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

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Chain of Hope

On Wednesday, our family gathered at my mother's home in Powell River to celebrate her 90th birthday. She's been here for over 80 years since her family moved from Shetland. Her house sits about two metres above sea level, and each day we watch sea lions, otters, summer ducks, and herons going about their daily routines. Powell River seems a long way from Kitimat, the proposed terminal for Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project. After watching the changes in industrial forestry, pulp and paper production, the huge limestone quarry across the strait on Texada Island, it's easy to be lulled into a sense of complacency about yet another mega-project. 

People seem to survive the changes brought about by global economics; her family left Shetland because of a depressed economy. Since then the North Sea oil boom has given those islands a material wealth it never imagined. Here on the BC south coast, the near-collapse of forestry and fishery jobs has been hard for coastal communities to navigate. The most recent cuts to BC ferry schedules are signaling an end for some communities and will diminish many others as their links dwindle.

For people in difficult economic circumstances, any work looks good and there are those who think a project like Enbridge's will provide part of a solution. But standing beside the light beacon in my mother's front yard just a couple of metres above the ocean, two thoughts come to mind: climate change and oil spills. They both signal other kinds of finales - ones more devastating than the difficulties coastal communities already face. If we can't come up with a better economic strategy than shipping raw bitumen from the tar sands, we're better off without one. We're better off standing up and saying no. We'd be wise to join in spirit the wonderful women of Hartley Bay who have crocheted a Chain of Hope to symbolically block the passage of oil tankers past their village and up Douglas Channel to Kitimat:

On June 20, 2014 the women of the Gitga’at First Nation will lead a symbolic blockade against the Northern Gateway pipeline by stretching a crochet “Chain of Hope” across Douglas Channel to show their opposition to oil tankers and oil spills in BC’s coastal waters.

Made of multicolour yarn and decorated with family keepsakes and mementos including baby pictures and fishing floats with written messages on them, the chain will stretch from Hawkesbury Island to Hartley Bay, a distance of 11,544 feet. The Chain of Hope itself is over 20,382 feet long and was stitched by the women and children of the Gitga’at First Nation with their friends and family across BC and Canada.

We have stopped oil tankers on this coast for close to forty years - here's to fifty years more. Then we can celebrate another 90th anniversary. Or our children can. Here's hoping.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

ON the way to summer...


What an amazing watershed we inhabit! In the most beautiful and busy time of year - gardening, hiking, fishing, camping, birding, kayaking, and watching the bear cubs learn to climb cottonwoods - our wonderful neighbours are finding time to raise their voices.