by Jarrah Hodge
A couple of weeks ago I had the amazing honour, along with other members of the City of Vancouver’s Women’s Advisory Committee, to get to meet with the Nobel Women’s Initiative’s Breaking Ground delegation. Breaking Ground was an eight-day mission led by Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, who won the Peace Prize in 1997 for her work to ban landmines, designed to “hear firsthand the growing concerns of women living in communities impacted by oil sands development and along the proposed Gateway pipeline route.” The delegation also included climate scientist Marianne Douglas, singer Sarah Harmer, Chris Page of the Center for Environmental Health in San Francisco, and North Dakota Native leader Kandi Mossett.
On Day 1 they went up in a small plane to look at the tar sands from above:
As they traveled along the pipeline route they spoke with leaders of the Nadleh Wu’ten and Saik’uz Nations and a number of Indigenous women whose communities will be most directly impacted. As Kandi Mossett stated after the trip:
“We heard in Fort McKay, Alberta, that the community had to live for five months on bottled water because they couldn’t drink the water out of the taps. Children in that community are also experiencing breathing problems because of the pollution coming out of the stacks. What compounds this reality is that the harsh impacts—including contaminated water and air—will only become worse and spread as the oil sands development worsens climate change.”
Crystal Lameman of the Beaver Creek Cree told the delegation:
“We have come to a point where we have to not be afraid of holding the Canadian government accountable for our treaty rights. Nobody wants to speak about it because they are scared. They say ‘carry our message but don’t use my name.”
The Breaking Ground blog notes “One of the reasons is that many of the people in the community work for the industry. They lose their jobs if they speak out. She explained that people in her community don’t have a choice. They either work for the industry or live in abject poverty.”
Here’s another short video of highlights talking to women in Northern BC on Day 4 (many more videos on the Nobel Women’s Initiative YouTube channel):
I’m still in a bit of a state of disbelief that I got to be a part of this hugely important process which draws attention to the key links between gender, race/colonialism, and climate change. Thanks for that has to go to our committee’s council liaison, Councillor Andrea Reimer. The initiative contacted Reimer because they wanted to learn more about the City’s attempt to make Kinder Morgan completely financially liable in case of an oil spill from their pipeline. They also wanted to hear about the City’s Greenest City 2020 program. Councillor Reimer decided to take along members of the Women’s Advisory Committee to talk a bit about the work we’ve done applying a gender lens to City policy such as the Transportation 2040 plan. Here’s a picture of our group with the Initiative delegates:
You can see Andrea Reimer in the brown shirt in the centre back row, and me in the front left. Also from our committee were Marion Smith (back left), Julie Wong (green shirt, back row), and Kamal Basra (front and centre). Even though hearing about some of the stories from the road was saddening, it was so inspiring to see the commitment of the women from the delegation to stopping the Enbridge Pipeline and the expansion of the tarsands and the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Helping bring women together from across BC and Alberta – and prioritizing the voices of those most affected by climate change and the specific pipeline route – is a task that can’t be overvalued.