By Janice Lee
Originally in the Waterloo Record, August 13, 2013
When in the near future, the Enbridge Line 9 pipeline spills bitumen from Alberta's oilsands into the Grand River, we'll tell our children we agreed to reverse the flow of a 37-year-old pipeline because, well, it was good for the economy.
We won't mention that it didn't create any long-lasting jobs for Waterloo Region.
We won't mention that the Grand River is the watershed from which local farms draw water to cultivate the food we eat.
We'll tell them we trusted Enbridge to put as much effort into maintaining safety as they did in pursuing profits.
We knew that Enbridge had 94 reportable spills in 2011 alone, with 41 of them off-site of Enbridge facilities, but we trusted that there wouldn't be a spill in Waterloo Region, because they said this pipe, Line 9, was safe.
When the next unprecedented rainstorm floods the Grand River and brings polluted water all through Waterloo Region, we'll tell our children we can clean it up. We'll tell them that the ducks, plants and trees will be OK. We'll tell them the environment will be as good as new.
We knew that Enbridge was still cleaning up in August 2013 from their biggest recent spill three years earlier in Marshall, Mich., when three million litres of diluted bitumen spilled into local waterways. They were committed to safety. It only took them three years to almost clean it all up. We trusted that there was no harm done to the local ecosystem or economy during that time.
We'll teach our children about wear and tear. We'll tell them that Line 9 was coated with the same polyethylene coating as that Michigan one, but Line 9 was built six years later in 1976.
When our children ask if the government checked that Line 9 was safe, we'll tell them that the Ontario Ministry of the Environment made sure to ask Enbridge one whole question: They asked to have better maps of the pipeline. Maps are important. We need to know where these spills are going to happen. The Grand River Conservation Authority asked one whole question too, and the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, they didn't ask any questions, because they knew that when Enbridge said the pipeline was safe, the pipeline was safe.
When our children ask why the indigenous people of Six Nations were calling on the government to honour and respect treaty rights the government signed, we'll tell them that those treaties were made hundreds of years ago, so they don't count anymore.
All of these contracts: the Two Row Agreement (1664), the Nanfan Treaty (1701), the Haldimand Proclamation (1784), the Royal Proclamation (1763), and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) — we don't pay attention to them because they're old.
When our children ask why we don't switch to green energy, we'll tell them, well, we had all this oil so we thought it best to extract it and sell it as fast as we could. We knew that the Alberta oilsands project was the most polluting mining project in the entire world, but it created jobs for some people and that was more important. Creating jobs in new green industries and shifting our entire culture off of a pollutive oil culture sounded too hard. We didn't have the will to do that.
We won't tell them we knew better.
Janice Lee of Kitchener is a singer-songwriter, poet, actor, arts/youth facilitator and a KW Poetry Slam organizer.