If there was one message that stirred me during Monday's Defend Our Coast action, it was this: First Nations need you to join the fight to protect British Columbia's forests and coast from tar sands pipeline and tanker threats.
The message came loud and clear from Coastal First Nations executive director Art Sterritt in his speech delivered to thousands spread out on the lawn of BC's legislature building in Victoria. Addressing the crowd he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, today is all about you. Coastal First Nations and all of the tribes of the interior, we've been stating our opposition for a long time now. But we're so happy that 3000 of you have come out to join with us today, 3000 people. And it's your voices that are important today, not ours. It's your voices that we need to join with us.”
Sterritt asked the crowd, “Who is going to lay down in front of the bulldozers?” To which the crowd resoundingly replied, “We will!”
Monday's Defend Our Coast rally demonstrated the extent to which First Nations and other British Columbians are prepared to stand together to protect the province's right to refuse the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. The overwhelming emphasis during Monday's event was “the people, united, will never be defeated,” a line sung in unison across the crowded square.
Speakers from across the provinces said the battle over Enbridge's Northern Gateway Pipeline is one battle of many, saying other pipelines like the Kinder Morgan pipeline running to Vancouver's Burrard Inlet, are equally relevant to the fight against tar sands expansion. When it comes to oil in Canada, all roads lead to the tar sands. Fighting against the pipelines is just a part of the larger battle to stop the tar sands at their source.
The day's events led to a striking visual demonstration of the size of an “Aframax” supertanker which measures up to 235 meters long. These supertankers would be used to export tar sands dilbit from Kitimat, BC to Asia if the Northern Gateway Pipeline is approved. Hundreds of individuals, who took on the risk of arrest for doing so, unfurled the enormous black banner and staked it into the legislature lawn.