Everybody loves a good storyteller and I’m no exception.
Last week, I listened to some of the live streaming of the Enbridge hearings from Kitimaat, the First Nations village a few clicks outside the company town of Kitimat in northwest B.C.
It was the tail end of the first day and the Haisla’s Chief Councillor, Ellis Ross, was telling how Kitimaat was founded and the stories of betrayal over the years.
Now I’ve been to nearby Kitimat, and my memories are of a blue-collar town dominated by the blazing hot furnaces inside Alcan (now Rio Tinto Alcan); the Eurocan Pulp and Paper mill spewing God knows what (now closed); and touring around Methanex (also closed). To be honest, I never even saw the native Indian village, on the east side of the Douglas Channel.
I’ve always known Kitimat and nearby Prince Rupert as shippers of the “dangerous and the dirty”. If Enbridge has its way, shipping bitumen and condensate through the long fiords embracing the Northwest Coast will continue that tradition, managing to combine the worst of both worlds: the dangerous (for the environment) and the dirty (heavy oil).
But Chief Ellis Ross and other members of the Haisla Nation took us back eloquently to the time before the “dangerous and the dirty”, before pollution wiped out the eulachon runs and when whales chased herring all the way up the Douglas Channel.
The Toronto Star recently listed China’s Urumqi as one of the Top Ten worst places to live in the world. The reason? Pollution. The list prompted my strangely fond memories of coughing and spluttering through winter in Urumqi while teaching English there between 2005 and 2006.
By Alison Bate
Back street in Urumqi
It’s winter in Urumqi and everyone is out in the streets chipping away at the snow and ice. A huge human effort. Even the local doctor is out in the alley in her white coat and mask, attacking the ice with a spade.
The local government has closed all the major roads downtown until noon, and told the residents to clear the streets. No snowplows here or salting and gritting of roads. Just hordes of people attacking the ice. It’s dirty and grimy, full of soot.
After a token effort, the stall-keepers huddle round tiny coal-fire tin cans, the men wearing Chinese army overcoats and Snoopy sheepskin hats with long earflaps. Only the Uyghurs selling kebabs look warm, with large old-style barbeques for cooking the mutton. Continue reading →
When a ship gets into trouble off the remote west coast of Vancouver Island, there are very few rescue services around.
The province relies on a commercial tug in the area being able to help out. Currently, major seagoing tugs carry electronic tracking devices so they can be located in real-time on computer charts. This information is provided to US and Canadian Marine Vessel Traffic Services to refer to if there is an emergency request for tug assistance. This is known as a “tug-of-opportunity”.
Apart from the fact that there may not be a tug capable of holding a large ship cruising by at the right time, there are several other flaws in this arrangement. Continue reading →
I must admit I was a little surprised not to get a straight answer from Transport Canada at first about the number of tug escorts traveling with condensate tankers into Kitimat.
I assumed it was clearly set down in the legislation whether tankers carrying this kind of hydrocarbon mixture required tug escorts and, if so, how many.
After all, set rules are laid down for laden oil tankers passing through Haro Strait. They are required to travel with tug escorts, as are laden crude oil tankers leaving the port of Vancouver, typically from Kinder Morgan Canada’s Westridge Terminal in Burnaby.