The World Day of Action was a blustery and snowy affair in the Okanagan where 200 people met in front of the Sandman Hotel on Enterprise Way as a review panel for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline staged hearings inside.
For most of Canada, the day was about the Idle No More movement, with a large gathering on Parliament Hill and several flash mob circle dances staged in communities from Winnipeg to Ottawa to attract attention to the degradation of First Nation’s rights under the new Bill 45.
There was a flash mob dance at the Sandman Hotel in Kelowna as well, though Idle No More protesters were only one of many interest groups gathered to try and stop the Enbridge pipeline project.
“People were really enthusiastic about coming to this event today to show their opposition to the pipeline and their support for the Idle No More movement,” said David Reid, director of the West Kootenay Eco Society.
The group booked a bus and brought 35 people from Nelson to Christina Lake to Trail out to the event. Four members were scheduled to present to the panel and the rest were there to draw attention to the cause.
Reid said he believes the movement against the pipeline is about the future of the nation’s economy. His concerns run much deeper than potential pipeline leaks or tanker spills.
“The questions is: What is the purpose of our economy? Is it to maximize profit or is it to create a long-term sustainable society that serves everyone and protects our environment,” he said.”This pipeline doesn’t do that. It accomplishes short-term gain for long-term pain.”
Idle No More started in reaction to Bill 45, new legislation that the movement claims strips environmental responsibilities from government regulations, allowing companies like Enbridge off the hook for polluting the waterways it traverses.
Those opposed to the pipeline and those supporting Idle No More movement, thus share a symbiotic relationship evident in the presence of First Nations communities represented in the hotel parking lot Monday.
“I’m here to protect the land and the water for future generations. I have three small children and I want there to be a future for them and my grandkids,” said Stephanie Mason, an adopted Okanagan woman originally from the Tsleil-waututh Nation in North Vancouver.
Tom Nixon was also in attendance and has spent much of the last year working on the fight against the Enbridge line, organizing a caravan last summer to support the First Nations communities affected.
“The non-First Peoples don’t understand,” he said. “It’s not just about what happens if the pipeline bursts. It’s the pipeline itself is going to ruin their land.”
The caravan lasted 10 days and covered the areas the pipeline would cut through from Prince George to Smithers, Burns Lake to Hazelton and Terrace.
“It was a soul changer for me. I can’t put it into words,” said Nixon.
Plenty of people in Kelowna could find words for their feelings on the issue with some 31 signing up to speak to the review panel and 200 braved the winter conditions to raise a voice in the parking lot.