, reminding them that such displays of support were not helpful and that this was a “serious” event… as if anyone needed reminding how serious it was!
For those who are speaking in Victoria, know that even if you don’t have the support of others in the room with you, there are scores of people – thousands in fact – who are behind you in supporting a future for BC’s coast that ensures healthy ecosystems and cultures, and protection from unacceptable threats.
For anyone wanting to get a taste of these hearings, you can listen via a live audio web cast here.
As support for the Great Bear Sea is grows, so does the whole issue of public accountability in the governance of our environment. Doubtless, 2013 will see many creative responses from Canadians who are becoming increasingly engaged around the Great Bear. For the next few weeks, the people presenting to the National Energy Board are the vanguard of our chance to protect this region. Help support them. Tune in to the audio cast, and share your opinions with us – below in the comments, or on Facebook.

(c) Andrew Wright/WWF-Canada