After three days of listening and learning from women living in and around the oil sands of Alberta, the delegation moved on to British Columbia to hear from women about the pipeline projects that are planned in and near their communities carrying the highly toxic bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to the coast of British Columbia to be shipped around the world in huge tankers.
First stop, Prince George.
The delegation met with about a dozen women in Prince George from all walks of life—academics, construction workers, mothers, retirees. Their stories brought out the sadness, anger, and fatigue they feel from the continuous struggle for the past 3 years opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline project and trying to preserve their community’s environment.
“I’m sick of spending my passion, creativity, and frankly my love fighting something that we don’t want rather than fighting for something we want,” exclaimed one of the women.
Another told us, “Some of the wisest people who know the land best, their voices have been silenced in our decision making processes. Instead it’s run by an old boys network. It’s been like that ever since I was a kid and made me mad and I’m still mad.”
They have been working together for years raising awareness about the impacts on their community due to climate change, the need to preserve the forests and wildlife, and resisting the Northern Gateway pipeline project as the impacts would be devastating. “Climate change has wreaked havoc in our forest with the pine beetle devastation.” “The warmer climate has allowed the beetle to flourish.” “I’ve seen less and less snow.” “Water levels are rising.” “The mudslides are frightening.” “It’s been devastating for our communities and it can only get worse because we’re not doing anything in Canada to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.” “Working to stop Enbridge is a chance to do something on the ground, where we can really change, stop the project and reduce climate change in Canada.”
Some of the women have experienced violence as a result of being involved and have been assaulted during protests. But that hasn’t stopped them. It has only brought them closer together. Despite all the hardship, they are witnessing changes in their community. The Joint Review Panel hearings have been a powerful opportunity for community building. “At the first hearings, I was amazed at the diversity of people, backgrounds and the themes that ran through it.” “Amazingly well researched, articulate, impassionate talks. They had put in serious time and effort and were drawing upon amazing types of knowledge and experience.” “It was really inspirational.”
The meeting ended with a strong and inspirational tone. “I’m happy, even if I’m sad, because I do believe that this project won’t go forward, I see we’re this vast network of people from various backgrounds. We’re working together so we can have a future we all believe in. Food is at the heart of our communities, it comes from the land and water. I feel scared at times but not alone. We have these incredible relationships, we have a solid network, we care deeply about each other and the place we’re from and we’re going to stop this project.”