The night I requested a Line 9 info package from Enbridge representatives at a public
meeting – and was denied – was the night that started this incredible journey. As a student of environmental politics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, I was interested to understand where the pipeline was located and what the local issues were. I finished class, jumped on a bus, and grabbed a $40 cab to the remote meeting location.
The meeting consisted of a brief presentation by Enbridge and then questions from Conservation Halton Board members. After the meeting, I approached the five or so company representatives in the lobby. Although attempting to be outgoing, I was still a very much soft-spoken introvert. My hands were shaking as I approached Enbridge and requested a copy of the extra info packages they held in their hands – which had just been provided to Conservation Halton Board members.
After a very brief discussion where I was interrogated about my name, address, and “who I was working for”, I walked away empty handed. The next day, I obtained a copy through a simple request to a contact on the Conservation Board. Hardly an “abrupt and confrontational approach” as described by Graham White of Enbridge in the January 2014 Toronto Star special report (who by the way I have never met and who was not present at that meeting).
After that exchange, I instantly felt a need to know more and the responsibility to ensure others had the information as well. If I was going to discuss the info with affected communities, I needed to know who those affected communities were! So I went home and started mapping the pipeline …
To be honest, I could not be more grateful for the individuals at Enbridge – you know who you are – for denying a young, soft-spoken student access to public information. You gave me the motivation to dig for the answers and to connect with communities through the sharing of information. It was at this point I found the strength to continue the journey. I was ready for the challenge.
I quickly discovered that Line 9 traveled straight through the small community where I grew up – Glenburnie, Ontario. I was shocked! Having lived in that community for over 17 years, my family and friends had no idea there was an oil pipeline running next to my beloved country public school. I started a website with the intention to educate the Glenburnie community. You can actually still see my original website at www.line9glenburnie.wordpress.com.
However, within 5 minutes of its creation, I was already thinking much bigger. If my community didn’t know about the pipeline, how many other communities were in the dark? Line 9 Glenburnie rapidly developed into Line 9 Communities. The success of www.line9communities.com has been overwhelming! I poured my heart into writing factual articles about the project application and entire history of Line 9, but the main attraction was – and continues to be – the pipeline maps.
Line 9 Communities was launched March 17th, 2013. By that time, it became very apparent that my Grandma was beginning to lose her courageous battle with cancer. She keenly followed my journey with enthusiasm, and supported my ambition to learn and teach others. By April 18th, she was hospitalized. She asked me what I was going to do about the pipeline. She didn’t agree with the secrecy and the lack of information around the Line 9 project. She pushed me to do more. On April 19th, I sat by her bed side and applied to be an Intervenor in the Canadian National Energy Board hearing on the project. Once the application was submitted, she said “Good! You’re going to get in!” At sunrise on April 22nd – Earth Day – she was gone.
People say things happen for a reason. I firmly believe that. As she peacefully took her last breath, she held my hand and repeated my name over and over. The following week, we held a small memorial at her final resting place – less than 600m from the pipeline. Exactly one month after her passing, I received a letter that I had been accepted as an Intervenor. My participation in the NEB Line 9 hearing became so much more. I was now working in her memory.
Rather than hiding behind a fake name and profile picture, I consciously chose to be upfront about who I was and what my intention would be. After all, I was a perfect example of the average concerned citizen. Better yet, I had no idea how the NEB process worked. I filed motions when they were just information requests and thought that the NEB participant funding program was there to provide an honorarium for my time. Needless to say, I received $0 but obtained a wealth of knowledge throughout the process! Although I strongly disagree with several actions taken by our federal government over the past few years, I did not let talk about the new “10 page application to participate” dissuade me from applying. I just sat down and did it.
When any individual speaks up for what they believe is right, they subject themselves to severe public scrutiny. This became very apparent when in the January 2014 Toronto Star report, Mr. White (Enbridge) labelled me as a “stringent opponent of the project and an activist”. Although I do not label myself as an “activist”, I do believe in having your voice heard about a social cause. And if by “stringent” Mr. White meant “not allowing for any exceptions or loosening of standards” as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, then I whole heartedly agree. Why would Mr. White expect anything less than communities along the line to demand Enbridge meet existing standards of operating a pipeline in Canada?
Through the summer of 2013, I was immersed in reading regulatory documents, submitting information requests to Enbridge, keeping up with media coverage and building the Line 9 Communities website. In October 2013, final oral arguments were given in Toronto, Ontario. As I wore my Grandma’s gold angel pin, I delivered what will always be one of the most powerful speeches of my life.
The final hearing was incredibly inspiring. There were so many groups standing united and highlighting the poor consultation and questionable safety of the project. First Nations, Métis, neighbourhood organizations, government and individual citizens brought their concerns to the NEB.
After the NEB process was complete, I continued to network with all the incredible people I had met along the way. One word could describe the whole journey – community. Enbridge Line 9 has re-connected me with my childhood community and the pipeline route has provided me a path to connect with other communities and hear their stories.
Reflecting on my journey, I have realized how much I have grown as a person in the last year. I am no longer timid in approaching large players and asking the tough questions. I have a strong interest in encouraging active engagement in social and environmental causes. Through the support of others along the ride, I now personally understand what it means to be empowered. Moving forward, my goal is to take the valuable lessons learned over the past year and use my experience to help encourage others to find their voice and make a difference.
Regardless of the NEB decision, www.line9communities.com will continue to unite and be a forum for communities to raise awareness and promote discussion. After all, it is needed now more than ever.
Some things really matter, and Line 9 is definitely one of them!
It is extremely important to remember that these pipelines are all part of a large connected network. Many thanks to those at the Line 6B Citizens Blog, for sharing their experiences as the extended communities of Line 9.