A “Groundswell” of talks for the Great Bear Rainforest

Between 1999 and 2010, Enbridge has had over 800 oil spills. Enbridge has spent almost $5 million on its greenwash campaigns trying to convince us they are following an "unwritten code of conduct" and have learned about "integrity and respect." Regardless, the movement against the Enbridge pipeline as well as the Kinder Morgan Pipeline is growing.

After two weeks on the road touring our new ep, Crow’s Nest, we found ourselves back at Jita’s Cafe in the mountain town of Golden, B.C. Throughout this province, along with the stunning vistas and reunions with friends, there are the all the little businesses and breakfast joints I really look forward to revisiting. And so my love for this land and the people grows with each tour.

And because of this love, the band and I have been showing a short documentary at all of our shows called Groundswell — which is about the Great Bear Rainforest and was created by Chris Malloy and Raincoast Conservation. Not only is it a gorgeous surf film but it addresses the looming threat of the Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline for this rugged remote area along our northern coast and its First Nation inhabitants.

So there I was in a happy state feeling good about the dance party that filled the Golden Taps the night before, drinking my coffee and savouring my breakfast at Jita’s. Absentmindedly, I opened up a stray Walrus magazine from Calgary and there on the first page was a pull-out spread of Enbridge touting itself as a custodian of the land with three quintessential cowboys riding over a pristine prairie scene. The tagline: “Where there are still lessons to be learned from the land.” I almost choked on my breakfast sandwich, I was livid!

Between 1999 and 2010, Enbridge has had over 800 oil spills and has barely been able to deal with ones that are in much more easily accessible areas — most notably in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. They do not seem to be learning any lessons! The Northern Gateway Pipeline would carry some of the world’s dirtiest oil from the ecological disaster that are the northern Alberta oil sands. And believe me there are no cowboys out for a nice sunset ride across that devastated land! This 1,177km twin pipeline would go over two mountain ranges, cross nearly 800 streams and rivers, and then have to be carried by supertankers through some of B.C.’s roughest coastline.

Enbridge has spent almost $5 million on its greenwash campaigns trying to convince us they are following an “unwritten code of conduct” and have learned about “integrity and respect” because they “connect with many special places…rich with character and history.” They make themselves sound like a bunch of hippy environmentalists! I’m going to hire whoever did the PR to write my next bio, is all I can say. I just hope they’ll do it for a couple CDs, a T-shirt and a hug.

Regardless, the movement against the Enbridge pipeline as well as the Kinder Morgan Pipeline is growing, and I have to remind myself about this often. At the recent joint review panel’s community hearings across B.C., 1,159 speakers spoke out against the pipeline and only two spoke in favour. Of course, Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his ongoing love affair with democracy passed two federal omnibus bills last year — Bill C-45 and C-38 — which allow him to overrule the decision of the panel along with such things as the reduction in waterway and habitat protection. These attacks on democracy go hand-in-hand with the assisting the machinations of big oil companies and industry.

The more ridiculously brazen Enbridge and Harper get however, the more people mobilize. There were over 3,000 people at the anti-pipeline protest in Victoria on October 22, 2012 for instance. And First Nations are making their voices heard more than ever. There is now more cooperation and dialogue between First Nations, environmental groups and citizens from all walks of life. At the joint review hearings the people who spoke ran the gamut, from a retired commander of the Royal Canadian Navy and the former CEO of B.C. Hydro to an Anglican reverend and several coast-guard trained oil spill experts. Everyone is getting on board and we want our leaders to steer the country out of our oil-dependency and to stop pandering to big oil and extractive industries. Surely there is more to this country than just depleting our natural resources? It’s not even working out so well for our federal or provincial budgets, and we’re getting a bad name reneging on our climate agreements!

So the band — Adam Parent, Tim Parent and myself — will continue on our little winter tour into Alberta and out towards Ontario and Quebec with Raincoast’s documentary Groundswell. We will open up each of our evenings with some beauty from the Great Bear Rainforest and some honest words from surfers, scientists, and most importantly some Heiltsuk First Nations. It will not cost us $5 million and may make the Harper regime brand us enemies of the state but I believe that our work — when combined with the other voices of fellow Canadians — will begin to shift the tide towards good old common sense and respect. We’ll do our part to stimulate discussion and come up with alternatives. And I will try not to choke every time I hear an Enbridge advert on the radio.

Rick Buckman Coe - Soul, Folk and Reggae Artist
Soul, folk and reggae artist Rick Buckman Coe

A version of this article was previously published at The Huffington Post on February 22, 2013.

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