Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and his wife Joan speak during the 'People's Summit' against the Enbridge pipeline proposal at Kelowna's First United Church Saturday night.

Kelowna ‘People’s Summit’ to oppose pipeline draws a crowd

Close to 400 people turn out to hear two politicians, two First Nations' leaders and a filmmaker speak out against Enbridge pipeline.

Local opponents to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline came out in force Saturday night, filling a local church to hear five prominent speakers denounce the project, as well as blast the federal and provincial governments for they have handled the issue.

About 400 people packed into First United Church to hear Green Party leader and Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May, provincial NDP environment critic and Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming, filmmaker and environmental journalist Damien Gillis and Grand Chief Stewart Philip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and his wife, aboriginal activist Joan Phillip speak.

While Stewart Phillip conceded he was “singing to the choir” at the meeting with his opposition to the proposed pipeline, he said it’s an issue that has joined both aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in the fight to “protect Mother Earth.”

“This is a tipping point,” said Phillip. “We are at a very critical point in human history.”

He said the health and well-being of the planet is at stake.

But he added the concern is not just about the proposed Enbridge pipeline. He said another proposal, by Kinder Morgan to twin its Trans Mountain oil pipeline from  Edmonton and Burnaby, could be the “plan B” if Enbridge’s proposal fails.

Both May and Fleming, pointed the finger of blame at Prime Minister Stephen Harper, saying his government wants to push the Enbridge proposal through for economic reasons, despite the fact it is not good for the environment.

And Fleming said the provincial Liberal government has done little to stop that.

He noted that Premier Christy Clark’s predecessor Gordon Campbell signed a deal with Ottawa in 2010 that gave the federal government the final say on the pipeline.

Clark’s government has said it wants a bigger share of the royalties because of the risk B.C. is taking with the pipeline. Since making that demand, the B.C. government has also said it wants a series of environmental protection benchmarks met before it will support the proposal.

Fleming is opposed to the pipeline and an NDP government would give notice to end that deal Campbell signed so the final decision would rest in Victoria’s hands, not Ottawa’s.

He said Canada needs a national energy policy so issues like this do not threaten the environment.

According to Fleming, seven in 10 British Columbians now oppose the Enbridge pipeline plan.

The 1,177 kilometre pipeline would take diluted bitumen—a viscous form of petroleum—west from the oil sands of Northern Alberta to Kitimat, where it would be loaded on to tanker ships and sent to Asian markets. A total of 657 kilometres of the pipeline would stretch across northern B.C.

May, who made history in 2011 when she was elected as the first Green Party MP in Canada, said the federal Conservatives have “skewed” our economy by putting all the countries resources into fossil fuel expansion.

She said the couuntry is missing out on billions of dollars that could be achieved through what she called “clean tech.”

“We need to have a discussion on our energy policies,” she said.

As for Enbridge proposal, she said Ottawa has ignored the constitutionally entrenched right of First Nations to be consulted about the project.

“I think that’s pretty fundamental,” said May.

The audience who showed up for the meeting— hosted by the local chapter of the Council of Canadians and First United Church—were fully in support of all the points made by the speakers and gave them a standing ovation at the end.