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Dirty Deals: A Filmmaker's View into the Northern Gateway Pipeline
“We are selling our resources to the highest bidder for the lowest return."

Stephanie Brown wasn’t flush with cash but she did have a cause: shed light on the people who would be most affected by Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. She and her friend, Kai Nagata, have produced a powerful mini-documentary called End of the Line. The project has been funded entirely through help from friends and crowdfunding from reelhouse, a website that offers a platform on which to share footage and fundraise for film projects. The result is a poignant portrait that unmasks these so-called “extremist activists” opposed to the pipeline expansion, and puts a human face on the oft-ignored Aboriginal population of British Columbia.

The End of the Line: Part 3

The Northern Gateway Pipeline is a 6-billion dollar proposition that would lay down two 1170 km pipelines, snaking from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia. It would pump through 525,000 barrels of petroleum products every day. Enbridge claims that it will foster “new jobs, support for local communities, world-class safety standards and a strong economy.” And then; “It’s more than a pipeline. It’s a path to our future.”

The End of the Line reveals that if that is the future, then it’s a murky future indeed.

A few years ago, Brown, who is Métis, was volunteering as a Production Advisor to ethnic Burmese NGOs in Thailand. She worked with the Shwe Gas Movement, a group who was fighting against the Shwe Gas pipeline that was cutting Burma in half, from the Bay of Bengal to China, carrying oil and gas.

“One of my first jobs at Shwe was to film the testimony for an ASEAN hearing of villagers who had lost their land, and been forced to work on the pipeline in horrible conditions. After completing my volunteer contract, I spent a month in Burma traveling by myself and visiting parts of Shan State where the pipeline was still being completed (the last portion moving into China). I went on a 2 day hike with a guide and met with villagers and talked to them about the project and how it had affected their lives.”

The fallout for the people affected by the pipeline made her concerned for the people in her own backyard. She was troubled by the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project and discussed it with Nagata (a former CBC video journalist). Nagata had grown up in Vancouver and felt an intrinsic connection to the land that his grandparents lived on. They agreed that, regardless of funding, they would produce a documentary investigating the impact such a project would have on the land and people. They ventured from Enbridge’s May AGM in Toronto to Calgary and throughout First Nations communities across British Columbia.  A few days ago, the final installment of the documentary was completed.

Enbridge’s website maintains that the pipeline would generate hundreds of millions in revenue for British Columbia, in addition to “35,000 person-years of total employment.” Brown’s extensive interviews uncovered the fact that many could care less about this revenue generating ‘opportunity’.

“We are selling our resources to the highest bidder for the lowest return. We are not creating jobs, we are selling our raw resources and shipping unrefined, heavy crude in supertankers through the most dangerous channels and waterways we have, in order for a few very rich people to become richer.”

Brown contends that it is essential for people across the country to educate themselves about the pipeline. “We don’t live in a vacuum anymore. We are extremely connected to one another, and ultimately an oil spill on the West Coast will directly affect those in Toronto. Not only is it one of the most beautiful parts of Canada, it’s where much of our food comes from. That Pacific Salmon you like so much? It won’t exist anymore. Those Pacific clams? Gone. But more importantly, this is about protecting not only our land and waters, but the rights of our First Nations people to continue their livelihood in the way they always have for thousands of years.”

The Joint Review Panel for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project (mandated by the Minister of the Environment and the National Energy Board) is undergoing hearings and will complete their  report by December 2013. Enbridge has been accused of blocking environmental research surrounding the impact of the project, but maintain that constructing the pipeline makes more sense than building new refineries. In the meantime, the tide of public opinion has largely turned against the pipeline. World Wildlife Fund Canada has garnered Scott Niedermayer and notable author Joseph Boyden, among others, to voice their opposition. The incoming NDP Provincial government has vowed to do everything in their power to block it, although the final outcome remains in question.

“As Canadians, we have a lot of power when it comes to our democratically elected government officials and their decision making process. Our hope is that Canadians, those that have never been to the Great Bear Rainforest, those that live in the heart of urban centres or out on the East coast will watch these videos, and hear these people, and feel compelled to stand up with them. Because it’s the right thing to do.”

You can view the video here.


Tiffy Thompson is a writer and illustrator for the Toronto Standard.  Follow her on Twitter at @tiffyjthompson. 

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