Speech written by member of Rising Tide-Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories for action held in Vancouver, Washington as part of Summer Heat.
My name is Emil and I’m a member of Rising Tide Vancouver Coast Salish Territories, also known as Vancouver BC. I was asked to be here today to speak about resistance to fossil fuel extraction and exportation happening in Canada. I want to start by acknowledging that Canada is an illegitimate colonial nation-state, imposed on land that is stolen from indigenous peoples. I’m not from Vancouver, I actually grew up here in Portland OR, and after moving north and hearing people regularly acknowledge the territories I did some research and learned that where we are right now is territory of the Multnomah people of the Upper Chinook. I also want to acknowledge that I am a settler speaking on their land today. I don’t want to speak on behalf of other people, so I will preface this by saying that my words reflect my own experiences and perspectives which have been inspired by those whose stories and knowledge I am honored to have learned from. My intention is to carry their messages in the best way I can.
When I moved to Canada one of the first things I learned is that much of BC is unceded territory. What this means is that there have never been any treaties between colonial governments and Indigenous Nations who have lived there and protected their territories for thousands of years. This makes Canada an illegal nation on unceded lands by their own colonial laws. I have also begun to see that Canada and the United States are imperial governments established by forces of violent genocide, and that they continuously refuse to recognize indigenous nations as independent sovereign nations, denying people their rights and responsibilities of their traditional homelands. These tactics of enforcing social and spiritual poverty on indigenous peoples are still used today in many forms including ecocide. Ecocide means any extensive destruction of the natural environment or loss of ecosystems of a given territory to such an extent that the survival of the inhabitants of that territory is endangered. I refuse to recognize any government empowered by such oppression as legitimate. This is why I feel it is essential that the work I do as an environmental justice activist be grounded in decolonization. Supporting indigenous sovereignty and honoring the leadership of First Nations people in every aspect of my activism I see as the only honorable way to be fighting corporate power, it is not a choice, it is my responsibility as a settler to these lands.
North of here, the corporate government has intentions to build what they call a “carbon corridor” across BC. These plans include massive expansion of the “Natural” gas industry that has already caused devastating impacts from fracking on ecosystems and communities in Northeastern BC. If their plans go through, Shale gas from BC’s two current major shale gas zones—the Horn river and Montney Basins—could account for fully 22 percent of all of north american shale gas production by 2020. And BC government’s determination to get in on foreign trade profits has led them to invest billions of dollars into pipeline projects and liquefying terminals (called LNG) on the coast so that it can be shipped overseas and eventually burned into the atmosphere. There are a total of seven proposed pipelines from Bruderheim to Kitimat, and from Summit Lake to Kitimat. Three companies, Kinder Morgan, Pembina Pipelines, and Enbridge Inc. each propose dual pipelines to transport not only dirty bitumen, but also condensate as a diluent. Kinder Morgan also intends to build South to Vancouver BC and into Washington state. Pacific Trails Pipeline owned by 50% Apache and %50 Chevron, seeks to transport Fracked shale Gas from the Horn River Basin. But pacific trails isn’t the only one, it seems every day many more oil and gas companies are racing to build their own pipelines in Northern BC. A total of six LNG project proposals for BC’s coast have received, or have submitted an application for, an export license.
And as if this wasn’t enough, on top of the Oil and Gas proposals we are trying to bring awareness to projects like the proposed Site C dam that BC Hydro wants to build on the Peace river. This publicly funded hydropower would be the largest dam in the province, and wouldn’t going to anyone’s homes or local businesses, it would instead be used to power the LNG processing terminals. It’s part of an effort to privatize bc hydro, making people pay more for energy they don’t need. Site C is an important site of resistance b/c it is needed for all this expansion to happen.
What many people are unaware of is that most of the proposed northern pipelines pass through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory where grassrootes resistance is stopping them as I speak. Two weeks ago I traveled North to visit the Unist’ot’en camp. This camp is not just a blockade, it is an example of indigenous resurgence, that the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en nation have built on their traditional territory in commitment to defend their land from mining, pipelines, and deforestation. When I arrived there I went through the free prior and informed consent protocol which requires all people ask permission to enter traditional lands. I follow this protocol in honor of the responsibilities the Unist’ot’en have to their families, and the lands and waters they have relationships with. They have successfully turned away industry surveyors from their lands, and will continue to do so. But resistance in the North needs to be supported and to grow order to stand strong against industry.
The BC corporate government has been trying to keep their plans to industrialize the North out of sight and out of mind of the major southern populous. The message I want to make is that the plans to industrialize by corporations are not isolated from each other, and therefore our resistance cannot afford to be isolated. For myself and my comrades living in urban Vancouver BC, building relationships of true reciprocity, rather than self-interest, with grassroots indigenous resistance like the Unist’ot’en camp and the Idle No More movement, as well as with non-indigenous allies around the region is some of the most important work we do. It is how we build a powerful alliance of resistance. I have chosen to come speak here today to ask that we can make these alliances stronger across colonial borders.
The impacts of these projects will not be isolated by these borders. Water contamination affects entire watersheds. The drainage basin of the Columbia river reaches past Valemount BC through Secwepemc territory, and as far south as Idaho and Utah. And lets not forget that our coastal communities share the same ocean waters. The tremendous threat that fossil fuel industry puts on fresh water should be a concern to everyone. It is not a question of if contamination accidents happen, it is a matter of when. When I was up North people were talking about plans to build not only oil and gas pipelines, but also water pipelines, because the US anticipates running out of clean water very soon. Water is a resource that we all have the responsibility to protect for generations to come because of its necessity to sustain all life.
There are examples across turtle island of what strong resistance and increased awareness has been able to prevent. Those fighting against oil and gas have been able to keep it out of their communities with bans, suspensions, and taking direct action. In order to stop this industry from fracking with the NW we have to say firmly that lands & waters that sustain both our settler and indigenous communities are not theirs to drill, mine, deforest, or build pipelines and LNG terminals on… and when they try, we will put our feet down, hold physical space like we are doing right now, and say FRACK OFF!
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/167545540093333/?fref=ts
Portland Rising Tide post: http://portlandrisingtide.org/2013/07/climate-action-on-the-columbia/
News article and TV Coverage: http://www.koin.com/2013/07/28/anti-fuel-activists-rappel-off-i-5-bridge/