Say the Names...

Al Purdy wrote a wonderful poem called "Say the names say the names" which celebrates the names of Canadian rivers - Tulameen, Kleena Kleene, Similkameen, Nahanni, Kluane and on and on in a celebratory song.

Enbridge is planning to build a dual pipeline that will carry bitumen and condensate across hundreds of waterways between Edmonton and Kitimat. Some of these waterways are rivers like the Parsnip (or what's left of it), the Nechako, the Morice and others are smaller creeks whose names are often known only to the folks who live along their banks or who fish in their shadows or who bend to wash or drink as they cross paths.

I want to collect the names of these rivers and creeks, to collect your stories, your poems, your songs so we can collectively give voice to the land living under the line Enbridge plans to draw.

People have also sent me copies of their presentations to the community oral presentations. If you'd like to add your voice, email me ( your stories and I'll post them for you. The copyright remains with you.

All the best.
Sheila Peters

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ding, dong, the pipeline's dead!

It's time to pause and celebrate. Victories on environmental issues are not that common and it’s important that we celebrate when we do get one. Please join the Friends of Morice-Bulkley on Sunday, January 8, to celebrate the end of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project.

As you may have noticed reading the later entries here, Lelu Island remains a serious threat to the people and salmon who make their home in the greater Skeena Watershed. Many of us who came together to stop the Northern Gateway project are still working to keep the mouth of this great river intact. 

But I feel Say the Names has done what I hoped it would do. In 2017, I'll be moving my focus to one small part of the watershed, namely Driftwood Creek. I've lived beside the creek for coming up forty years now and I'm planning to create a long and winding love letter celebrating its unique nature and giving thanks for the nurture it has given me and my family during those years.  

To keep in touch, you can follow that journey at my website.

Have a wonderful 2017!


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Praise be!

Thanks to Friends of Wild Salmon for this wonderful photograph - and congratulations to all of you who worked so hard to prevent the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline from crossing three major watersheds, hundreds of salmon-bearing streams and bringing oil tankers to the northwest coast. The rest of FOWS release is below.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government has officially rejected the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. 
While the news was bundled with two other pipeline approvals that pose serious risks for our climate and the ecosystems of B.C.'s South Coast, the project we worked together for so long to stop is now officially dead.
Today, we celebrate the thousands of citizens from all walks of life who, in the face of Canada’s powerful oil lobby, stood up for our salmon, our rivers and our local economies and never backed down.
Rallies. Petitions. Meetings. Forums. Presentations. Reports. Stopping Enbridge's dangerous pipeline took so much effort from so many. Here are some photos of various gatherings over the years.
First Nations leaders throughout the region were remarkable in their solidarity and steadfastness. Municipal Councils and Regional Districts took principled positions in opposition to the project. And many, many ordinary citizens who love this place found their voices and spoke up. Today, we celebrate them all.
If you would like to read the hundreds of incredible statements Northwest citizens made to the Joint Review Panel, you can find them here.
We now await assurance that we won't have to fight projects like this ever again. A legislated, long-term crude oil tanker ban covering both oil ports and the passage of tankers will provide that assurance, and we look forward to the Prime Minister finally delivering on his longstanding promise.
For the salmon, for our rivers, and for our children's future.
- Friends of Wild Salmon

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Lelu Island lace



I’m just coming to the end of a lace project called Estuary, by designer Emily Wessel. I was first drawn to knit this shawl by its name. Emily describes her inspiration for this design: An estuary is an in-between place, not ocean, yet no longer river. It is a fertile habitat where sweet and salt water mix, and many species thrive. Estuary combines two lace patterns to create an ambiguous shape: not quite a shawl, yet something more than a scarf.
There are more beautiful – extravagant, filigreed, starbursts, leafy, vine trellised – lace patterns. But I’ve been knitting this shawl to honour the Skeena estuary. In it, I see the Flora Banks emerging as the tide retreats, the salmon finding their way back up the river after their time at sea, all the young smolts collecting in adolescent jitteriness after their first river descent. Both coming and going they feed the eagles, the sea lions, the gulls, the seals. And us too. So many of us fed for thousands of years.

Photo: Tavish Campbell

The shawl has been a difficult project for me, partly because I’ve picked it up and put it down many times over the past year, but also because the pattern is complex. By combining two different patterns, it mimics the sweet water meeting the salt and you need to pay very careful attention as it grows.

Lace is often like this. Lose concentration and you can find yourself and your stitches in a muddle. And the thing about knitting lace is it’s almost impossible to correct mistakes. The structure, with all its intentional gaps, the pulling together and drawing apart of threads, means you can’t just unravel it and pick it up again like you can with a plain sock or sweater. The structure you’ve laboured so long to create disappears.

Photo: Tavish Campbell
Which brings me to the Skeena estuary. It is re-drawn daily by the tides, weekly by the weather and seasonally by the collection and release of the rain and snow that has fallen throughout the watershed. It has a long history, a place more layered and complex than any lace. You can’t break the pattern and expect to be able to fix it later.

overview-of-lng-plantIf you plunk an LNG port* on Lelu Island, stretch a bridge across Flora Banks and the eelgrass where salmon smolt gather to the tanker dock at the edge of Chatham Sound, drill, blast, dredge and set up a huge humming structure complete with gas flares and tankers, well you’ve unravelled something that’s taken thousands of years to emerge from the debris of our last ice age.

How ironic to even consider building this example of Anthropocene hubris in this spot. If you add the expansion to the fracking chaos of northeastern BC this project will necessitate to its enormous greenhouse gas emissions, you’ll be speeding up the final melting of ice that began the process, thousands of years ago to create the Skeena estuary. The melting could well see the whole LNG structure itself lost beneath tidal surges within decades.

Maybe we should send Justin Trudeau, Catherine McKenna and Christy Clark each a fragment of unravelling lace and see how well they can pick up the stitches to re-establish the pattern. All while treading water.

* If you want to know more about Petronas’s LNG project, a project approved by the Canadian government just days before it ratified the Paris agreement on climate change, check out Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition’s video.

Thanks to Graeme Pole for the images from No More Pipelines.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Hair straight back

No, I'm not talking about those equinox storms that are beginning to appear. I'm talking about the whirlpool of threats, hearings, events, decisions, comment periods, interventions and even fun happening in the Skeena watershed and on the coast these days.

River Days 2016

First of all - the fun. Yesterday, because of the generosity of Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, we got to join a one-hundred strong paddle down the Bulkley from Quick to Telkwa - thanks to all the organizers who put together the event.





Enbridge and an oil tanker moratorium - Sept. 30 deadline for input

If you want to keep up-to-date on what's happening around what looks like another end to Enbridge's plans to build a bitumen pipeline across three watersheds, here's a place to go: Friends of Morice-Bulkley. If you'd like to add your voice to the request to ask for a tanker moratorium that is:
  • legislated, 
  • has no sunset clause, and 
  • covers at least Hecate Strait, Dixon Entrance and Queen Charlotte Sound
go to Let's Talk Marine Transportation in Canada.
You have until Sept. 30.

Pipelines, pipelines, where ever you look

Of course, the Enbridge project, tied as it is to tar sands oil extraction, is not the only threat to water and climate. Kinder Morgan's proposed expansion, Energy East and other bitumen pipelines are being questioned by people across the continent. A CBC September 22 news story outlined the stand taken by 50 aboriginal groups in North America:

Aboriginal tribes from Canada and the northern United States signed a treaty on Thursday to jointly fight proposals to build more pipelines to carry crude from Alberta's oil sands, saying further development would damage the environment.

The treaty, signed in Montreal and Vancouver, came as the politics around pipelines have become increasingly sensitive in North America, with the U.S. Justice Department intervening last week to delay construction of a contentious pipeline in North Dakota.

The Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion was signed by 50 aboriginal groups in North America, who also plan to oppose tanker and rail projects in both countries, they said in a statement.
Targets include projects proposed by Kinder Morgan Inc, TransCanada Corp and Enbridge Inc.

Lelu Island and LNG - Sept. 30 deadline for input

Pipelines aren't the only threat to the Skeena Watershed. To quote Friends of Wild Salmon,

Next Friday, September 30, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to make a decision on whether to approve Pacific Northwest LNG's plant on Lelu Island in the Skeena estuary. Not only does his decision have potentially dire implications for Skeena wild salmon, it would create one of Canada's largest single sources of greenhouse gas pollution.

So much for clean green energy, Christi.

If you'd like to raise your concerns before Friday, click on the Wild Salmon link and follow the directions given.

Site C 

And just in case you don't think these things are related, it's pretty clear that much of the power the Site C dam would create is planned to fuel the fracking industry wreaking havoc in northeastern BC and elsewhere, the same industry that would have to expand significantly to fuel the Lelu Island project. Site C has never been subjected to BC's own economic and energy needs scrutiny under the aegis of the BC Utilities Commission. It's not being built to power electric cars.

For an overview, check out Amnesty International's campaign.

How about a national plan to curb carbon emissions? 

How about it!

How to make sense of it all?

We got to see To the Ends of the Earth in Smithers last week. It's a great documentary doing a damn fine job of untangling the Ponzi economics of energy production. If you get a chance, go see it.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Keeping our fingers crossed

This just out from Friends of Morice-Bulkley
Good news!  The court decision on First Nation and intervener challenges came out this morning and the NEB’s certificates and the Cabinet decision are quashed with the matter going back to Cabinet for reconsideration.   This means the federal government has to undertake proper consultations with First Nations and then once again make a yes/no decision on whether the project should get a certificate.
There will be lots of analysis to come but key parts of the ruling are -

[279] Based on our view of the totality of the evidence, we are satisfied that Canada failed in Phase IV to engage, dialogue and grapple with the concerns expressed to it in good faith by all of the applicant/appellant First Nations. Missing was any indication of an intention to amend or supplement the conditions imposed by the Joint Review Panel, to correct any errors or omissions in its Report, or to provide meaningful feedback in response to the material concerns raised. Missing was a real and sustained effort to pursue meaningful two-way dialogue. Missing was someone from Canada’s side empowered to do more than take notes, someone able to respond meaningfully at some point.

[325] We have applied the Supreme Court’s authorities on the duty to consult to the uncontested evidence before us. We conclude that Canada offered only a brief, hurried and inadequate opportunity in Phase IV—a critical part of Canada’s consultation framework—to exchange and discuss information and to dialogue. The inadequacies—more than just a handful and more than mere imperfections—left entire subjects of central interest to the affected First Nations, sometimes subjects affecting their subsistence and well-being, entirely ignored. Many impacts of the Project—some identified in the Report of the Joint Review Panel, some not—were left undisclosed, undiscussed and unconsidered. It would have taken Canada little time and little organizational effort to engage in meaningful dialogue on these and other subjects of prime importance to Aboriginal peoples. But this did not happen.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Lelu Island and Flora Banks

We were in Prince Rupert to attend Neil Sterritt's event at the Museum of Northern BC on May 12. He was presenting his new book, Mapping My Way Home: A Gitxsan History, to the community. It's always a treat to attend an event there - the place is beautiful in itself, and the exhibits are always interesting.

Earlier that day, we paddled out of Port Edward past Lelu Island and over to Flora Banks in the north arm of the Skeena River estuary. The camp on the island was in place, a sailboat anchored just offshore, but we continued around, hoping to cross the mouth of the estuary to Kitson Island. 


The winds were against us and we pulled ashore on a sandy beach to eat lunch and watch the tide go out, exposing the shoals that fill the area. A choppy crossing turned into an expanse laced with long sand fingers that reached well out into the estuary. The several eagles we watched as we left Port Edward turned into several dozen birds lined up with the seagulls on these sandy stretches. 

Eelgrass, so important to young salmon, grew at the river's edges.

The Petronas LNG project proposes to level Lelu Island to situate the plant; the bridge to the site where the tankers would dock will cross the area show in the photo above. It is impossible to imagine this happening without severely affecting the estuary. Later on our way home, we stopped to look back down the Skeena, still in tidal water.

We can only hope this river, one of the few intact watersheds in BC, will not have to face this project.

Lelu, Lelu, Lelu, Lelu. I'll have to find out where that name comes from.

Keeping our fingers crossed

CBC – June 28, 2016

Enbridge Northern Gateway seeks 3 year extension
Without permit extension or construction start, Northern Gateway done by end December
By Betsy Trumpener, CBC News Posted: Jun 28, 2016

Time is running out for Enbridge Northern Gateway.
Approvals for the controversial pipeline project require construction to start by Dec. 31, 2016.
But those permits appear likely to expire — before any pipelines are built.
"Clearly, we're not focused on construction schedules and a construction start date," said Catherine Pennington, Senior Manager and ‎Director of Community Partnerships at Northern Gateway Pipelines in Prince George.

Enbridge wants time to 'build relationships'
"We've been focussing almost exclusively on building relationships with indigenous communities and we really need the time," said Pennington.
Pennington said Enbridge is busy trying to build local support to "build a better project."
"Really, right from the beginning, Northern Gateway should have done a better job of building relationships with indigenous, First Nations, Metis and Indigenous communities, particularly on the west coast, " she said.
Pennington also said Enbridge needs more time to "receive clarity on some outstanding legal and regulatory issues."
But opponents of Northern Gateway oppose an extension.
Enbridge's time is up. It's pretty clear communities have said, 'No.' — Nadia Nowak, Sea to Sands

'Enbridge's time is up'
"Enbridge's time is up," said Nadia Nowak, a community organizer with the Sea to Sands group in Prince George.
"It's pretty clear communities have said no to this project. We don't think they deserve any more of our time or energy,' said Nowak.
Nowak is one of more than 2,000 people who have mailed or faxed in letters of public comment to the National Energy Board as it considers Enbridge's extension request.

More than 2,000 people weighed in
"The response has been quite extraordinary," said Sarah Kiley, a communications officer with the National Energy Board. "We've received well over 2,000 letters of let us know what we should consider."
If the extension request is turned down, the Northern Gateway Project could be finished before it gets started.
"The certificates attached to this project would expire and the company would no longer have the approvals it needed to construct the project," said Kiley.
Now the National Energy Board — and ultimately Justin Trudeau's federal cabinet — will decide if the sun is setting on Northern Gateway or if Enbridge will be granted an extension to December 31, 2019.