We’re fundraising for the Coldwater, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nations determined to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline – with our partner RAVEN Trust. I’ve got some important updates about our work to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline and tankers.
The federal government finally announced that we are in a climate emergency. The next day, they approved the Trans Mountain tarsands pipeline expansion.
You did it!
You helped stop the Trans Mountain pipeline and tankers in the courts!
On August 30, we celebrated a major victory as the project’s approval was quashed by the Federal Court of Appeal. This court ruling is fantastic news for orca whales, for our climate, for Indigenous peoples defending their title and rights, and for the rights of all of us to defend the land and waters we love and call home.
And it happened in part thanks to the help of hundreds of people who stepped up in solidarity with First Nations by supporting our Pull Together campaign. With your help, we raised more than $650,000 for the nations fighting this project in court!
Take a moment to pat yourself on the back. First, we sent Kinder Morgan home to Texas, because the company knew this project was a sinking ship. Now, with your support, Indigenous peoples fought back – and won.
The court agreed with what we’ve been saying all along: that the National Energy Board review was deeply flawed and fell far short of the mark in consulting Indigenous peoples.
The fact that the NEB decided not to include in its review the impacts of marine tanker traffic– which it agreed would pose significant adverse effects to endangered orca whales – meant the government could not rely on the Board’s recommendation in making a decision. And because Canada failed to engage meaningfully with Indigenous peoples, the court ruled this consultation needs to be redone.
This is a stunning blow. And it offers the perfect opportunity for Prime Minister Trudeau to walk away from this pipeline and tankers.
But instead, he’s already doubled down his efforts to push this dangerous project through communities that do not consent.
Trudeau has asked the NEB to reconsider its recommendations – and he’s given it an incredibly tight 22-week timeline to do so.
To make matters worse, this hasty new review is already showing signs of the same flaws that were present in the original review. On September 26, the NEB announced the new review.
We did some digging and found out the NEB was misinforming people about this process.
We found that their website contained inaccurate and conflicting information, leading many people to believe that the deadline for comments on the project was October 3 – less than a week away. It also suggested people need to send in an application to participate and prove that they are “directly affected” or have “relevant information or expertise,” just like the first NEB review process in 2014, which was designed to shut people out of the process.
But we found out that if you want to send a letter of comment on the project, you don’t need to apply and you don’t need to comment by October 3. This deadline is only people who want to apply to be an intervenor or comment on the scope and process of the review (which you should do too, if you can!)
After we pestered them all day, the NEB finally updated their website to correct the wrong info.
It doesn’t look like the NEB has learned much from their past mistakes. Instead, it looks like they’re up to their old tricks and that we’ve got another sham process on our hands – a process destined for another predetermined outcome.
This is what happens when you do a rush job. We see no difference yet between this and Harper’s approach – they’re still trying to confuse people and deny participation.
Get a refresher on the flaws of the last NEB review with our “Credibility Crisis” report: https://bit.ly/2H6zm60
If the Trudeau government takes its commitment to reconciliation and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples seriously, then these rigged and superficial approaches need to become a thing of the past. Indigenous peoples have the right to free prior and informed consent – and they still do not consent.
It’s time for a more modern, democratic process that involves much closer scrutiny, especially of the many environmental, social and economic dangers posed by projects like this.
We are thrilled that the courts have overturned federal approval of this dangerous pipeline and tankers project that would have put so much at risk. But the fight is far from over.
We’ll be helping people ensure they are heard in this new process, and keeping a sharp eye on the NEB to ensure they don’t keep pulling more tricks. It’s still important to use this opportunity to raise your voice, and we hope you’ll participate by sending a letter of comment. Once more details are released on the process, we’ll be in touch about how you can have your say.
Say yes to orcas and salmon – donate now to help us keep fighting this pipeline and oil tankers.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 30, 2018
VICTORIA – Sierra Club BC hailed today’s decision of the Federal Court of Appeal on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion as a major victory.
Reaction from Sierra Club BC conservation and climate campaigner Mark Worthing:
“It’s time for Prime Minister Trudeau to walk away from this pipeline and tankers project. Today’s decision should be a lesson to politicians: your days of being servants to multinationals and fossil fuel corporations are coming to an end. We will no longer wait for climate justice.
“If the Trudeau government takes its commitment to reconciliation and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples seriously, then these rigged and superficial approaches must become a thing of the past. Indigenous peoples have the right to free prior and informed consent.
“The decision making processes have been rigged for too long. It’s time for a more modern, democratic process that subjects projects like this to much closer scrutiny, especially of the many environmental, social and economic dangers they pose.
“Fossil fuel infrastructure must be subject to a robust and thorough climate test that considers their impact on emissions and whether there are less carbon-intensive alternatives.”
Reaction from Sierra Club BC campaigns director Caitlyn Vernon:
“Today’s court ruling is a victory for orca whales, for our climate, for Indigenous peoples defending their title and rights, and for the rights of all of us to defend the land and waters we love and call home.
“We are thrilled that the courts have overturned federal approval of this dangerous pipeline and tankers project that would have put so much at risk.
“Climate leaders don’t build pipelines. It’s time for Trudeau to walk away from this dinosaur fossil fuel project and focus on building a clean energy economy instead. We can create more jobs by investing in renewable energy.”
Conservation and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC
Orca whales are one of BC’s most iconic residents. Besides being supremely lovable, with their high degree of intelligence and powerful family bonds, they are also a keystone species that upholds a delicate marine ecosystem, one that human beings intrinsically depend on.
We need orca whales and we adore them, but very few people are as outwardly devoted to them as Gary Sutton.
Gary is a captain for Ocean Ecoventures, a small, family-run whale watching company in Cowichan Bay. He’s also a gifted and hard-working photographer with a driving passion to photograph and protect these whales.
There are only 76 southern resident orcas remaining in the Salish Sea, and these endangered whales face numerous obstacles to their survival.
Now, they face their greatest threat to date: Kinder Morgan’s new pipeline and tankers, which would surely sound their death knell. We’re working hard to stop Kinder Morgan through our Pull Together campaign and we hope you’ll join us in supporting First Nations’ legal challenges to the project.
With Kinder Morgan bullishly pushing ahead with construction at their terminal in Burnaby and laying down illegal mats to prevent salmon from spawning (Chinook salmon are the southern resident whales’ primary food source), our outreach coordinator Brynne Morrice thought it would be a good time to hear Gary’s perspective on orca whales and the battle for their survival.
B: Thank you for joining me Gary. First—how did you become a captain on a whale-watching boat?
G: I moved here ten years ago from Ontario to pursue a career in marine biology. I have been obsessed with whales and dolphins—particularly killer whales—my whole life. So when I finally lived in a city that offered whale watching tours, I jumped at the chance. I applied for marine naturalist jobs and was lucky enough to get hired by a company on Granville Island. I fell in love with it almost immediately. My boss offered to pay for my 60-ton captain’s course. I started driving the boats and then took over management of the company as well. I have since moved to Vancouver Island to work with Ocean Ecoventures, a small, conservation-minded company that really goes the extra mile.
B: How has your role as a captain related to your journey as a photographer?
G: Photography was never part of my life until whale watching became part of it. After my first season in 2007, I bought a camera to document some of the incredible things I got to see out there. It quickly became a passion.
B: It looks like you mostly photograph orcas. Is this primarily because of your job, or is there a more personal reason?
G: Mostly because of my job, but also because I love them! It’s such a challenge to capture an intimate moment of an animal that spends the majority of its life underwater. It requires you to study and learn their patterns and movements so you can have your camera pointed in the right spot when they surface again. I love that challenge.
B: When I first chatted with you, you said you want to fight for these whales in any way possible. Tell us more about that.
G: My goal is to be an ambassador for these whales and to show people how special they are. I’ve gotten more and more frustrated over the years about the lack of progress protecting these animals, particularly the southern resident killer whales. It’s very frustrating to watch politicians implement laws and restrictions that don’t have any positive impact on the animals. I understand why they do it. Most people aren’t intimately involved with the whale situation, so it’s easy for government to make these rules that give a false image of trying to “save the whales.”
B: There has been controversy about whale watching boats in the past, and again more recently with the federal government changing “viewing distance” laws. Can you break this down for us and address the issue of boats and killer whales?
G: Where to begin? Shipping noise needs to be addressed. However, it has to be done in conjunction with the most important factor, which is lack of salmon. The government’s announcement that they were putting over $7 million into acoustic research and just over $1 million into salmon enhancement is embarrassing. A recent study showed that the vast majority of harmful noise that could interrupt their foraging comes from commercial shipping. It’s obvious why the government is so focused on noise. They want to conduct studies so they can find some (most likely non-peer reviewed) science that will allow them to expand tanker and freighter traffic in and out of Vancouver. I am all for a viewing distance law for boats, both commercial and recreational. Again, more needs to be done than just that.
Other studies have shown that it’s the speed of the vessel that impacts the whales way more than the distance. My frustration grows when you see the whale watching fleet going 5 knots paralleling whales at 100m with enforcement boats on scene watching us, and there are freighters going by at 15-20 knots lighting up the whole area with harmful noise and at the same time recreational fishing boats sit right in front of the whales, still being allowed to scoop chinook salmon right from their mouths.
It’s great that there will be a law so DFO can prosecute when you see really bad behaviour (mostly by pleasure boats). However, it’s disappointing that this is the only action the government has taken. We have already seen this on the other side of the border. After implementing a 200-yard viewing distance for whale watchers 5 or 6 years ago, how do the southern residents look now? Lowest number of whales in 30 years, no calves for years, poor body condition, and this was the least amount of time the whales spent in the Salish Sea since the study began in the mid 1970’s.
B: Tell us about how the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tankers project relates to these whales.
G: The Kinder Morgan project would be a huge loss for the whales, wildlife, and ultimately, us. An oil spill in the Salish Sea would finish the southern residents. We saw that happen in Alaska when the Exxon Valdez went down. The AT1 transient population of killer whales in that area only have a few animals left now, with no reproductive females. They are doomed for extinction. This is a real possibility for our whales if Kinder Morgan goes through. It’s not worth the risk!
There’s also the salmon streams they are destroying while building this pipeline, the leaks from the pipeline and the increased noise from the 7X increase in tanker traffic. I understand fossil fuels are a huge part of our world, but if we want to be a progressive country we should be heavily focused on renewable energy and not increasing our exports of oil.
B: You’ve gained quite a following on Instagram with your spectacular photographs of orca whales. How has this had an impact for you?
G: Instagram has been a great platform to share information about what is going on out here. It’s also a great place for me to vent. It actually really makes me feel hopeful when you see how many people are engaged in this fight and willing to help. Most of the time, it’s not that people don’t care, they just don’t know.
B: For people who care about orcas in the Salish Sea, what would you ask them to do?
G: I encourage them to make small changes in their lives: Reduce your waste (especially plastic), eat sustainably, use responsible cleaning products, support sustainable fisheries or stop eating meat altogether. Politically, vote for your local representatives that have environmental conservation in mind. Write letters to Canada’s fisheries minister letting him know you don’t agree with the government’s actions and you want to see more fish in the water. Get rid of fish farms. Put a moratorium on Chinook salmon fishing.
B: Thanks for your time, Gary, and for your dedication to the whales.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
Feature image by Gary Sutton.
December 1, 2017
One year ago, we celebrated a major victory as Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline was quashed permanently with the help of First Nations’ legal challenges.
The same day, however, Prime Minister Trudeau made British Columbia’s coast and waterways a sacrifice zone by approving Kinder Morgan’s tar sands pipeline and tankers proposal.
When the news broke of this betrayal, thousands of us vowed to stop this project and stand up for an oil-free coast—in the courts, at the polls and in the streets.
Since then, what’s changed?
The number of BC’s last endangered southern resident orca whales has dropped to 76—an alarming situation that makes vast increases in tanker traffic simply unthinkable as it could mean extinction for these whales.
A new government has been elected in BC on a promise to use all the tools in its toolbox to stop Kinder Morgan. It’s up to us to make sure they follow through on this commitment.
For its part, Kinder Morgan has been busy setting up illegal anti-spawning mats in rivers to deter wild salmon. They’ve built massive industrial strength razor wire fences around construction activities at their oil tanker terminal in Burnaby. And they are bullying Burnaby and other municipalities to speed up their permitting process. Their message is clear: this Texas-based corporation has no respect for the law or our democracy.
Several groups have taken direct action on the ground, including Indigenous peoples on the front lines of resistance. In the path of the pipeline, the Secwepemc tiny house warriors are building tiny homes and the Kwantlen are gearing up to build a healing lodge.
And of course—First Nations have launched legal challenges to stop this pipeline and defend their lands and waters. In October, the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish, Coldwater and Stk‘emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nations brought their cases to court (learn more about these cases on WCEL’s blog).
A decision will come sometime next spring and we are hopeful the pipeline’s approval will be quashed. With Kinder Morgan’s completion date now pushed back by nine months, there is still time to stop this pipeline.
Our Pull Together initiative has raised over $618,000 to help fund these legal costs for the nations in court! We are so close to hitting out goal of $625,000, thanks to unprecedented solidarity between Indigenous leaders and thousands of Pull Together allies like you, and alongside our partners at RAVEN Trust and Force of Nature.
Want to get involved? Want to be inspired by stories of resistance and reconciliation? Get connected on our Pull Together website.
It was Indigenous-led legal challenges that brought an end to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal. First Nations can stop Kinder Morgan in the courts. If you haven’t yet, please join our growing movement of resistance and solidarity with First Nations and Pull Together with us to cross the finish line.
By stopping Kinder Morgan, we can build the type of future we want in British Columbia—one that moves toward renewable, clean energy and green jobs. One that truly respects Indigenous title and rights. And one in which our communities and creatures are safe from the threat of oil spills.