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.

June 25, 2014

Summer Outreach Begins!

Hello Fabulous Readers!

Taking a break from field work with the Larabanga
Girls Dance Group in Larabanga, Ghana
My name is Natalie and I am one of the lucky students who was hired to work with the Georgia Strait Alliance throughout the summer.

I’m a life-time resident of Nanaimo, and I just finished the third year of my degree in Tourism Management at Vancouver Island University. In my free time I love trail running, gardening, and exploring as much as possible with Skeena, my one year old Shiba Inu.

I wanted to work with GSA because I love the Georgia Strait!  I also believe in the power of community conservation management. Last summer, I traveled to Ghana and visited the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary, which is made up of several communities that work hard to protect the resident hippo population. The conservation model was very complex, but through tourism, the community was able to benefit in many ways. Some residents had to change their behaviors, but they were still able to go about their daily lives. Even though the Georgia Strait covers a much greater area and population base, I believe that the Strait Community can come together and experience many positive benefits if everyone participates in making it happen.

The thing I’m looking forward to the most this summer is traveling around and talking with the public. I love meeting people, chatting, and making sure that everyone is enjoying themselves.  The Georgia Strait Alliance has some very powerful campaigns on the go, and people are very interested. This past weekend, Ryan and I had some great conversations surrounding the Drift Card Study and the Kinder Morgan Expansion. People were in awe with the spill maps and seeing how far and fast oil from a spill could spread. Community outreach is a great way to spread awareness with people, and also hear what individuals have to say.  Make sure if you see us out on the road somewhere that you stop by to say ‘hello’!

The program I’m most excited to help out with is GSA’s newest program- The Waterfront Initiative! I’m so thrilled with this idea because it brings everyone together in a brand new way and for a powerful purpose. Regardless of how individuals use the waterfront in Vancouver – work, home, industry, or play – the Waterfront Initiative has the power to create a collective image of what the waterfront should look like and work to make that happen. After all, isn’t the waterfront one of Vancouver’s most beautiful assets? I hope to help out with the launch of this project as much as I can while I’m here, throughout the summer and beyond.

June 20, 2014

New chapter, new resolve against unwanted pipelines

The approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline makes it clearer than ever that BC is going to have to have to stand up for itself in the face of a federal government willing to impose unwanted projects despite overwhelming opposition – and the response of First Nations and British Columbians to the news this week has shown an unwavering resolve and an inspirational source of hope that we can win this fight.

Although Northern Gateway has now cleared another major regulatory hurdle, a combination of First Nations legal challenges, a citizen push-back that could range from a province-wide vote to civil disobedience, and (at least currently) a strong ‘no’ from the Provincial government mean that the pipeline is unlikely to ever be built.

When Enbridge first floated the proposal in 2005, no one could have imagined how controversial it would become: at the time such projects were usually nodded through without a great deal of interest. Now it’s shaping up to be a defining issue for many BC communities and  a top voting issue in the 2015 federal election.

The campaign to stop Northern Gateway has also built a broad and strong coalition, and sparked a powerful citizen’s movement. We are grateful to everyone who has worked so tirelessly for so long, especially First Nations and non-indigenous communities on the front-lines in northern BC, and we want you to know that we stand with you, and are inspired by your leadership and resolve.

We are also grateful for the path that has been forged –  the lessons learned and the alliances built –  that those of us working on the south coast are now following in our efforts to stop Kinder Morgan’s pipeline proposal. This project too was once seen as a “slam-dunk”, and now struggles against “overwhelming opposition” (to quote the Financial Post, no less). Polls are showing rising levels of concern, at least two legal challenges are already underway, and the NEB’s review process has more people involved as intervenors and commenters than any project in its history. In other words, the Kinder Morgan pipeline is shaping up to be a battle royale too.

Protect Our Sacred Waters rally, Vancouver, June 2014
Photo: Alexandra Woodsworth
And for good reason. Kinder Morgan’s expansion poses the same threats as Enbridge – an oil spill that could devastate our environment, economy and coastal communities, and a yearly climate impact greater than the combined annual emissions of 90 nations – and the same negligible benefits for BC. Opponents of these projects aren’t NIMBYs. British Columbians don’t want risky tar sands pipelines or tankers anywhere in our province – we want to go in a different direction.  Our investments should help us transition away from fossil fuels, not tie us to more resource extraction and increase our contribution to climate change.

In the days leading up to the Enbridge decision, Premier Clark came under immense pressure to say ‘no’ to Enbridge, and it worked: the province said Enbridge had not met their five conditions, and they would deny permits if necessary. Those same five conditions apply to Kinder Morgan, and we need to bring the same pressure to bear to ensure the province takes a strong stand on the southern tar sands pipeline.

Compared to the JRP’s Enbridge hearings, the NEB’s Kinder Morgan review has dramatically restricted public participation and speeded up the timeline. And this week we learned just how brazenly the federal cabinet ignored public concern expressed during the JRP. Together, this means we need to work even harder to generate public pressure outside the formal review process.

We need to talk to more people in our communities, make more noise on the streets, raise more money for First Nations legal challenges, and – whatever it means for each of us – step up to the next level of what we’re willing to do to protect our coast and fight for a better future. Here’s a list as some food for thought, and stay tuned for updates on our Save the Salish Sea page.