June 8, 2012
SMITHERS, BC, Jun 8, 2012/ Troy Media/ – The other morning I awoke to hear Jesse Brillon recount his amazing story about surviving 18 hours in an inflatable lifeboat and 10-days on Banks Island in the middle of Hecate Strait with his two fishing mates. Their boat had sunk so quickly that they barely enough time to grab a tarp and unhook a little inflatable raft.
Tides and wind eventually took them to ‘Terror Point’ on Banks Island. They were supposed to be prawn fishing for two weeks, so they knew no one would be looking for them. But, as Jesse said, ‘we’re Haida, we weren’t worried about food. We know how to live off the land and sea.’ In the end, a salvage junk collector found the Haida crew and rescued them on his sailboat.
This story captures so much about our remarkable Pacific Northwest coast – the resilience of residents; the knowledge and bounty of seafoods; the debris from storms before; and the incredible power of Hecate Strait.
Terror Point. Calamity Bay. Grief Point. Only a few of the aptly-named points that Enbridge’s oil supertankers would have to cross in these seas.
It’s almost comical to think that Enbridge is trying to subdue British Columbians with multi-million dollar ad campaigns that dare say our coast will be safer with oil supertankers travelling through these same waters. Safer to introduce 225 to 400 oil tankers a year in waters that currently have no oil tankers. Safer to have supertankers loaded with oil sands (bitumen) carrying almost eight times more oil than the Exxon Valdez spilled. Safer to have supertankers pass the sunken Queen of the North and navigate ninety degree turns through narrow, rocky routes to the stormy Hecate Strait.
Apparently Enbridge and most of us who have been on these seas, or heard stories such as Jesse’s, have different notions of safety.
In fact, I would like to invite Enbridge Executives and the Ministers in the Harper government to spend 10-days at Terror Point with no fire or packaged food on the stormy coast and see if their perspectives and priorities change.
Would Enbridge finally realize their route is fatally flawed? Would they finally respect First Nations rights and title, and their cultures reliant on healthy seas? Would it dawn on them that the tanker crew would likely abandon ship as it was getting torn apart in a storm? Would they realize that the power of the coast is far stronger than the power from the oil sands?
Would the Harper government stop the closure of BC’s oil spill response office and increase funding to the coast guard? Rethink shutting down the entire Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) contaminants program nationally and regionally (to know just how many toxins those sea urchins and seaweed contained if they had figured out they were edible)? Stop the gutting of the Fisheries Act to protect our coasts, watersheds and fish for future generations? And finally agree that intruding oil tankers to these waters is nothing short of insane?
On World Oceans Day, we should be celebrating the three coasts that surround Canada. But it’s hard to celebrate when so much is at stake. We can’t let our Federal Government ride the wave of their massive omnibus Bill C-38 that not only cuts environmental protections for our oceans and marine life, but also facilitates projects like Enbridge’s proposal at all costs.
British Columbia’s coast is teeming with life – spirit bears feast on salmon as orca, humpback and fin whales swim by. With all five species of wild salmon and an abundance of seafoods, we have much to appreciate and celebrate on BC’s northwest coast. We also have much to respect – the storm warnings and power of our coast are extreme, including boasting the highest recorded wave in history.
We’re being asked by Enbridge and the Harper government to join them on their own Titanic. Fortunately interest in joining them aboard is staying below 40 per cent, and there’s a mutiny on the horizon.
Nikki Skuce is Senior Energy Campaigner with ForestEthics Advocacy in Smithers, BC.
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