A group of anti-Northern Gateway pipeline protesters surprised Kitimat's mayor at a basketball championship — just days before the city is set to vote on the project.
In a video uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday, Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan is interrupted by members of the Haisla First Nation chanting, "No Enbridge!" and wearing shirts emblazoned with the same slogan.
Monaghan was invited to the girls basketball championship to hand out a $2,000 prize to the victorious team, the Vancouver Observer reports. Sunday's game took place in the Haisla Village of Kitimaat, which neighbours Kitimat.
In the video, the mayor stands quietly until the protest settles down. She eventually gets back to her task of handing out T-shirts to the winning team — including many who are wearing "No Enbridge" gear.
"I was not shook up," Monaghan told the Observer. "I've always respected the Village and its people." She said she does not have a position for or against the pipeline.
Kitimat, located in B.C.'s north coast region, is proposed as the terminal point for Enbridge's multibillion-dollar Northern Gateway pipeline, as well as the port where hundreds of oil tankers would leave for Asia each year.
That means about 220 tankers would visit the town annually. The proposed pipeline is projected to transport 525,000 barrels of oil per day.
Currently, Haisla First Nation is involved with three B.C. LNG proposals.
"I think the fundamental issue for First Nations in our area, at least for Haisla, fundamentally is still the land issue," Chief Coun. Ellis Ross told The Canadian Press last year.
The name "Haisla" means "dwellers downriver," states the band's website. Today, the community is a mix of two historic bands: the Kitamaat of the Douglas and Devastation channels, and the Kitlope of the upper Princess Royal Channel and Gardner Canal.
In December, a Joint Review Panel report concluded that the federal government should approve the pipeline, along with 209 recommended conditions.
A plebiscite allowing residents to voice their opinions for or against the pipeline is set to for Saturday. (The Haisla First Nation cannot participate in the vote unless they are Kitimat citizens, according to the Observer.)
Enbridge has been criticized for a large public relations campaign in Kitimat ahead of the vote.
It is an important — albeit non-binding — event, says David Miller, the president and CEO of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and former Toronto mayor.
"The Kitimat vote, and Enbridge's efforts to sway it, is a reminder that massive projects, which pose real risks to the environment and society, should not proceed without the approval of well-informed citizens," Miller wrote in a blog post for The Huffington Post Canada.
"That means, these projects don't only have to pass the [Joint Review Panel]'s test or the federal government's — they have to pass all of ours, too."
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