I flew in to Bella Bella yesterday to witness and photograph the Joint Review Panel Hearings being held there for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline. Sharing my flight were the panel members as well as Heiltsuk’s high ranking Chief Woyala. The community came to the airport to greet their chief and to stand in solidarity against the pipeline. The demonstration was powerful, respectful, and peaceful. The panel members were taken in a van from the airport into town and over to a resort called Shearwater. The rest of us walked into town where there was a feast, speeches, and dancing. The afternoon was a moving display of a unified community. The feast was a celebration of all the local foods that sustain the community which included smoked oolichan (yum!), salmon, rock cod, halibut, and herring roe on hemlock branches. At the end of the speeches we were all shocked to hear an announcement that the Joint Review Panel was cancelling the next day’s hearing because they felt threatened by the community and had feared for their safety when they were at the airport. I got off the plane with the panel members and I was with them until they drove away in the van. At no point was there anything aggressive or threatening about the situation. Shock and disappointment are not strong enough words to describe how the community felt upon hearing the news. Not only was the announcement extremely insulting but months and months of work were put into getting ready for this event.
The tribal council is currently in negotiations with the panel to try to get things moving forward.
While we wait for word, I’ll leave you with some images from the day.
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