Freedom Train carries message of opposition to Enbridge pipeline

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Hereditary Chief Na’Moks (Left) and Hereditary Chief Tsodih (Right) of the Yinka Dene Alliance are greeted at the Jasper, Alberta stop of the Freedom Train Tour. (Photo:

This week the Yinka Dene Alliance and their supporters will pay a visit to Enbridge's annual shareholders meeting, which will be held Wednesday, May 9 in downtown Toronto.

The energy giant's shareholder meeting is the final stop of the Freedom Train 2012 tour, which has seen the alliance travel from their traditional territories in northern British Columbia across Canada to oppose Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. The campaigning tour, which began on April 30, has stopped in Jasper, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Winnipeg, holding rallies at each of these stops.

Along with Enbridge, Harper government refuses to hear 'no' 

The Freedom Train's Toronto itinerary will include a protest starting at David Pecaut Square near City Hall, where the Alliance and its supporters will assemble to march to the Meridian Hotel, the venue for Enbridge's shareholders meeting. Various First Nations in Ontario, as well as local organizers, are working to bolster the rally.

Geraldine Thomas-Flurer, coordinator of the Yinka Dene Alliance, says that the First Nations group launched the Freedom Train because Enbridge and the federal government have yet to respect their stance on the Gateway project.

"Enbridge doesn't know the meaning of the word 'no.' We've done everything that we can to try to tell them that we've said 'no.' The Canadian government as well, they know that we've said 'no' to them," Thomas-Flurer explained.

Twenty-five per cent of the proposed 1177-kilometre pipeline route is on the Yinka Dene Alliance's territories, which surround the headwaters of the Fraser, Skeena and Mackenzie watersheds. A press release from the Alliance says that the communities still rely on this land to sustain themselves, feed themselves and remain healthy.

The protection of the land and waters for current and future generations living in the area and elsewhere is a legally enshrined responsibility for the Yinka Dene Alliance. This is why, Thomas-Flurer suggests, that the Alliance's efforts to stop the pipeline are not just for the affected First Nations.

"This is not a First Nations issue, it's a human issue. British Columbia is the last beautiful place on earth, and we want to stress that we must protect our water. We're not doing this just for the First Nations communities, we're doing it for Canadians."

Enbridge is proposing building a 91-cm diameter oil pipeline and a 51-cm condensate pipeline between Bruderheim, Alberta and Kitimat, British Columbia. Northern Gateway would also create a dramatic increase in large oil tanker traffic along BC's naturally pristine and nautically treacherous coastline.

First Nations and allies determined in their opposition to pipeline

The project has drawn considerable fire from First Nations, municipalities and environmental groups. In addition to the launch of the Freedom Train, last week also saw retired BC-born hockey star Scott Niedermayer announced his opposition to the Enbridge project. And, in related news, the City of Vancouver passed a motion to oppose tanker traffic through their harbour associated with the proposed Kinder Morgan oil pipeline expansion.  

The Joint Review Panel hearings for Northern Gateway began in March, and are slated to run at least until August. However, as the federal government continues efforts to 'streamline' (cut) regulatory processes relating to the environment, the ongoing hearings could be subject to a new timeline. 

Despite continued advocacy for the project on the part of Canada's government, Thomas-Flurer says the Yinka Dene Alliance is determined to continue to fight the project alongside their supporters.

"We're not going to give up. We're in this for the long haul, we will use any means necessary and anything that's available to us under international, Canadian and Indigenous Laws," said Thomas-Flurer.

"We've travelled a long way and I think that shows our determination to try to reach out to Canadians."

Steve Cornwell is an MA candidate at York University. He is interested in the interactions of social movements, science and technology. Steve has worked on energy issues with Greenpeace Canada, Environmental Defense, and Safe and Green Energy Peterborough. Follow Steve Cornwell at

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