Tag Archives: Oil Sands

New War In The Woods?

Camp 'checkpoint' in the Bulkley Valley; Freda Huson

Camp ‘checkpoint’ in the Bulkley Valley; Freda Huson

An escalating conflict in traditional wilderness territory is unfolding in near real time through YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, culminating this week in a July 30 rally in downtown Vancouver.

The powder keg that is the Unist’ot’en camp in the Bulkley Valley of B.C.’s Central Interior is the top issue behind a rally tonight (July 30) CBC Plaza, 700 Hamilton St., 5:30-7:30 p.m.

The event, organized by Rising Tide, will be in support for Unist’ot’en camp’s continued effort to turn away RCMP, security contractors and pipeline employees attempting to enter unceded territory, access necessary to connect oil to tankers on the West Coast near Prince Rupert.

“This event hopes to confront the police violence brought to people all over the world. This is not an isolated issue,” a press release from the Unist’ot’en camp states. “Join us to hear from those who have been to the camp and learn about how powerful life on the land has been.”

Freda Huson, spokesperson for the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, has maintained a checkpoint at the bridge into her territory for the last six years.

“I am not demonstrating. I am not protesting,” she is quoted as saying in the Rising Tide call to action. “I am occupying our traditional homelands.”

‘Death Warrant To Our Environment And People’: Native Americans Say No To KXL

Image from Facebook (No to KXL rally)

Image from Facebook (No to KXL rally)


Dozens of Native Americans have descended on Washington DC on the first weekend of 2015 to stage a protest in front of the White House against the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, which they call a disastrous “death warrant” to the environment and people.

The “No to KXL rally”, organized by Native American leaders and environmental groups, paraded in the Lafayette Square against the pipeline that would channel oil from the Canadian tar sands through to the US to refineries in Texas.

“Keystone XL Pipeline is not in the national interest, has the potential to contaminate the nation’s largest freshwater aquifer, and puts the lives of all people who live along its path in serious danger,” Native Americans said in a statement.

The movement fears that the Republican dominated Congress, which reconvened on Saturday, will rapidly bring KXL bill up for a vote and send it to the president’s desk for approval.

However, many still question whether the president will veto the bill, sending it back to the Senate to get 2/3 approval, or 67 votes to overcome that barrier.

Next week, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission is expected to address the possible re-approval of the portion of the Keystone XL pipeline that would run through the state, Associated Press reports. The opponents of the project are planning protests in three SD cities – in Rapid City and Sioux Falls on Monday and in Pierre on Tuesday.

The project would transport 830,000 barrels of oil per day from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada down to Nebraska. Over the last decade, oil companies have started extracting oil from Alberta’s tar sands, but the gooey mix of sand, clay and oil is difficult to ship to refineries to turn it into usable fuel. The pipeline would help by offering a connection to refineries in Texas. Labor unions support the project because it would bring 42,000 jobs over its two-year construction period, with just 35 permanent jobs.

Environmental groups meanwhile say producing oil from Canada’s tar sands is energy-intensive and will add 17 percent more carbon dioxide than regular oil production over the project’s life-cycle, exacerbating global warming. Opponents are also concerned that the pipeline will put nearby communities at risk of oil spills and contaminations of water supplies.

Image from Facebook (No to KXL rally)

Image from Facebook (No to KXL rally)

READ MORE: Passing Keystone pipeline ‘an act of war,’ Sioux tribe president tells RT (VIDEO)

READ MORE: Keystone XL pipeline does not benefit Americans – Obama

Rueben George and the arrest of his mother ‘Amy George’ on Burnaby Mountain

Reuben George Amy George Grand Chief Stewart Phillip -- Burnaby Mountain

Reuben George, Amy George and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip — Burnaby Mountain

By Black Powder | Red Power Media

On Thursday, Rueben George, watched over Amy George, as her and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, along with other indigenous leaders were arrested for crossing the police line at the lower Kinder Morgan drilling site on Burnaby mountain.

Amy George is a 71-year-old Tsleil-Waututh elder, a pipe carrier, a sundancer and a spirit dancer. She is also the daughter of Chief Dan George, and the mother of Rueben George, a Sundance Chief, and longtime critic of the Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion proposal.

Elder Amy George crosses the police line into the police-protected Kinder Morgan work site. Photos by Mychaylo Prystupa.

Elder Amy George crosses the police line into the police-protected Kinder Morgan work site. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

Prior to the arrests, a host of First Nation leaders made speeches denouncing the Albertan oil industry and its impacts on people living downstream of the oil sands.

“Warrior up!” people shouted,  as Amy George, denounced the environmental and health damage caused by oil companies in Alberta’s oil sands.

“I’m a warrior, and I will fight for this land,” she said, breaking into tears as she expressed the sorrow she felt as she saw the health effects of the oil sands on northern Alberta First Nations and vowed not to allow the same happen to her grandchildren.

After helping his mother, cross the police line, proud son Rueben George led a procession of family members and supporters through the forest trails, down to the site where she would eventually appear for police processing.

George and others gathered on Ridgeview Drive, a street in a local Burnaby neighbourhood where police vans had parked, ready to receive the arrestees.

Rueben George and Melina Laboucan-Massimo of Greenpeace Canada awaiting Amy George on Ridgeview Drive. Photo by Peter Morelli.

Rueben George and Melina Laboucan-Massimo of Greenpeace Canada awaiting Amy George on Ridgeview Drive. Photo by Peter Morelli.

George told the Vancouver Observer that he was worried about is mother “because she’s in her 70s” and “has arthritis.”

“But she’s a warrior” he continued, “She’s the one that said ‘Warrior Up.’ But I’m still worried, she’s still my mother.”

Rueben George speaks with the RCMP at a police line on Burnaby Mountain, as mother Amy George looks on.

Rueben George speaks with the RCMP at a police line on Burnaby Mountain, as mother Amy George looks on.

When asked to comment on the day’s events, he spoke about his mother’s example, and the leadership of other First Nations elders, such as Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, who was also taken into custody by RCMP further up the hill.

“My mom, first of all, is amazing. What I’ve been taught is to have an intimate connection to the lands and to the waters and my mom she stood up and she expressed what you should do when the things that you love are threatened, and she got arrested with Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, too, who is also an uncle of mine.”

“It is so touching and beautiful to see our elders leading the way to make sure that we all have a better future.”

“I’m really touched. It’s really emotional. The actions of what they’re doing is not just for us as Tsleil-Waututh people or the First Nations of British Columbia, it’s for everybody.

When Amy George finally appeared from out of the forest in the company of Grand Chief Phillip, she was escorted by RCMP and supporters to a waiting ambulance.

Rueben George stood near the entrance to the ambulance, waiting for his mother to emerge.

Once the paramedics had finished checking over Amy George, she exited the ambulance and greeted her anxious son, who was pleased that his mother’s condition was stable.

Amy George emerging from the ambulance. Photo by Peter Morelli.

Amy George emerging from the ambulance. Photo by Peter Morelli.

Both Amy George and Grand Chief Phillip were soon inside a police van and were driven back up to the top of Burnaby Mountain and the main protest site on Centennial Drive.

Neither of the two First Nations elders were charged by the RCMP in keeping with the discretion the police have shown in releasing elders and seniors without charge, and also in keeping with Justice Austin Cullen’s announcement that all charges of civil contempt for protesters arrested so far on Burnaby Mountain would be thrown out.

Rueben and Ta'ah Amy George. Photo by Peter Morelli.

Rueben and Ta’ah Amy George. Photo by Peter Morelli.

Why First Nations Are Stopping Enbridge’s Tar Sands Pipeline

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August,1st, 2014, By Elizabeth Douglass

British Columbia’s First Nations have fought the proposed Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline that would cross their land for years, and they have no intention of letting up just because the federal government recently approved it. They’ve ignored the wishes of Canadian Prime Minister Harper, shrugged off oil industry promises of local jobs, and rejected offers of part ownership in what could be a lucrative and long-lived project.

In short, they’ve been impervious to the kinds of political pressure and financial enticements that routinely succeed in smoothing the way for oil-related projects in the United States. How come?

A big part of the defiance comes from the Coastal First Nations, an alliance of aboriginal groups in British Columbia that has no interest in allowing diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands to pass through their territories or get shipped through their fishing grounds. The environment is too important to their culture, to their economy and to a succession of generations to come.

And because most First Nations in British Columbia never signed treaties ceding their lands or development rights to the Canadian government, they have been challenging projects in court—and winning. The latest and most significant court victory came in June, when the Canadian Supreme Court upheld aboriginal land titles and rights, and suggested that in places where land claims are not subject to treaties, First Nations may have de facto veto rights over projects on their territorial lands.

Art Sterrit (on right) on a fact-findingvisit to Florida after BP’s Gulf spill. “That was the biggest oil spill cleanup in history, and they couldn’t clean it up. That was the death knell for the Northern Gateway for us.”
Art Sterrit (on right) on a fact-findingvisit to Florida after BP’s Gulf spill. “That was the biggest oil spill cleanup in history, and they couldn’t clean it up. That was the death knell for the Northern Gateway for us.”

Art Sterritt, executive director of the Coastal First Nations, has been a key player in the Northern Gateway saga. At 66, he’s a goldsmith, sculptor and carver of totem poles and masks. But in serving on a tribal council, then becoming a treaty negotiator, and then joining the Coastal First Nations, Sterritt is following a family history of civic duty and activism. His dad, who turns 101 in early August, is a chief. He’s also trying to make the world a better place for his 18 grandchildren.

In an interview with InsideClimate News, Sterritt elaborated on what’s driving the First Nations’ opposition to the Northern Gateway and why they can’t be won over. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

ICN: What is the Coastal First Nations and why was it formed?

Sterritt: We’re an association of First Nations. We came together because of what the forest industry was doing. We were acknowledged by the provincial B.C. government as being the government in the region. Now we have ecosystem-based management practices so that you don’t log at a rate that will wipe out the forest.

All of our communities have a land use plan. We have a marine use plan. What that means is that we’re serious about our economy. We want to make sure that it’s self-sufficient based on what’s there, and that it doesn’t harm the environment—so it lasts forever.

ICN: Why is protecting the environment so important for Coastal First Nations?

Sterritt: The area that we live in represents 25 percent of the coastal temperate rainforest left on the planet. So this is a very, very significant area. It’s an amazingly beautiful area. Tourism is a huge, huge draw. So our communities are moving themselves toward renewable industries—industries that don’t destroy the environment. We have carbon offsets that we get out of the forest. As we protect the forest, there’s the ability to sequester carbon, which helps with the environment, and in return for that, there’s revenue coming in.

ICN: How did Alberta’s tar sands and the Northern Gateway project come into play?

Sterritt: We have invested, over the last 15 years, in excess of $400 million in this exercise [of planning for a sustainable economy]. We depend on the natural environment for the jobs that we have, and there’s over 30,000 jobs on the coast of B.C. Right in the middle of all this arrives Northern Gateway, a project which actually jeopardizes everything. All those things we’re doing, if you think about it, one oil spill, and all of those are over.

ICN: You don’t think the pipeline and oil industry would protect your environment?

Sterritt: You’re talking about an industry that doesn’t have a culture of cleaning up their mess. Their culture is in covering up their mess with dispersants. We’re still looking at what Enbridge did in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. They haven’t cleaned that up yet. They cleaned up 10-15 percent of the oil [from the Exxon Valdez] in Alaska. In the Gulf of Mexico, [BP] cleaned up something like six percent. They don’t have the technology to clean up a spill in the ocean. It doesn’t exist.


ICN: What about the promise of jobs and the prospect of an equity interest in the Northern Gateway project?

Sterritt: We’re not a bunch of poverty stricken, illiterate people. This is a highly developed society—a culture that’s sophisticated in terms of respecting the environment, recognizing what you need to do in order to maintain it, and with a sophisticated art form and languages and everything else. That’s what they didn’t realize. They just figured, oh we’ll flash a couple jobs and a couple bucks under their nose, and they’ll just jump up and down. When you have all that, and somebody comes along and offers you a few jobs, it’s just a joke. You’ll jeopardize more jobs than you’re creating.

ICN: What does it mean to have the Supreme Court of Canada recently uphold aboriginal territorial rights?

Sterritt: It’s been groundbreaking. What that means is that you can’t just ride roughshod over First Nations. They do have rights. They do have title. And the title and rights are enshrined in the Constitution of Canada. Over the last 30 or 40 years, there have been over 200 court cases that First Nations have won where it lays out their right to fish, their right to hunt, their right to an economy, their right to their culture and their societies.

ICN: What is the Coastal First Nations’ position on other kinds of economic development?

Sterritt: We’re not against development. We are involved in industries that don’t have the potential to wipe us out. For First Nations, the first thing they deal with is the environment. If they look at a project and see that the project is going to do irreparable harm to the place they’ve lived in for tens of thousands of years, it’s not going to happen. If a project comes along that is not going to destroy what we already have, you’ve got a pretty good chance of the project moving ahead.

ICN: And you include liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects among those that could move ahead? 

Sterritt: We are actively involved in helping develop a responsible natural gas industry. Those ships are big, and they would disrupt some of our harvesting and fishing and stuff, so we’re working together to make sure that’s done properly. Are you emitting too much carbon into the atmosphere? Are you contaminating the local airsheds where our people live? If there are impacts, they have to be mitigated. That’s a pretty good formula for starting a conversation.

ICN: I heard that you went on a fact-finding trip to Louisiana and several other oil states along the Gulf of Mexico in 2011 after the BP Spill. What was the purpose?

Sterritt: We were in the middle of making a decision on whether or not we could support the Northern Gateway project. We had seen that the industry couldn’t clean up Alaska, and we figured if anyone could [clean up an ocean oil spill], we would see it there. That was the biggest oil spill cleanup in history, and they couldn’t clean it up. That was the death knell for the Northern Gateway for us.

ICN: You talk about an “oil culture” on the U.S. Gulf Coast and elsewhere. What does that mean?

Sterritt: That’s the culture that the oil industry is trying to introduce us to. It’s one that tries to create dependency from people that live in the region, and once they’ve created that dependency, they can do whatever they want.

If you look at those oil states, that’s what they’ve done. Some people, even some First Nations people, seem to think that somehow we have to become part of this oil culture. It’s not true. We don’t need it. We have a really amazing culture. We don’t depend on anybody but our environment. That’s what it’s about for First Nations.

Alberta is heading down that road, and they don’t have a plan. A group like Coastal First Nations—well, we have a plan. Our plan doesn’t include any industry that jeopardizes the plan.