01/15/2014 12:32 EST | Updated 03/16/2014 05:59 EDT

Tar Sands Reporting Project Needs Backers

Tar Sands Reporting Project from VancouverObserver on Vimeo.

At its essence, journalism is a fearless voice of the people and a public trust. It is in that spirit that The Vancouver Observer seeks to cover one of the biggest issues facing us today: the oil sands, or to as some, the some the tar sands. No matter what you call it, it's an issue that polarizes politics and creates controversy way beyond Canada's borders.

It's a story about passionate, conflicted and hard-working people who are faced with a choice about what they want their future to look like. It's a story about you and me.

spirit bear

This iconic photograph of the Spirit Bear from the Great Bear Rainforest is one of many rewards Tar Sands Reporting Project backers get, depending on the amount they pledge. Photo by Andrew Wright

In early December, I launched a campaign on the world's leading crowdsourcing platform, Kickstarter, "The Tar Sands Reporting Project." In this campaign, the Vancouver Observer team went to ordinary Canadians and asked them to fund a year of stories at the Vancouver Observer about the people, places and conflicts associated with Canada's tar sands that go deeper than daily journalism.

There are 450 people who have already pledged support for The Vancouver Observer's Tar Sands Reporting Project. We have three days left in the campaign to raise money to make a film.

Through the talented work of Bill Weaver, we can take the story onto the screen and reach more people. We want to take our cameras to film conversations Canadians are having across ideological divides and dinner tables about the oil sands, or the tar sands, depending on what you call them. Even the name is polarizing and creates conflicts in Canada and far beyond.

But to make a film, we need to raise another $5,000 before Sunday morning at 6 a.m. EST. If 500 more people donate $1 each, we will receive another $5,000 from a funder who wants to see 1,000 people back the Tar Sands Reporting Project. It's only $1 and it takes less than three minutes to pledge. Pledge here now!

grimesElectro sensation Grimes backed the Tar Sands Reporting Project and asked her fans to do the same.

There are so many stories waiting to be told. Often, the real story is revealed in conversations. One time, while getting reactions from First Nations leaders about MPs promoting pipelines in the U.S., VO's managing editor, Jenny Uechi, received a call in the evening.

About 10 minutes into the talk, the source told her that the B.C. government was moving to let Enbridge to cut down trees in traditional territory to help make way for the Northern Gateway pipeline -- and the pipeline hasn't even been approved. VO obtained documents, broke the story and it shed light on what an oil pipeline company was doing outside the public's view.

There are so many more stories like this one.

Wind the camera back to last November. The Vancouver Observer revealed that Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline company had coordinated CSIS and the RCMP to spy on environmental groups in British Columbia during the National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel hearings.

This information was obtained through the efforts of Vancouver Observer's national correspondent, Matthew Millar. And then, last week, Millar broke another bombshell story. Canada's top spy watchdog, the head of SIRC, which is the oversight agency of CSIS, had just registered as a lobbyist for Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

The story sparked 60 stories in the following days -- from the Huffington Post to CBC to the Globe and Mail to the National Post... where Chuck Strahl offered the argument in his defence that he had checked with the ethics commissioner, and gotten her approval.

In a story by Brian Hutchinson in the National Post, Strahl said that the Vancouver Observer is aggressively "anti-pipeline" and opposes Northern Gateway. Its story was influenced by "an agenda...

"This isn't about right and wrong," Strahl said. "This is about pipeline politics, right?"

But Mr. Strahl was wrong. It was about good reporting on issues that concern all of us, not just pipelines, but the right to exercise our democratic rights without being spied upon in an effort coordinated by a Texas-based corporation.

If you think stories matter as much as I do, if you think they have the power to touch people's hearts and minds, please pledge to the Tar Sands Reporting campaign.

On New Year's Eve, less than 30 days after launching "The Tar Sands Reporting Project," we reached our first goal.

We're so grateful to have the opportunity to be reaching now for our next goal.

bill weaver filmmakerFilmmaker Bill Weaver. Photo by Zack Embree.

Now, we want to take Peabody award-winning filmmaker, Bill Weaver, to where change really happens: in homes and at dinner tables across British Columbia.

It's in this intimate setting where environmentalists, industrial workers, and ordinary people like you and me talk with each other about how we feel about the environment, the economy, our values our hopes, and our country's future.

Then, we'll take it back to the blockades, the corporate offices, the marches, the parties, and the gas pump -- where all of us put our talk into action.

With your help, we'll produce and distribute a provocative film that will go beyond the issues, to the very DNA of change, and encourage constructive discussion across all points of view. It's the only way we're going to find the innovative solutions we so badly need.

This is an amazing moment. KeystoneXL pipeline, Enbridge's proposed pipeline, and Kinder Morgan's pipeline expansion, hang in the balance.

With Enbridge and Kinder Morgan, British Columbia's coastline may also very well hang in the balance, too. On Thursday, the Natural Resources Ministry announced a $22-million campaign to sell Canada's tar sands abroad. Let's not let their story be the only story the world hears.