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REPORTING · 10th June 2010
Walter McFarlane

Lunch was over and it was time to continue the guest speakers for the Solidarity Gathering of Nations at Kitamaat Village on Saturday May 29th. Stewart Philips was scheduled to speak next on behalf of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and chair of the Okanagan Tribal Council.

“On behalf of both those organizations, I extend our kindly regards, our best wishes and most importantly, our full support and want you to know we stand in solidarity with you. We are proud to stand in solidarity with you and we look forward to the days and weeks and months and years that will follow this gathering because we all know that this struggle we are involved in, with the senior government of the country and currently with the corporate sector struggle, is going to be ongoing as long as we are here and they are here. We have diametrically opposed values and they seek to exploit the earth for profit and corporate gain. They live in a world where the only importance is profit margin and the good will of their shareholders, where as for thousands of years we have carried the sacred responsibilities of protecting and defending our land, water and defending the interests of our people, our families, our children, our culture, our languages and our traditions which go along with us,” said Phillips.

He said he realized from the discussion which has taken place, this is not the first time they have gathered over tanker traffic. He reminded those present how the Union of BC Indian Chiefs were deeply involved in fighting the pipeline project from the 70’s which ended with the moratorium.

He stated the world is witnessing the impact of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He stated they are watching the destruction of the aquatic ecosystem, the impacts which will take years for the environment to recover from, and one of the worst environmental disasters.

“It’s inevitable. It doesn’t matter how good the technology is. We live in a world with dramatic climate change. The weather patterns cannot be relied upon as they have in the past. There are incredibly strong storms and there’s no government or corporations that can guarantee that kind of a disaster along our coast,” said Philips.

He explained the pipeline, 1100 kilometers, would cross so many indigenous homelands along the route they could not consider putting the rivers, forests and wildlife at risk for the profits and shareholders of Enbridge.

He then said the Tar Sands is one of the most toxic developments in North America and was causing grief and death in adjacent indigenous communities. He explained there was an epidemic of cancer among the people and the pipeline, creating an expansion of the tar sands, was unthinkable.

“We’re going to do everything humanly possible when putting our hearts and our minds together, putting our good energy together and fighting this proposal by Enbridge to build a pipeline,” said Philips

He said this would be a long battle. Enbridge has deep pockets, putting $40,000 ads in papers every week. He said the First Nations came together to put an ad in the globe and mail which had a major impact on the corporate community.

“But I believe in today’s world, this fight, this battle, is going to be carried forward through a public relations campaign. [There is no doubt] that Enbridge already has that underway and we have to inform the general public, educate the general public. Use whatever means we have available. These kinds of gatherings are absolutely essential to build momentum and sustain this campaign,” said Philips. “It’s our responsibility to have our voices heard. Victoria and Ottawa are long ways away and yet they have to hear the voices of our elders and hear the voices of our grass roots people and they have to hear the voices of our friends and neighbours.”

Philips stated the BC’s Liberals were displaying a disturbing pattern across the province. He spoke of another project which involves the destruction of a lake to create jobs in a community which is desperate. However, the jobs it will create are few jobs which local people will be qualified to take. The corporation will build an artificial lake to replace the lake their going to destroy. To accomplish this, Canada and BC changed the mining regulations quietly so they could to allow for lakes to be designated as tailings ponds. By doing so, they remove all environmental protection from these lakes.

“The objective is clear, they want to further gut the environmental assessment process so it favours the corporate world to allow for more and more cargo to compete for the same process of corporate greed, shareholder interest and we will be left with the mess, we will be left with the pollution. We will be left with the destructive impacts [that breeds from] the type of unholy alliance that is being built up between Canada, British Columbia and the corporate communities and that is what we have to stand up against. That is what this fight is about. That is why this battle is so important. Because Enbridge is being backed by all of the above. Because all the corporations know how important this pipe is. It’s a life line. We have to gather our people together, we have to gather our sides together, we have to get our friends and neighbours together,” said Philips.

He commented on the beauty of the land here in the Sacred Circle. He stated the mountain pine beetle has damaged the beauty where he is from. He encouraged people to defend it with every ounce of their strength and they will stand by us.