HUNDREDS of people gathered in George Little Park in downtown Terrace this afternoon with groups singing, dancing and voicing their opposition to Enbridge’s planned $6.5 billion Northern Gateway oil pipeline.
Organized by a coalition of environmental and First Nations groups, the demonstration, which was followed by a march through downtown Terrace, comes one day before a federal panel begins final hearings into the plan to pipe Alberta oil to a marine export terminal at Kitimat.
Blue water drops made out of felt, inspired by the red squares of the Quebec student movement which protested increaed tuition fees, were handed out to demonstrators at the park.
Art Sterritt, executive director of the Coastal First Nations organization, spoke of its opposition to the pipeline saying, “Coastal First Nations will lay down their lives to stop Enbridge.”
Tahltan Central Council president Annita McPhee also spoke in opposition.
She brought her young daughter, Teowa Sparrow to the demonstration who proudly said, “At two o’clock me and mom have to go save the fish.”
“I’m representing my grandkids,” Gerald Amos, chair of Friends of Wild Salmon explained.
Much of the crowd comprised of families with kids who worried about what a potential oil spill could mean to the region.
Terrace resident Karen Carter, who brought her two young boys Seth and Ben said, “It’s important to teach kids to be stewards of the environment.”
Martha Murray of Kitimat said “It’s [the region] pristine, and we start doing this stuff it’s all going to change…don’t want another [Exxon] Valdez.”
Joe Daniels originally from Toronto and current representative of the Northwest Community College student union, explained his opposition, “I find it to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. Whatever benefit [of the pipeline] is not worth the risk.”
Buses both large and small began arriving in the city yesterday.
Other speakers at the event included Skeena – Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen, Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin and North Coast NDP MLA Jennifer Rice.
The hearings lead off tomorrow morning at the Best Western Terrace Inn with a two-hour summary by Enbridge of its plan and are followed by 35 other presentations, enough to take the hearings into at least next week.
The three-person panel, formally called the Joint Review Panel, will retire to write its report following the conclusion of the hearings here.
It’s due to submit its final report to the federal cabinet by year’s end after which the cabinet will make the final decision as to the fate of the pipeline plan.
The Northern Gateway hearings have so far taken nearly a year and half, beginning in Kitimat in January 2012 and most recently in Prince Rupert where the technical aspects of the Northern Gateway plan were examined.