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COMMENTARY · 27th May 2010
Walter McFarlane
It’s amazing how often we throw around slogans and cliché phrases to intimidate people who do not share the same opinion. It is a way to play on individual insecurities to stifle honest and open debate. In regards to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal, history is once again repeating itself.

The scene is Kitimat. 33 years ago. The Mayor at the time is George Thom. The North Coast Municipal Association (NCMA) is meeting on board the Alaskan Cruise Ship, Princess Patricia. The price tag on the event is $90,000. $25,000 of that was provided by The Kitimat Pipeline Project.

On May 13th, the convention, 80 delegates and 135 other passengers including oil executives, reaches the mouth of the Douglas Channel where they are met by 25-30 boats protesting the concept of super tankers carrying oil through the Douglas Channel.

Rex Weyler in his article: “Ambush in the Douglas Channel” writes: “In the spring of 1977 the fledgling Greenpeace Foundation in Vancouver, BC, announced that it would challenge a proposed supertanker route along the coast of BC. We had forged a strong alliance with fishermen, native groups, the United Church, and rural environmentalists, dedicated to stopping the supertanker route up the twisting, 100-mile inlet of Douglas Channel into the coastal town of Kitimat.”

What happened next, according to Weyler, is undisputed history. Chief Clifton of Hartley Bay, representing the Gitga'at, Haisla and Tsimshian , radios the captain of the Princess Patricia asking him to stop so they could meet with the delegations about the super tanker route. The returned answer was an increase in speed to 15 knots.

One boat pulled in front of the ship and radioed the captain declaring itself dead in the water. Another pulled ahead of the vessel riding along side its bow. As the cruise ship surged forward, the first boat abandoned its position and pulled out of the way.

“Mel, however, maintained his Zodiac’s position at the bow, while Marining screamed up to the mayors and media.” wrote Weyler “Oliver Clifton and his friends zipped back and forth in front of the bow of the steaming cruise ship. Waves pounded the Greenpeace Zodiac until the wooden floorboards cavitated, the bow of the cruise ship slashed down over the top of Marining and Gregory, and the two protestors disappeared under the steaming ship,”

Weylers writes these two people manage to survive being washed under the Princess Patricia and escaped with only a bruised hand.

On board was Howard T. Mitchell, editor and owner of the Kitimat Northern Sentinal. In the May 19th edition he published: ‘Not surprisingly, midway through the efforts to arrive at a consensus on goals and actions for the north, there was a strong sense of uncertainty hanging over proceedings. It was at this point that the Greenpeace Meander came into sight on schedule at Bella Bella and provided TV cameramen and passengers with an opportunity to grind and click film portraying warning and dissent.”

“It was a scene that illustrated the stage the conference program had reached and the contradictions of debate, Here was a heavy displacement cruiser with two scanty triangles of canvas up, valuable only as stabilizing sails, pacing along beside the Pat, it’s diesels consuming Alberta oil, to be no longer available to British Columbia in a fast developing shortage. And the young people, standing on deck in the May sunlight, were testifying earnestly that they wanted no tankers to bring utterly essential oil to B.C. To be at all consistent they should have been rowing or depending on those sails alone for power.”

David Miller, also from the Sentinel wrote: “The two occupants of one of these small vessels, a Zodiac, eventually ended up in the water. Passengers on board the Princess Patricia said the Zodiac came so close to bow that they could not see it even when they leaned over the railing.” has a timeline of oil activity in waters of British Columbia. According to their timeline, also on the Princess Patricia was a Queen Charlotte Regional District Director who issued a hand written press release: “The North Coast Municipal Association has injured its credibility by permitting the host City of Kitimat to accept on its behalf what can only be called a $25,000 bribe from the consortium of American-controlled companies making up the Kitimat Pipe Ltd.”

On June 2nd of 1977, Mitchell reported the Kitimat Pipeline Ltd had changed directions by asking the National Energy Board to put a hold on its application. The decision was to move the terminal from Kitimat to Cherry Point Washington.

33 years later, the scene is Kitimat, the Mayor is Joanne Monahan. A strong alliance is forged between fishermen, native groups, scientists and environmentalists, dedicated to stopping the supertanker route up the twisting, 100-mile inlet of Douglas Channel into the coastal town of Kitimat. At the shores of Douglas Channel in the Haisla First Nation Village of Kitamaat they gather again on May 29th, 2010 in an event labelled ‘Solidarity Gathering of Nations.”

The local papers publish editorials and repeat statements about the dire need for the pipeline to create jobs and promote economic activity. Those protesting are accused of not living up to their convictions much like Mitchell wrote 33 years ago to the day, ‘they should have been rowing or depending on those sails alone for power.’
Comment by Moe Naguib on 5th May 2011
The aforementioned events may foreshadow the
Federal Conservative and Provincial Liberal Enbridge puppets driving their juggernaut steamroller over all current protests. Mr Harper and Ms. Clark with their two majorities are in a position to inflict the will of Enbridge on the citizens of BC and Canada.