“It is in our national interest to have competition for our resources. Northern Gateway would provide Canada access to large and growing international markets in Asia and the United States west coast. Northern Gateway would strengthen the nation’s position as a global energy producer and facilitate more investment in Canada. It would bring significant and lasting benefits to the economies and the people of northern B.C. and Alberta – and all Canadians – in an environmentally safe and sustainable way.”
Idle No More, 2013:
“Grassroots Anti-Pipeline Groups and Idle No More Say, “Enbridge No More! Shut Down The Tar Sands!”
Alberta’s tar sands produce billions of dollars in revenue for the Canadian economy, however, Enbridge’s proposal to build the Northern Gateway pipeline that will increase revenue from the oil sands is currently receiving major opposition from aboriginal and environmental activists (Enbridge: NGP, 2013). Do the economic benefits out way the environmental and social costs? The proposed development of the Northern Gateway Pipeline has potential to cause adverse environmental impacts and fuels opposition of aboriginal groups over issues of land claims and sovereignty in Canada. I would like to consider the relevance of social movement theory in understanding aboriginal and environmental issues connected to the Northern Gateway Pipeline. This paper is organized in the following manner: Environmental Assessment Process; Northern Gateway Proposal Defined; Environmental Impacts; Aboriginal Impacts; Contemporary Political Issues; Social Movement Theory Defined; Applying Social Movement Theory; and Conclusion.
In May 2010, Enbridge Incorporated filed the regulatory application proposing the Northern Gateway Project to the Federal Government of Canada (Enbridge: NGP, 2013). Subsequently in 2010, a Federal Joint Review Panel (JRP) was appointed by the Minister of the Environment and the National Energy Board (NEB) for the purpose of approving or disapproving the proposal (Enbridge: NGP, 2013). The Panel is currently in the process of assessing the environmental implications of the proposal against both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the National Energy Board Act (Enbridge, 2011). In addition, over the past three years the Panel has held public hearings where they received and considered information from public participants including Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s), Northern Gateway, grass roots activists and Aboriginal groups (Enbridge, 2011). Based on the aforementioned data the Panel will be submitting a final environmental assessment report to the Minister in December of 2013 that will include environmental impact mitigation measures, a summary of comments received from the public hearings, reasons for their decisions, recommendations and conclusions (Enbridge, 2011). The Minister will then review the report and respond back to the Joint Review Panel with his recommendations and conclusions, where the Panel will then make a final decision “to determine whether the project is in the public interest or cause significant adverse effects on the environment” (Enbridge, 2013) ("NGP Fact Sheet, 2011, p.2). If the project is approved, construction of the terminal in Kitimat, British Columbia and of the pipeline will begin in the year 2014 and are expected to be completed by the year 2017 (Enbridge: NGP, 2013).
Some of the flaws of this environmental assessment process is the amount of public participation that activists and community members have in the decision making process. It is true that these groups are given the opportunity to raise their opinion against the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline; however this method of public participation is merely that, to state an opinion, instead of actually having a vote or some sort of democratic poll in the final decision. The aforementioned issue is linked to the “duty to consult”, however I will be discussing this idea later on in the paper.
The proposal consists of two pipes that will be buried 1 meter underground: the first is 20 inches in diameter, 1 177 kilometers long, and would carry 193 000 barrels of condensate, per day, from Kitimat to Edmonton for the purpose of thinning out the crude oil for pipeline transport (Enbridge: NGP, 2013). The second pipe is 36 inches in diameter, 1 177 kilometers long and would transport 525 000 barrels of crude oil, per day, from Bruderheim, Alberta westward to Kitimat (See Figure 1 in Appendix A) (Enbridge: NGP, 2013).
Annually, 225 oil tankers would arrive at the Kitimat terminal, some carrying condensate for import and others empty ready to be loaded with petroleum for export (Krugel, 2013). These tankers would range in size from 220 metres to 350 meters long, each would weigh a minimum of 80 000 tonnes and export an average of 550, 000 barrels per day (Boulton & Sandborn, 2010) (Krugel, 2013).
Despite the ‘strict environmental safety standards’ that have been stressed by Enbridge, one major environmental concern with the proposal is regarding these tankers transporting petroleum through the Douglas Channel (see Figure 2 in Appendix A). Not only is the Douglas Channel filled with narrow passages and staggered islands, tankers will be forced to navigate through the Hecate Strait which is known as one of the most dangerous water bodies in the world (Boulton & Sandborn, 2010).
Furthermore, one major environmental concern that has fuelled opposition to Northern Gateway is Enbridge’s false depiction of the Douglas Channel as an open straight leading into the Pacific Ocean (see Figure 3 in Appendix A) (Lavoie, 2012). As a result Enbridge has only created trust issues with the public. For example, climate scientist Andrew Weaver from Victoria University responded to the dishonest video and pictures of the Douglas Channel,
“I find the pictures shocking. It's reprehensible behaviour…These images are disturbing enough to make me no longer trust anything coming from Enbridge. It's utterly shameful," (Lavoie, 2012).
According to The Canadian Press reporter Judith Lavoie, “groups opposed to the pipeline and tanker project believe the video is an attempt to mislead the public” (Lavoie, 2012).
Eric Swanson, a member of the Dogwood Initiative voiced his opinion on the matter, he said,
“In reality, it's (the Douglas Channel) a twisting path through rocky islands and granite outcroppings, including 90 degree turns, but it's shown as a sparkly, open channel,” (Lavoie, 2012).
So what Enbridge has done in an attempt to woo the public over Northern Gateway, is they have only fuelled opposition to the pipeline and gained a dishonest reputation with the public, as seen in the above report from CTV News.
The following quotes have been taken from various environmental groups who presented their case opposing the Northern Gateway Project during the hearings conducted by the Joint Review Panel:
Don Travers, the president of Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce has expressed his disapproval of Northern Gateway in this statement written to the Joint Review Panel:
“The Board of Directors of the TLBCC feels that an oil spill is inevitable with the
increased tanker traffic on the coast associated with this project. The threat of such a
devastating event is simply too great; we cannot jeopardize the biodiversity and marine
habitat of our coastal areas. As we have seen in the Gulf of Mexico it’s not a matter of if a spill will occur, but rather when one will happen” (Travers, 2010).
“I strongly protest the construction of a pipeline from Alberta through wilderness areas of British Columbia. The pipeline itself will be environmentally damaging, and the potential for leaks from damaged tankers is also distressing” (Rodgers, 2010).
The aforementioned quotes from environmental groups and individuals confirm the notion of opposition to Northern Gateway Pipeline by environmental activists.
Contemporary research on issues related to the Northern Gateway Project highlight that if this proposal gets approved, there are numerous potential adverse effects to the environment that are fuelling opposition to the pipeline. Potential adverse impacts through pipeline construction and operation include soil contamination, surface and groundwater contamination, air quality issues, noise, disturbance of vegetation, wildlife, fish habitat, and oil spills and accidents (Hinte, Gunton & Day, 2007). Potential adverse impacts through port construction and tanker operation include air pollution, water and contaminant discharges, dredged material and contaminated sediment disposal, ship and port generated solid waste, oil spills and accidents (Hinte, Gunton & Day, 2007). Spills can lead to the direct loss of different species through ingesting contaminated food or oily water (Hinte, Gunton & Day, 2007). In addition, a marine oil spill could destroy the shoreline and fish habitats, marine bird habitats, mammals and other maritime creatures (Hinte, Gunton & Day, 2007).
Enbridge has had more than 800 leaks in the last decade, and over 5000 spills since the year 1990 (Lee, 2013). Last year Enbridge experienced a spill in one of their pipelines that caused a 230 000-litre leak, according to The Financial Post in an article titled “Enbridge pipeline reopens after spill near Edmonton” ("Canadian Press," 2012). That spill was one of two spills in June 2012, because earlier in the month there was a larger oil spill of 475, 000 liters that leaked into Gleniffer Lake reservoir through the Red Deer River in central Alberta ("Canadian Press," 2012). In addition, in June of this year 750 barrels of crude oil leaked from one of Enbridge’s pipelines, according to The Vancouver Sun in an article titled “Enbridge…$40M in Alberta spill costs (Krugel, 2013). According to Nature Canada, it is only a matter of when the next spill will occur, not if it will occur; see Figure 4 in Appendix A for an artist’s rendition of an oil tanker spill on the Northern British Columbian coast (Nature Canada, 2013).
Research on the impacts of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska provide evidence that a major oil spill in British Columbia could be disastrous (Hinte, Gunton & Day, 2007). It has been estimated that 250 000 birds, 2 800 sea otters, 1.9 million salmon and 12.9 million herring had died (Hinte, Gunton & Day, 2007). Further studies show that certain aquatic species are still suffering almost 20 years after the spill (Hinte, Gunton & Day, 2007).
As a result of the aforementioned adverse environmental impacts to the marine and land based ecosystems, environmental activists are teaming up with Aboriginal groups to take a stance against Enbridge and the Federal Government.
The following quotes have been taken from various Aboriginal groups and individuals who presented their cases opposing the Northern Gateway Project during the hearings conducted by the Joint Review Panel.
Margaret Stenson, a resident of Kitimat expressed her opinion about the pipeline and First Nations villages in a letter written to the Joint Review Panel:
“A spill in any of them (rivers and streams) means a loss of drinking water, fish, birds and wildlife. Our vegetation will also be effected…I just can’t believe we need it…I think the JRP should be held in most or all of the First Nations villages…so that they can let their thoughts be known” (Stenson, 2010).
“Enbridge has said that they are not responsible for any oil spills once the oil is out of their pipelines. If a tanker had a catastrophic spill, there would not be enough insurance to cover the damage, and if it were owned by a company whose only asset is that ship, it might be to their advantage to declare bankruptcy. In that case, our Government would have to bear the cost of cleanup. In other words, the shareholders of Enbridge would be subsidized by the citizens of Canada…The Northern Gateway Project is NOT in the best interest of Canada” (Ouwehand, 2010).
As depicted by the aforementioned comments, the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline has fuelled opposition by Aboriginal groups. The Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker construction and operation initiatives in British Columbia have the potential to impose adverse impacts on Aboriginal socio-economic and cultural spaces and identities.
Opposition over issues of land claims and sovereignty will arise if the proposal is approved and Enbridge begins to bulldoze their path through the pristine forests of British Columbia and Alberta to lay their pipelines. For example, the following quote is from Saulteau First Nations in a letter to the JRP expressing their concerns for the destruction of Saulteau traditional territory:
“Saulteau treaty and traditional territory will be negatively impacted by the proposed oil and condensate pipelines. This is significant since the proposed 1km wide right-of-way for the pipelines will cross rich and diverse habitat integral to our economy and our cultural and spiritual well-being. Saulteau is not satisfied with the environmental assessment and Panel process associated with the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project…” (Saulteau First Nations, 2010)
The aforementioned comment presented by the Saulteau First Nations group vividly outline their concern for land and treaty rights. In addition, the above statement highlights Aboriginal cultural concerns that will have a negative impact on “culturally or spiritually sensitive areas, culturally modified trees, historic sites and cabins, heritage trails, and burial sites” that will also fuel opposition (Hinte, Gunton & Day, 2007, pg. 7).
Traditional aboriginal culture and health will be negatively affected if there is an oil spill due to poisoned wildlife and fishing resources (Hinte, Gunton & Day, 2007). Moreover, long term consumption of poisoned local fish could lead to health risks in infants and the elderly, while increased population densities in the area could lead to the outbreak of disease (Hinte, Gunton & Day, 2007). As a result of strains on fishing resources and industries, inflation can occur as local markets become limited (Hinte, Gunton & Day, 2007).
It has been suggested that 20, 000 jobs will be created during the construction phase of the project, and an additional 1,150 long-term jobs will be created throughout Canada (Enbridge: NGP, 2011); however a major employment boom in British Columbia has the potential to lead to inflation and other social problems such as housing shortages, as well as shortages of social services and infrastructure (Hinte, Gunton & Day, 2007). In addition, there is no commitment to training and hiring skilled Aboriginal workers, and Enbridge’s claim that Aboriginals will fill one third of regional jobs is questionable (Lee, 2013).
In short, the aforementioned adverse effects on Aboriginal socio-economic and cultural spaces and identities all fall under issues of Aboriginal land claims and sovereignty. In order to address these issues, the fundamental legal liability the Canadian Federal Government has towards First Nations is their “duty to consult” (Hinte, Gunton & Day, 2007). “Case law indicates that First Nations have a legal right to be involved in land-use decisions with respect to areas subject to Aboriginal title claims” (Hinte, Gunton & Day, 2007, pg. 132). So then, does the “duty to consult” lead to cooptation of First Nations representatives into the Joint Review Panels decision making process? This area is ambiguous with no direct answer because the “duty to consult” is often left up to the proponent of the project. In most cases the proponent informs First Nations communities about the development project, instead of asking them what they would like to see happen and working out a mutually beneficial agreement. Thus the ambiguity of the “duty to consult” clause is what has fuelled Aboriginal opposition to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project because there is so much grey area that First Nations are fighting for their land-titles, legitimacy and sovereignty. The “duty to consult” First Nations can be linked to the Idle No More movement.
“The Tar Sands is the most destructive project exploiting First Nation’s ….the future generations of all peoples are depending on the actions we take to defend the air, water, and land we need” (Idle No More, 2013).
Currently the Northern Gateway pipeline is facing several problems moving forward because of opposition by B.C Premier Christy Clark (Krugel, 2013). Nathan Lemphers of Pembina Institute wrote an article on May 31st 2013 which reported that the B.C Government has rejected the Northern Gateway Pipeline – Premier Christy Clark has compared the concerns of British Columbians to the proposal presented by Enbridge and has concluded that the proposal fails to address the environmental issues at large (Lemphers, 2013). Clark’s decision to stop Northern Gateway is monumental and if the federal government was to overthrow the provincial governments decision, than serious constitutional questions would come into play and Northern Gateway would be in gridlock within the Canadian Supreme Courts system.
On the contrary to the aforementioned, it has been reported more recently that premier Christy Clark is moving the Northern Gateway Pipeline project forward, according to an article title “Alberta, B.C. to work together in expanding oil, gas exports” from the Vancouver Sun (De Souza, 2013). Author Mike De Souza states:
“The premiers of British Columbia and Alberta have launched a joint plan to expand exports of oil, gas and other resources, laying the groundwork for new pipeline projects to the west coast” (De Souza, 2013)
Subsequently, De Souza reports:
“(Premier) Clark said her government still had concerns about the risks of the existing Northern Gateway proposal and was opposed to the project” (De Souza, 2013).
The ambiguity depicted by Premier Clark in moving the project forward confirms the complexity of political games that are being played.
I would like to consider the relevance of social movement theory in understanding aboriginal and environmental issues connected to the Northern Gateway Pipeline. So then, what is social movement theory? According to Donatella Porta and Mario Diani (1999), there are four characteristics of a successful social movement:
Informal networks: informal networks create the prerequisites for mobilization of people and establish a setting for them to communicate a common worldview or lifestyle (Porta & Diani, 1999). Shared beliefs and cohesion: shared beliefs and cohesion simply means that the group has a shared ambition that is motivated by a similar cause (Porta & Diani, 1999). Collective action focusing on conflicts: by conflict it is suggested that there needs to be a oppositional relationship between actors who seek control of the same thing (Porta & Diani, 1999). Use of protest: Protests are a collective action against a political body (Porta & Diani, 1999).
The aforementioned literature suggests there are four pillars to social movement theory that are the minimum requirements for a movement to be successful. The Northern Gateway social movement can be dissected into two separate dimensions that have formed the foundation of this report and will be compared and critiqued in relation to Porta and Diani’s social movement theory: the Environmental movement and the Aboriginal movement.
The Environmental Movement
The environmental dimension of the Northern Gateway movement contains informal networks of people in the form of online blogs such as Rabble.ca or Pembina Institute. These informal networks are strong because they give everyone a chance to voice their opinion and let it be heard by others who have a common view or lifestyle in living environmentally friendly. Environmentalists also have a strong sense of shared beliefs and ethics that are motivated by saving the environment, and in the case of collective action focusing on conflicts the collective opposition is strong against Enbridge that is depicted through the hearings held by the Joint Review Panel.
The Aboriginal Movement
The Aboriginal dimension of the Northern Gateway movement also contains strong informal networks through online blogs such as Rabble.ca and Pembina Institute and is further strengthened by the Idle No more campaign and a strong sense of community and identity. Aboriginal activists have a strong sense of shared beliefs that are both cultural and spiritual, and in the case of collective action focusing on conflicts, Aboriginal activists share a strong sense of opposition that is strengthened further by Idle No More. The last pillar of social movement success, protests, is very strong within Aboriginal activism through Idle No More.
I feel the informal networks of the Aboriginal dimension is stronger than the informal networks in the Environmental dimension because the Aboriginal side is strengthened by Idle No More and also by a shared sense of culture and teamwork, in that the Aboriginal activists are striving for victory over issues of land claims and sovereignty. Where-as the Environmental informal networks are weaker because if there is a slight disagreement on the blog about the Northern Gateway pipeline there could be a resulting quarrel or dismay. For example, one environmentalist could be anti-pipeline while the other environmentalist is pro-pipeline, but with strict safety precautions and environmental regulations. With regards to a sense of shared beliefs and cohesion, both the Environmentalists and Aboriginal activists have a strong sense of cohesion, however the Aboriginal side is stronger because of Idle No More. Regarding the pillar containing collective action focusing on conflicts, both the Environmentalist and Aboriginal activists equally share a common sense of nationalism because they are both attacking the same two bureaucratic bodies, Enbridge Incorporated and the Canadian Federal government. The last pillar, protests, doesn’t seem to be as strong for Environmentalists compared to the Aboriginal movement because there has been much media coverage on the passionate movement of Idle No More that almost consumes the Environmental movement, even though they are both fighting for clean land and water.
In conclusion, the Northern Gateway pipeline has caused opposition because of its potential adverse environmental implications as well as its impact on First Nations land claims and sovereignty. Canada’s federal environmental assessment process is flawed because it is a bureaucratic process that only allows for citizens to voice their opinions without having any democratic vote in the matter. Perhaps this weakened form of democracy is due to the rise of neo-liberalism and is has subsequently fuelled opposition to Northern Gateway. The Northern Gateway proposal is also flawed because of the false pictures put out by Enbridge meant to fool the public about the Douglas Channel. The pipelines have adverse ecological impacts as well as socio-economic and cultural impacts to the aboriginals.
The reason why there is so much debate over aboriginal land claims and issues of sovereignty is because in British Columbia there were never any treaties signed between First Nations and settlers during the 19th century. With that being said, during the turn into the 20th century the industrial revolution began to change Canada’s economy into a resource based economy and has turned Canada into its contemporary state. Currently Canada is in a crucial transitional stage that will determine whether or not Canadians will be working towards sustainability or producing fossil fuels. The perspective of author Marc Lee is interesting because he argues that contemporary scientific literature points at action towards greener fuels in order to reduce climate change, but if North Americans invest in a “multi-billion dollar fossil fuel infrastructure” than we will not be able to make that transition towards a greener more sustainable future (Lee, 2013). Therefore, depending on which decision we make, we will be committed to certain paths.
An issue that was raised in my analysis of social movement theory and Northern Gateway was based upon the question of, ‘who gets to decide Canada’s national interest?’ or taken from the aforementioned perspective, ‘who gets to decide Canada’s future?”. For example, in a hearing by the Joint Review Panel, canuck Monica Howard used the Canadian National Anthem and the words “O Canada, our home and native land, true patriot love, in all they sons command” to build her argument against the pipeline (McCreary, 2012). She exclaimed to the Panel, “We are standing on guard for our country, for our land, for our people. If we do not do it, nobody will do it for us” (McCreary, 2012). However in contrast, is it the people of Canada as a democratic nation that gets to decide what’s in our National interest? Or is it Steven Harper who is trying to bully his way around opposition and develop western Canada to decide? Therefore Nationalism can go both ways.
What I found interesting throughout my research was the momentum the Idle No More movement gained within such a short period of time. Within one week after its initial event in Saskatoon, the Idle No More movement spread to Regina, Prince Albert and Northern Battleford, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg; within one month after that, Idle No More held a National Day of Action across the country (Idle No More, 2013).
What I wanted to end off with is a notion about the peacefulness and spirituality of Aboriginal culture. Culture has meaning through publically available symbols such as rituals, aesthetic objects and texts, and these are a part of what mobilizes people, the shared sense of history and space and culture (Johnston & Klandermans, 1995). During my research I have learned that all social movement theory is, is various people coming together to fight for a purpose. The Idle No More movement is an example of how effective a peaceful movement is in making a statement. But will there be need for violence? Social movement theory doesn’t suggest violence; it suggests that successful activism can be achieved through four pillars:
informal networks, shared beliefs and cohesion, collective action focusing on conflicts, and use of protest.
With that being said, I will leave you with a quote from Clayton Thomas Muller, National Leader for Idle No More’s:
“A movement is rising up from coast to coast to coast against the Canadian Tar Sands and will continue to grow incrementally until we take back our democracy from the hands of corporations like Enbridge who would see all our streets, rivers, lakes and coastal areas destroyed by tar sands pipeline spills.” Thomas-Muller continues, “We will not stop until the six core demands of Idle No More & Defenders of the Land’s campaign, #SovSummer, including the right of communities to say NO are respected by the Harper Government.”
Figure 1. The Northern Gateway Pipeline (Ekers, 2012)
Figure 2. The Douglas Channel runs from Kitimat, BC, through a complex system islands out to the Pacific Ocean (Google Maps, 2013). Oil tankers will have to pass through the Hecate Strait, which is one of the world’s most treacherous water bodies (Boulton & Sandborn, 2010).
Figure 3. The image on the left shows the Douglas Channel in one of Enbridge’s ads, while the image on the right shows the reality of the situation (Lavoie, 2012) (Ekers, 2012).
Figure 4. An artist’s rendition of an oil spill on the British Columbian coast (Nature Canada, 2013).
Figure A. (CBC, 2013)
Figure B. (Idle No More, 2013)
Figure C. (Idle No More, 2013)
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 By “sovereignty” I mean “the authority of a state to govern itself or another state” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2013)
 According to Anna Zalik, “duty to consult” implies that aboriginal rights be recognized and “politicizes the meaning of sovereignty” (Zalik, 2012, p. 263). My interpretation of what Zalik means is that the “duty to consult” legitimizes First Nations legal right to be treated as a sovereign nation.
 According to oxforddictionaries, “cooptation” is defined as “appoint to membership of a committee or other body by invitation of the existing members” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2013)