Enbridge: Why Just Ride To Conquer Cancer? Stop It Before It Starts.

Yesterday marked the end of the weekend-long Ride to Conquer Cancer sponsored by…Enbridge?

While it is admirable that 5000 cyclists rode 200km and raised funds for cancer research, I wonder why Enbridge themselves have failed to do their part to stop cancer at its source. Enbridge’s attempt to pose as a socially-conscious engineering firm is hiding the fact that it is expanding the reach of tar sands oil, closely linked to causing cancer.

Enbridge has been finessing its plans to construct the Northern Gateway Pipeline, a pipeline originally proposed about 10 years ago and which is being pushed by the Harper agenda. The twin pipelines, which run from Northern Alberta to BC’s coast, will cross through 60 First Nations communities and over 1,000 streams and rivers. This means that in the event of a pipeline failure it is likely that waterways will be contaminated and the health impacts on local people are soon to follow.

Now let’s take Enbridge’s track record. The company has an average 60 leaks and spills per year between 1999-2008 and the Northern Gateway could add about 5 spills per year. With these statistics, it is not a matter of if there is a spill, but when there is a spill and where will it be. No oil or engineering company has ever been able to fully clean up their mess and recover 100% of oil leaked. One teaspoon of benzene, but one of the many contaminants released, can contaminate 260,660 gallons of water. In the event of a leak, carcinogenic toxins are released both into waterways, land, and the air.

In communities living downstream from tar sands projects, rare cancers are unfortunately not so rare. Bile duct cancer typically affects 1 in every 100,000 people. In Fort Chipeweyan, a community with a population of about 1200 people, there were five diagnosed cases in the span of about 5 years.  Bile duct cancer is among the many other cancers—colon cancer, leukemia, lymphoma to name a few—and diseases on the rise in Fort Chip, a community which draws its water from the Athabasca watershed. The watershed has been increasingly contaminated by tar sands projects.

Rising cancer rates seen in communities living downstream from the tar sands is bound to be replicated in communities living along Enbridge’s proposed pipeline. The associated health costs of the pipeline is only one of the many reasons that several communities have banded together to reject the proposal.

In a previous post written by Dustin Johnson, a Tsimshian from Prince Rupert and Terrace, BC and currently the Energy Campaigner for Sierra Club Prairie he reports:

On May 11th, 2011, on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy in Calgary, Alberta, a historic solidarity statement of opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal was signed by leaders of the Blood Tribe, Alexander First Nation, Lubicon Lake Nation, Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation, Sai’kuz First Nation, Nadleh Whuten, Takla Lake First Nation and the Nakazdli First Nation.

Along with contributing to the increased risk of cancer, Enbridge’s pipeline is passing through unceded Indigenous land and has not respected Indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consent as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

As Enbridge continues to fund cancer research, it can also do its part by stopping its own activities that contribute to cancer. Enbridge and Enbridge subsidiaries have been expanding their pipeline projects and threat to the health of communities across North America.  Merely helping fund cancer research does not absolve Enbridge of its responsibility to respect people living near these pipelines.

4 Responses to “Enbridge: Why Just Ride To Conquer Cancer? Stop It Before It Starts.”

  1. 1 SamanthaPink Jun 13th, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Your article definitely showed the “truth”, which is sometimes hidden to the public. These “great” companies spend all this and money to fund research for diseases that they in turn, help cause. It’s a bit hypocritical in my opinion. I’m really glad you wrote this article to raise this type of awareness. Maybe that wasn’t Enbridge’s original goal, to hide that they were helping cause cancer, but I hope that with this article and publicity, they will think twice about their project. It takes more than money to become socially responsible.

  2. 2 Keith Rispin Jun 23rd, 2011 at 1:07 am

    I just completed the BC Ride this weekend and it was an awesome experience for so many reasons and I am glad I did it. I did have some misgivings about the Enbridge sponsorship and many people refused to donate because of it, which is fine, I totally understand.

    I also encountered a couple people who were openly hostile about my participation, that I was “part of the problem” that Enbridge had duped me into participating but after doing this ride I can only think of those who I rode with who had pictures of family members who were stricken with cancer or had passed away. I think of the survivors who were on the ride and we happy to be there. The most striking thing I saw were two children who I assume were with their grand parents cheering on their father, holding a cardboard sign, with a picture of their mother and the words “Ride for Mommy!” I am sure not a single rider who saw the sign had a dry eye.

    I can’t imagine telling these people that what they were doing is wrong. The Ride is a form of empowering those who feel powerless against a relentless foe. It doesn’t matter who sponsored the ride, it could have been Satan himself. For those 48 hrs, those people felt like they had a chance, that they were making a difference or that their mother matters more than anything else and the father of two children who’s mother is very ill was doing what he could to make her better.

    It is because of what I experience this past weekend that I am very pleased you did not criticize the riders in your article because regardless of whether Enbridge is a big nasty multinational company, those riders were not. They were people who had been profoundly affected by cancer in their lives and felt that they were doing some good.

  1. 1 Enbridge: Why Just Ride To Conquer Cancer? Stop It Before It Starts. – It’s Getting Hot In Here | The Cancer Post Trackback on Jun 13th, 2011 at 4:31 am
  2. 2 Links to Articles concerning the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline | The "JLS" Report Trackback on Jun 13th, 2011 at 7:12 pm
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About maryam

maryam is an organizer, writer, and friend based in Vancouver on unceded Coast Salish Territories. She likes bikes, exploring by kayak, and capoeira. You may have seen some of her writing in Canadian Dimensions, Briarpatch Magazine, The Dominion, or this online blog. You can follow her on twitter @maryamaquarium

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