Georgia Strait Alliance is the only citizens' group focused on protecting the marine environment in and around the whole Strait of Georgia – Canada's most at-risk natural environment, and the place where 70% of British Columbians live, work and play. We are committed to a future for our region that includes clean water and air, healthy wild salmon runs, rich marine life and natural areas, and sustainable communities.

November 26, 2013

Defend our climate, defend our communities

This fall, Karen Jørgensen has joined the GSA team as a volunteer and we're so happy to have her on board. From time to time, she'll be sharing her experiences of her work with us and our coast as a guest blogger.
On Saturday November 16th, I took part in a massive rally at Science World in Vancouver as part of the nationwide “Defend Our Climate, Defend Our Communities” day of action.

I had a great time working at GSA’s table with Jessie, who like me is also a volunteer at Georgia Strait Alliance. Both of us were happily surprised to see how busy we were during the rally due to the amount of people that came by to chat with us. We had great conversations with people about GSA and asked them to sign a letter to BCs Premier Christy Clark requesting her to stand up for BC and take back our power to say no to the proposal to build twin the Kinder Morgan pipeline!

In more than 130 communities across Canada thousands of people came together to show that there is a growing movement to stop pipelines, reckless tar sands expansion and runaway climate change. I was really glad to see not only the number of people and organizations at the event but also the diversity in the people who attended. Children, couples, university students and seniors all gathered to express their support and concerns! Despite the cold weather, thousands of people showed up at the Science World rally to ensure they had a say in this matter.

One image from the event is still on my mind today. I saw a little girl of about five years of age holding her mom’s hand with one hand and a homemade sign in the other with a picture of a dead whale and the words “I want my favorite animal to have a future. Say no to a dumb pipeline”. I found this message very powerful, as it came straight from the heart of a child. She will grow up having to live with the devastation that both the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan proposal would bring if an oil spill occurred and the ever increasing threat of climate disruption. One single oil spill would not only risk killing this little girl’s favourite animal, but would also damage the whole ecosystem in the Georgia Strait region and therefore our economy as well. You can read more here about what is at risk if the expansion plans of oil and gas industry become a reality.

Despite the cold weather, I would definitely call the rally a success. Thanks to all of you who came by to chat with us at the event, signed the letter to Christy Clark and supported us generously with donations!

November 18, 2013

Make your voice heard at the upcoming Kinder Morgan hearings

The National Energy Board (NEB), the federal pipeline regulator, is holding online information sessions about public participation in the upcoming review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion proposal.

You can take part in the sessions online or by phone. The sessions started last week and run till the end of November; dates and instructions for how to register are available here.

Photo by James Fehon
We’re encouraging everyone to join these sessions and find out more about the public participation process. It’s also a good chance to ask some tough questions about why public involvement will  be so limited, and why major impacts associated with the pipeline expansion – such as climate change – won’t be considered in the review.

Due to changes brought in by the federal government as part of last year’s Omnibus Bill C38, the NEB now gets to decide who can – and cannot – take part in the hearings, and what ‘level’ of participation members of the public will be allowed.  You can read more about what we expect from the process in this background briefing, and this presentation by the NEB.

In the application to participate, people will be asked to show either that they are ‘directly affected’, or have ‘relevant information or expertise’. We won’t know exactly how the NEB will interpret these requirements until the process is underway, but it’s a key question to raise in the information sessions. 
If you don’t live on the pipeline route, will you be excluded from participating because you are not considered ‘directly affected’? We all have a stake in how our resources are developed, and we will all be directly affected by the impacts of climate change. We believe that everyone who cares about this issue and wants to take the time to get involved should be allowed to have their say – not be potentially excluded by the NEB, or simply put off by an over-complicated, burdensome application process.

Once Kinder Morgan files their application, likely some time in December this year, there will be a very short window of time for the public to apply to participate. We at GSA, alongside many other environmental groups, will be providing information and support to anyone who wants to get involved. But because of the short time-frame, it’s important to prepare now.

So please do sign up for one of the NEB information sessions, and let us know what you think – and how we can help you claim your right to have your voice heard.

Investing in the long view

We’re really lucky in BC to have so many different environmental groups working to protect our air and water.  Each represents a different focus or perspective, which is incredibly valuable but understandably that diversity can seem overwhelming to the public at times. So it’s not surprising that I’m frequently asked, “Who is Georgia Strait Alliance and how are you different?”

You might think I would answer that question with some words about our regional focus or our grassroots beginning, but to me, GSA’s story is much more than that. It’s also about how we choose to focus on a specific issue, and how we carry out the work once we’ve made the commitment to take action.

At GSA, we understand that meaningful change doesn’t come quickly.  That is why we have focused our resources on issues that, often, have required well over a decade of hard work to see real change.  A good example is the need for more sustainable approaches to salmon farming. 

Taking the long view
Photo: Bryan Nordley
When we decide where to focus our energy and resources, we’ve often start by looking for important issues where environmental leadership is lacking.  Then our job is to raise awareness about the threats, offer long-term solutions, bring together the broad cross section of people who have a stake in the issue, and continue to advocate – until we see that governments and communities have taken on the leadership that is needed.  At that point, GSA’s job is to step back and move on to address the next big issue that requires our effort and advocacy – because inevitably, there will always be another big issue needing our focus.

A good example of how we’ve done this in the past is our campaign to bring sewage treatment to Victoria.  Twenty years ago, GSA and a very few others were lone voices on stopping this pollution threat to the region.  Federally, provincially, regionally and locally, there was solid denial of the need for action – so for next two decades we worked hard to educate, advocate and nurture leadership. 

Today, all four levels of government have made the commitment to action, including putting money on the table and creating laws that mandate treatment.  Though the precise details are still being worked out and our voice is required from time to time, GSA no longer needs to expend our limited resources on the Victoria sewage campaign, because others are now leading. That’s how it should be, eventually, for all the issues we address.

Understanding this history helps to highlight why we’re beginning to focus on new issues, like our innovative new Waterfront Initiative and on the serious threats from the major increase in crude oil pipeline capacity and tanker traffic planned for our region.  

In addition to these newer initiatives, we’ll be spending time in 2014 renewing our focus on protecting the habitat of at-risk species like the endangered Southern Resident killer whales. After all, protection of these species is really at the heart of GSA’s program and campaigns, so we’re looking for ways to make that an increased priority in the future.

But no matter the issues at hand, what won’t change is GSA’s approach:  raising awareness, offering solutions, bringing people together, advocating, building new leadership within our communities – and staying focused on an issue for the many years that might be needed to do this.

In the end, our approach is only possible because of the support of individuals and communities who realize that meaningful change takes time.  Investing in GSA bears real, tangible results – so please consider making a donation today to support these long term positive changes in our region.  As always, we’ll continue to ensure that we’re making the greatest possible impact with the funds you entrust to us.  

November 1, 2013

An Evening with the Strait

This fall, Karen Jørgensen has joined the GSA team as a volunteer and we're so happy to have her on board.  From time to time, she'll be sharing her experiences of her work with us and our coast as a guest blogger.

I had such a lovely evening taking part in Georgia Strait Alliance’s successful fundraising event last Thursday at the Robert Bateman Centre Gallery, in Victoria. Meeting the former environment minister John Cashore, and Doug White who is the chief of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, were just some of the highlights of the evening.

I found it both inspiring and rewarding to have the opportunity to chat with people who have the same interests and concerns as I do about our precious coastline. Talking with these people gave me a sense of hope and encouragement.

Combining the inspirational speeches and chats together with the samples of Denman Island Chocolates, wine and sustainable seafood contributed to an even better evening. In addition to being an enjoyable evening, the event was a fundraiser with all the money raised going towards GSA’s ongoing work in the region.

The Robert Bateman centre gallery certainly was an excellent location for this fundraiser. Each piece of Bateman’s interpretations of nature and wildlife had an individual story to tell. This made for a perfect surrounding for the event as it reminded me how unique and incredible wildlife really is.

For those of you who were not able to join us this time, you can still support our efforts by making a charitable donation. I really do hope to see you at one of our future events!