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Northern Gateway Pipeline

Letter of Comment
to the Joint Review Panel
for the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project 

April 20, 2012 

Ms. Sheila Leggett
Mr. Kenneth Bateman
Mr. Hans Matthews

Dear Panel members,

I am a Professor Emerita in the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University, and a wilderness-loving Canadian whose commitment to environmental protection is tied closely to my own personal experience of life as fragile, improbable and priceless.

There are some who will surely argue that I am without credentials in the subject matter of this review. I’m not a scientist, nor an economist. I’m a resident of Nova Scotia, far away from the tar sands of Alberta and the coastal waterways of British Columbia. Certainly I do not stand to benefit in any direct way from the monetary profits that might accrue from this pipeline. Nor will my losses be personal or direct, in comparison to those that will be experienced by First Nations and other communities when a leak or spill or other calamity occurs.

I do, however, have a genuine interest in the outcome of this review process. I appreciate and respect that you have committed to honour the submissions of ordinary citizens like myself, inviting open participation in a review process unrestricted by criteria of residency, expertise or affiliation. I take it on good faith that you will be as attentive to those of us who express an ethical stance in relation to our social and natural worlds as you will be to those who advance economic and commercial arguments.

I am opposed to the Northern Gateway Pipeline. As detailed in a blog entry which I wrote supplementary to this submission, my opposition to this pipeline dovetails with my opposition to commercial development of the Alberta Tar Sands. To the extent that the Northern Gateway Pipeline will increase the profitability of a massive mining enterprise that is rapidly decimating Canadian boreal forest regions, it is in my view, a dangerous and wholly undesirable development.

I am opposed to the pipeline because its construction and operation pose an unacceptable level of risk to one of the few remaining unspoiled temperate rain forest areas on the planet, and gravely jeopardize fragile marine and freshwater ecosystems far too precious to squander. I also object to the inevitable social and economic consequences that would accrue if this pipeline were to proceed: namely, continued diminishment of our capacity for investment in sustainable energy alternatives and perversely, a shoring up of our dangerous and destructive addiction to fossil fuel.

For a more detailed account of these objections, I would refer you to the excellent commentary and research presented by the David Suzuki Foundation, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, and Nature Canada, as well as to the numerous and fulsome submissions that you have heard from other citizens groups dedicated to environmental protection.

There will be submissions before your panel that the Northern Gateway Pipeline, like the extraction of bitumen from tar sands mines, will boost Canada’s economic position in the world and will have a favorable impact upon our domestic standard of living. I urge you to subject these arguments to careful and fulsome scrutiny. By what measure is prosperity properly calculated? It is a reckless logic indeed that presumes to reduce to mere line entries on a balance sheet the health and well-being of our population, the protection of wild species and their habitats and the conservation of clean air and fresh water.

Perhaps like you, panel members, during my formative years I lived in a Canada that was held in high regard internationally as a generous and principled nation.  If the Northern Gateway Pipeline is good for today’s Canada, then today’s Canada holds to no higher principles than short-term self-interest and opportunism.

I urge you to heed the pleas of persons of honourable intent from every region of this country and beyond its borders, to summon the best of Canadian values to bear on the question of this proposed pipeline. Nature is not a commodity to be owned and exploited. Nature is our home, a home which we must share responsibly with millions of species, today and for generations to come. For this most fundamental reason, the Northern Gateway Pipeline must not proceed.

Respectfully submitted,

Catherine Frazee

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