VANCOUVER - Canadian songstress Sarah Harmer is adding her voice to the chorus of opposition to the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline.
Harmer was part of a group of women, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams, who finished an eight-day tour Tuesday of the proposed pipeline route through northern Alberta and B.C.
"As a Canadian, as someone who feels a moral responsibility as a Canadian, whose government is participating so intensively in such an intensive set of projects in the tar sands, as a global citizen as well, I felt it was an obligation if I had the opportunity... to see first-hand what is at the heart of our largest emitter of global greenhouse gases in this country," Harmer said in Vancouver, the final stop for the trip organized by the Ottawa-based Nobel Women's Initiative.
"Clearly for me, it's a path that I believe we should be taking the opposite path, which is transitioning to renewables. Keeping the resources."
Harmer said she has read about the project, and about the proponent, Calgary-based Enbridge (TSX:ENB). In particular, she cited the 2010 spill from one of the company's pipelines into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, a disaster that has haunted Enbridge at every turn as they proceed through an environmental assessment of the project.
The trip, which also included Kandi Mossett, the climate campaign organizer for the U.S. Indigenous Environmental Network, and Chris Page, a board member of the U.S. Centre for Environmental Health, "opened my eyes," Harmer said in an interview.
It was organized by the Ottawa-based Nobel Women's Initiative at the invitation of pipeline opponents Douglas Channel Watch, Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance and several First Nations groups.
The group met with more than 200 women in 13 communities from Fort McMurray, the epicentre of the Alberta oil sands, to Kitimat, the would-be terminus of the pipeline and potential home of a tanker port to ship the oil to China.
The Juno-winning singer said she enjoyed meeting the many women along the way, including aboriginal women who live off the land that will be traversed by the 1,100-kilometre pipeline.
"I think what really moved me the most and I think is maybe the most powerful thing that I want to convey is the level of confidence that I heard in women's words and in women's voices saying: This will not happen, this Northern Gateway pipeline will not happen because we say it will not happen. We are committed to this land and this water and we're speaking for it," Harmer said.
"Their level of confidence and belief I think is really important and I think it's contagious and I think you create with your words reality."
Calgary-based Enbridge (TSX:ENB) says the pipeline is a strategic project for all of Canada that will result in thousands of jobs and billions in government revenues.
But Williams, who shared the peace prize in 1997 for her work on an international ban on landmines, said the women she met along the route have not and will not benefit from any of the economic promises of oil sands expansion.
"By cutting off the ability to get it to the coast, you can help people recognize that expansion is not the way to go," said Williams.