Rick J. Smith Headshot

Yes, Americans Give Us Money to Protest the Pipeline. So What?

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Over the last few months, some of the oil industry's biggest fans have made what they think are startling revelations about us.

They've discovered that Americans give us money. And they say this money forced us to talk about the pollution and destruction that come along with tar sands extraction.

They think we're ashamed of this. We're not. But we are ashamed of something. We're ashamed of what their friends in the oil industry are doing to our climate, to Canada's international reputation, to northern Alberta, and what they would like to do to northern British Columbia, too.

So let's burst their bubble.

Do we take money from Americans? Yup. It's roughly 10 per cent of our annual budget.

Did this money make us sound the alarm on what their friends are doing? Nope. Funnily enough, Canadian environmentalists objected to Canadian environmental destruction long before we saw one greenback.

Now that's out of the way, let's talk about the real issue.

Charities work to fix problems. Often, these problems -- starvation, human rights abuses, humanitarian disasters -- are abroad. So Canadians give to charities that work abroad: World Vision, Médécins Sans Frontières, Amnesty International, The Red Cross.

What we're not used to is actually being the problem. We should get used it. Because not only is tar sands oil already some of the dirtiest, but things are getting worse. The tar sands are Canada's fastest growing source of global warming emissions and the main reason that Canada has become an international pariah on climate change.

Worse still, according to the industry itself, tar sands oil is getting even dirtier: a recent report by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) showed that emissions per barrel of tar sands oil are on the rise.

The impacts of tar sands have led environmentalists, in Canada and the United States, to do what we've done many times before -- work together. We worked in partnership to create change on a major environmental issues, just as we did fighting acid rain, or on Devils Lake on the North Dakota-Manitoba border, or in the Great Lakes.

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The ethical oil crowd is now taking particular issue with the mounting opposition to Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline. We are opposed to this project because of the risks of an oil spill in northern B.C.'s forests and coastline and the role the pipeline would play in expanding tar sands production. More than 60 First Nations communities have opposed the project over environmental concerns, and the vast majority of British Columbians have echoed this.

We have accepted American money to support our work to raise awareness about the stakes of this pipeline proposal -- roughly 2 per cent of our annual budget. Is that why we, dozens of First Nations and the majority of British Columbians oppose it? Absolutely not.

The question is not what side of the border you're on; it's what side of the issue you're on. And the sad fact is that the oil industry and its cheerleaders are on a very wrong, very dangerous side of this very important issue. So we're not sorry for working with Americans. Not one little bit.

After all, the companies in the tar sands are global: from China, Holland, England, America, and Japan. Just three of them made $70 billion profit in 2010. Now we can understand why such powerful interests are used to getting their way.

And we can understand why polluting industries under pressure do what they have always done before and shoot the messenger.

What we can't understand is why anyone would think we're ashamed of working with American friends. Because we're not.