By Kate Webb
First Nations leaders, federal and municipal politicians converged at LUSH Cosmetics on Robson St. Friday to vote in a symbolic poll against the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.
The perfumed store was packed as Jackie Thomas, chief of the Saik’uz First Nation, cast about 70 ballots she said were passed around at the three-day First Nations Summit Meeting, which was going on simultaneously in North Vancouver.
“I’m so happy to have the support from LUSH, because it shows that we’re not standing alone, and regular Canadians have a voice, and I’m pleased that we can vote yes or no,” she told Metro.
Vancouver Quadra Liberal MP Joyce Murray thanked Brandi Halls, LUSH’s PR Director for North America who is also a member of the Squamish First Nation, for holding the two-week campaign in LUSH stores across B.C.
“We’ve seen a chill on environmental and other organizations and charities, and there’s been a silencing of dissent by this Conservative government, and so what you’re doing is creating another conduit for people to have their views heard, and that’s about democracy,” Murray said.
Vancouver city Coun. Kerry Jang cast his vote against the pipeline alongside Murray, and made an impassioned speech taking aim at Enbridge’s claim the risk of spills on the route between Alberta and Kitimat is minimal.
“I just want to remind people that we did have a spill right here in British Columbia not that long ago, in the city of Burnaby when the Kinder Morgan pipeline burst, and they couldn’t even find the pipe,” he told the crowd.
“It took 30 minutes to find it and turn the taps off. By that time we had spewing geysers of oil, and seven years later they’re still fighting over whose fault it is.”
Earlier in the week Enbridge released a statement claiming 60 per cent of First Nations along the pipeline route have now expressed support for the project, but a group representing several B.C. First Nations disputed the number.
Coastal First Nations executive director Art Sterritt said he has checked with every aboriginal group along the route from Alberta to Kitimat and only found two that have signed equity agreements with Enbridge.
Forty-five First Nations have claims to the land along the path of the proposed bitumen pipeline.
-With files from The Canadian Press