Protesters greet Enbridge luncheon

Women protest Enbridge-sponsored luncheon at the Northwest Community College longhouse

Nearly 30 women protested a June 19  Enbridge-sponsored luncheon attended by other women, saying it was an attempt to gain favour for the company’s Northern Gateway Pipeline plan.

The event called on women to have a “heart to heart” with Enbridge officials over the community’s future.

But protest organizers say the agenda was not about having women discuss the future but to organize support for Enbridge.

Twenty women attended the event held inside Northwest Community College’s longhouse where lunch was served and paid for by Enbridge and female Enbridge employees were in attendance.

Nearly 30 women stood outside, wearing anti-Enbridge-themed attire.

Some women who had planned to attend turned away at the sight of the protesters, said one event organizer and Enbridge employee Lucy Praught.

“Cross sections of leaders from education and the business community to concerned and curious mothers were present in the room,” said Praught, adding, “it would have been great for more concerned women to join us at the table and to share their vision for the community in a way that others could be engaged and listen to understand all sides of the story.”

But protesters disputed the intent of the luncheon. “We’re not interested in breaking bread with them,” said one protest organizer, Lori Merrill, about Enbridge officials in attendance. “We were insulted that they would come try to buy us lunch.”

According to Merrill, conversations and concerns about the pipeline have happened already and that some women, herself included, are already opposed to the Northern Gateway plan.

Having lunch and talking will not sway opinions on either side, she said.

“I was proud to stand with Terrace women [last week] and say no “thank you,” Merrill said.

Another protester, Julia Hill, said opposition was aimed at the event, not the women who were inside the longhouse.

“Let’s leave the people out of it … the moment we bring people into it is the moment we divide people,” said Hill. “It’s about the issue.”

The issue to Hill is the possibility of an oil-carrying pipeline being built through the northern wilderness and the possibility that a leak or spill will cause environmental damage.

“There is nothing they can say to us that will change our minds,” she said. “There is nothing we can say to them that can change theirs. The conversation is over.”

That wasn’t the case for some of the women who did have lunch. Lael McKeown said she wanted to see more events such as the luncheon.“I’d really like the opportunity in Terrace to hear a wider discussion,” said McKeown after the event.

She  added that there is still much she would like to learn about Enbridge and its pipelines and that there has been little discussion of such in Terrace in a broad format.

She said the luncheon was a unique opportunity to speak with other women in business about things like work-life balance.

With regards to female Enbridge officials being present and the company sponsoring the event, she added, “It didn’t really bother me at all. There are some intelligent and articulate women for Enbridge and they bring some perspective on a global scale and it was nice to hear their stories.”

McKeown said while she may have a different opinion than the protesters, it doesn’t affect her perception of the women who stood outside.

“I want to make it clear, a number of women who I have a great deal of respect for stood outside. I hope that in the future we can have dialogue also.”

She  added that there is still much she would like to learn about Enbridge and its pipelines and that there has been little discussion of such in Terrace in a broad format.

She said the luncheon was a unique opportunity to speak with other women in business about things like work-life balance.

With regards to female Enbridge officials being present and the company sponsoring the event, she added, “It didn’t really bother me at all. There are some intelligent and articulate women for Enbridge and they bring some perspective on a global scale and it was nice to hear their stories.”

McKeown said while she may have a different opinion than the protesters, it doesn’t affect her perception of the women who stood outside.

“I want to make it clear, a number of women who I have a great deal of respect for stood outside. I hope that in the future we can have dialogue also.”

“I want to make it clear, a number of women who I have a great deal of respect for stood outside. I hope that in the future we can have dialogue also.”

Francoise Godet, who attended the protest, said she has already registered her opposition to the pipeline.

Colleen Austin, originally invited to take part in a panel at the luncheon, declined the offer.

She thought it was a meeting between women, not a formal question answer session with Enbridge employees.

“I didn’t know that there was going to be  a panel and all about Enbridge until the very last minute… and I was like holy, I am absolutely not in support of the project,” she said. “It came as quite a shock to me.”

 

Meanwhile, NDP MP Nathan Cullen hosted, with several fellow NDP MPs. an anti-Enbrdge Northern Gateway rally in Terrace on June 26. They were also at federal review hearings in Kitimat.

 

 

 

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