By on October 31, 2012

A group of roughly 45 protestors from across the South Okanagan gathered outside local MLA John Slater’s office in downtown Osoyoos last Wednesday afternoon to protest two major oil pipeline projects that, if approved, would bring huge amounts of bitumen from Alberta to British Columbia. Photo by Keith Lacey.



This province’s pristine wilderness and environment should never be jeopardized so wealthy oil companies based in Alberta can make billions more in profits.
That was the general consensus from a group of more than 40 protestors who gathered in front of Boundary-Similkameen MLA John Slater’s Osoyoos office last Wednesday afternoon.
About four dozen citizens – from Rock Creek to Penticton, including several from Osoyoos – participated in the 45-minute rally during one of more than  60 events planned in communities across the province during a province-wide Defend Our Coast day of action organized to allow British Columbians to voice their opposition to proposed pipelines by oil giants Enbridge and Kinder Morgan.
“What these oil companies are proposing is wrong and what we’re doing here today is right,” said Lee McFadyen, who made the trip from Cawston to participate in the protest along with a group of eight other protestors. “We have to keep on track and remain focused and not allow these pipelines to happen and that’s why we’re here today.”
The Osoyoos protest was organized by Erika Tafel, who lives in Rock Creek. The organization, Defend the Coast, has a website and was looking for “community hosts” to organize regional protests during the day of action and she volunteered to organize the Osoyoos rally because of her strong opposition to both pipeline projects.
Protestors held signs saying “Link Arms and Defend Our Coast” and “No Tankers on B.C.’s Coast” and many questioned Slater about his personal opinion on the proposed pipeline projects.
Slater responded that Terry Lake, the provincial Minister of Environment, is working on preparing information to share with all Liberal MLAs in the next few weeks and he wants to hear what Lake has to say before making any public statement on this issue.
“Once I have all the information, I will make a decision,” said Slater. “I don’t have a position until I have all the information.”
When several protestors cornered Slater and insisted he should support their stance opposing these pipelines, Slater didn’t back down and reiterated he wanted to study the issue more closely and gather more information before issuing any personal statement on this contentious issue.
The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project would transport bitumen from Alberta to northern B.C., where it would then be shipped by oil tankers to Asian markets. The proposed Kinder Morgan project would expand another line on Burrard Inlet.
McFadyen told her captive audience that Enbridge has a “very poor environmental record” and it would only be a matter of time before an environmental catastrophe would take place if the Northern Gateway project is ever approved.
Not only should projects like this never be allowed to happen, but society as a whole must learn to cut back on reliance on fossil fuels and extravagant lifestyles, said McFayden.
The vast majority of B.C. residents are strongly opposed to these pipeline projects and the residents of this province must continue to apply pressure to get the message across that neither proposal is acceptable, said Tafel.
“I wanted to make sure the voices of the people of Boundary-Similkameen were heard just like they’re being heard across the entire province today,” said Tafel. “Everyone here today is strongly opposed to these pipeline projects and this show of solidarity will hopefully make a small difference.”
Tafel said she was very encouraged that more than 40 people took the time to gather and protest these projects.
“We put this together in only a few days, so it’s encouraging to get this kind of turnout,” she said. “I’m also very pleased to see people from Cawston and Keremeos and all over the valley take the time to come to Osoyoos for this event.”
Many people believe these pipeline projects boil down to a battle between the Alberta and B.C. provincial governments, but the vast majority of Canadians are opposed, yet the federal Conservatives and Prime Minister Stephen Harper appear bound and determined to make them happen, said Tafel.
“This is a national issue that would affect the entire country if something goes seriously wrong and we have an environmental disaster,” she said. “Not in my backyard no longer applies. We’re all part of a single planet and we can’t allow projects like this to go ahead just because of money.”
Tafel said she has “lived off the grid” without electricity for more than a decade and has never been happier.
“I live a simpler life, but I’m more connected with my community and happier than I’ve ever been,” she said. “I’m frustrated that more people don’t know how much they can enjoy life without constantly worrying about money.”
Tafel remains convinced neither of these pipeline projects will become a reality as long as the citizens of this province continue to speak out and let the provincial government know approving them would result in their defeat at election time.
Town of Osoyoos Coun. Michael Ryan attended the protest and informed the audience that 52 per cent of municipal politicians attending the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities conference supported a motion opposing these pipeline projects.
The resolution stated a crude oil spill would have devastating and longlasting effects on B.C.’s unique and diverse coast, which provides critical marine habitat and resources that sustain the social, cultural, environmental and economic health of coastal and First Nation communities and those living in coastal communities. First Nation communities and environmental groups have expressed well-founded concerns over the expansion of oil pipelines and oil tankers.
“Therefore, be it resolved that the UBCM oppose projects that would lead to the expansion of oil tanker traffic through B.C.’s coastal waters … and that the UBCM urge the Premier of B.C., the leader of the Official Opposition and members of the Legislative Assembly to use whatever legislative and administrative means that are available to stop the expansion of oil tanker traffic through B.C.’s coastal waters.”

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