This week’s show takes us from the coasts of British Columbia to Japan, then inland to Alberta and back again. The shorelines of British Columbia are the destination point for debris from Japan’s 2011 tsunami, and they are also the destination point for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline project. We hear about a project the Maritime Museum of British Columbia in Victoria has undertaken to collect tsunami debris. We also hear about how LUSH, a cosmetic company, has partnered with the Dogwood Initiative, an advocacy group, to draw attention to how the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline will impact Canadians.
Tsunami Debris Tells a Story
When the 2011 tsunami struck the coast of Japan, many people lost their homes, their belongings, and their lives. Some of those objects, though, are beginning to surface an ocean away. Debris from the tsunami is showing up on North American beaches from Haida Gwaii to Oregon. Victoria’s Maritime Museum of British Columbia has stared a website to let users post photographs of the debris. Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips spoke to the project’s coordinator, Linda Funk.
LUSH – No Tankers Campaign
A few weeks ago, Terra Informa launched our radio documentary on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project. This week, we ask, what does a conversation about the pipeline how to do with a cosmetics company and a campaign? LUSH is a Vancouver-based company that produces natural bath and body products. From May 29 to June 10 it engaged customers in stores across Canada in conversations about the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. The campaign is in partnership with the Dogwood Initiative, a Victoria-based public interest group. Terra Informa correspondent Kathryn Lennon sets out to find out how a business and an advocacy group are working together. She speaks to Emma Gilchrist of the Dogwood Initiative, Brandi Hall of LUSH, and Shannon, a LUSH employee in Edmonton, Alberta.
Sadly, there have been so many oil spills in the recent weeks that we at Terra Informa are considering starting a regular oil spill watch. Many people and communities all across these lands are already on high-alert for oil spills and regularly inform the media of the spills they discover.
Oil Spill Near Red Deer, Alberta
In this week’s oil spill watch, the most recent oil spill that we know of has occurred in the Jackson Creek tributary of the Red Deer River in west-central Alberta in the Treaty 7 territories of the Cree, Stoney, Blackfoot, Blood and Sarcee nations. Approximately 475,000 litres of crude oil have been spilled into Jackson Creek. The oil has also reached the nearby Glennifer Lake and Reservoir that provides drinking water to nearby communities. The company responsible for the ruptured pipeline, Plains Midstream Canada, has responded to news of the leak by shutting down its Rangeland operations. Plains Midstream Canada, a subsidiary of Plains All American Pipeline, was also responsible for a devastating spill in April, 2011.
This spill released 4.5 million litres northeast of the Peace River region in Alberta. A school in the nearby community of Little Buffalo had to close due to reports of people getting headaches, feeling nauseous and smelling a strong petroleum odor. Oil spills into waterways are considered very serious due to the possibility of the oil spill spreading very quickly in the water.
In addition, heavy rainfall and flooding have increased the water levels in the areas where the spill occurred. Since the leak was reported on Thursday by local residents in the area, reports have continued to come in about the smell of the oil and sightings of dead wildlife.
Vancouver Centre for Emergency Oil Spill Response Closed
The federal government is closing a British Columbia-based command centre for emergency oil spills. Located in Vancouver, on Coast Salish Territories, the office is the west coast’s only federal spill response office. As a result of the cost-cutting in the federal budget, Ottawa has said it will shut down the office and centralize operations in Quebec. Environment Minister Peter Kent’s office stated “This will not impact Canadians or the environment” and described the office’s work as not cleaning up spills but rather providing information about environmentally sensitive land and species at risk.
The closing comes at a time when pipeline operator Kinder Morgan is attempting to double its Edmonton-to-Burnaby Trans Mountain pipeline and triple its oil exports to Alberta. This would increase the number of oil tankers to at least 300 a year. Additionally, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal would mean more tanker traffic out of Kitimat, if it goes ahead.
NDP environment critic Rob Fleming stated: “Any reasonable person understands that it makes no sense to even consider major pipelines and oil tankers while closing the Pacific coast’s regional oil-spill response centre,” Fleming said.
Tarsands Counter-Terrorism Unit Created in Alberta
The federal government has set up a counter-terrorism unit in Alberta, to protect the tar sands. This team will be led by the RCMP and will include members of CSIS, the Edmonton and Calgary police forces and federal border patrol. This will double the number of police working on so-called counter-terrorism measures in Alberta.The federal government has recently labeled certain environmental and First Nations groups as “radicals and extremists”.
A representative of the unit, Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud, described the unit’s goal as being to look at any groups that threaten Alberta’s oil sands economy.In addition, Michaud stated that any targeted groups must have violence attached to their activities for the unit to pay attention.However, Michaud also stated, “That being said, in our role of preventing these threats from occurring, it is important that intelligence is collected against the activities of groups before they become violent.”
UN Report Cites Climate Change as Complicating Factor in Human Migration
A UN report has recently been published that predicts an increase in the number of people displaced world-wide.“The State of the World’s Refugees” cites 26 million internally displaced people and an additional 1 million asylum seekers. UN Secretary General described the traditional drivers of displacement such as human rights abuses and conflict, are increasingly complicated now by factors such as food insecurity, water scarcity, climate change, population pressure and a growing number of people uprooted by “natural disasters”. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres says that an international debate has started over how to address the growing numbers of people forced to move due to issues such as climate change. Many people have no legal protection. Guterres stated, “Global displacement is an inherently international problem and as such needs international solutions – and by this I mean mainly political solutions.”
River Run 2012
Our last news story looks at recent actions in the communities of Grassy Narrows and White Dog First Nations. June 5 – 8 marked a week of actions, put on by the Asubpeeschoseewagong Anishinabek (Grassy Narrows First Nation), for the River Run 2012. Over 50 people from the Asubpeeschoseewagong Anishinabek have walked the 2,000 kilometres to Toronto, to raise awareness and demand justice for a series of wrongs still being ignored by the government. In the 1960s, a pulp and paper mill in Dryden, Ontario, dumped over 9,000 kilos of mercury into the Wabigoon River. Residents have received mixed messages about whether or not to eat the fish from the river. Health Canada stopped testing for mercury years ago but Dr. Masazumi Harada, a mercury expert, has reported many continuing mercury-related health concerns for the residents of Grassy Narrows and White River First Nations. Dr. Harada reports that 44% of people born after the mill dumped its waste have been affected by mercury contamination.
Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Forbister also cites clearcutting as contributing to the damages to the local ecosystem. The “Makade Mukwa Walk for Water” is being completed this week by a group of Indigenous Anishnabe youth.
Edmond Jack participated in the walk and said, “We are walking with a group of young people to raise awareness about chemical dumping and mercury poisoning that the government and corporations have caused over the past decades, and to keep that message strong for the next generation, to carry on that message so that people don’t forget that the water is still being poisoned.” According to the River Run 2012 organizers, participants are coming to Toronto to create a “wild river that will flow to Queen’s Park to demand long overdue justice for their people and protection for the waters and forests on which they depend.” 15,000 square feet of blue fabric will represent the river and mimic the way the river should flow in their community. The rally demanded that the Ontario government acknowledge the extent of the mercury poisoning, apologize and clean the river. Additionally, Premier Dalton McGuinty was invited to try some local fish from the Wabigoon river. This rally is just part of the many actions and events that the Grassy Narrows First Nation has done, in order to protect the land and the water and all that depend on them.