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Conservative Government Celebrates Earth Day By Removing Habitat Protections For Humpback Whales

Humpback Whales and Gitga'at Territory

Gil Island is one of four areas of critical habitat identified for Pacific humpbacks under their recovery strategy. The Conservative government’s delisting of Humpback whales, means the whales and their critical habitat will not be protected from daily oil tanker traffic.

The title of this post is a bit tongue in cheek, but could the timing be worse?

Stephen Harper’s cabinet, in its quest to significantly diminish legal hurdles for the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, has quietly removed legal protection for Humpback whales and their critical habitat, by taking them off the “threatened” animals list under the Species At Risk Act (SARA). The changes, which were made despite opposition from a majority of academics, conservation groups and First Nations who were sent consultation letters on the proposed de-listing, were published in the Canadian Gazette over Easter weekend and became public today (April 22), which also happens to be Earth Day.

The de-listing appears to be in direct response to a Federal Court ruling earlier this year that found Ottawa had missed mandatory deadlines to release plans for Humpback whale habitat protection. At the time of her ruling, Justice Anne Mactavish said the government’s failure could have an impact on approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline. Rather than protecting the whales’ critical habitat, Ottawa has, to quote the Canadian Press, “changed the rules.”

The de-listing, which will be viewed as an attack on whales and the environment by First Nations, conservation groups and the general public, is the clearest sign to date that Stephen Harper is going for broke in attempting to force the Northern Gateway pipeline through British Columbia, despite steadfast and widespread opposition from First Nations and the general public.

At a time when government relations with First Nations are already inflamed over backdoor changes (since rescinded) to environmental legislation in BC (witness the recent ejection of BC government officials from a liquified natural gas conference), the Harper government’s decision on Humpback whales is completely tone deaf, and threatens not only the social license for the Northern Gateway pipeline (which frankly appears beyond salvage given its recent rejection by the community that had the most to gain from it materially), but also threatens to impede other resource projects in Northern BC and elsewhere.

The Harper government’s move to delist Humpback whales is one more in a pattern of poor decisions that have undermined Mr. Harper’s own “responsible resource development” agenda. As the Toronto Star’s Les Whittington notes, “…watching these energy debates unfold, many observers have concluded the federal government and industry failed to anticipate the depth of opposition to new oil pipelines and completely mishandled attempts to seek aboriginal co-operation on Northern Gateway.”

In uncharacteristically candid commentary, TD Bank chief economist Craig Alexander is frank about the mishandling of pipeline development (all the more significant as TD is a major investor in oil sands projects and infrastructure): ”The energy companies made a fundamental mistake. They felt that selling the public on these projects was going to be far easier than it actually turned out to be. There were mistakes made about how to get buy-in from the public and from some governments on the merits of these projects. And they may not have fully incorporated some of the environmental issues into their planning process.”

Does the Harper cabinet’s decision to delist Humpback whales help get buy-in from the public? Does it signal that environmental issues are an important part of the planning process? Or does it reveal a self-defeating impatience and aggression that undermines trust and goodwill with key publics?

“The Harper government appears to have been impatient with a range of issues around the creation of energy megaprojects. It has streamlined approval processes, narrowed the qualifications for intervenors in regulatory hearings and given the federal cabinet the final say on approving construction. Among environmentalists, then natural resources minister Joe Oliver’s 2012 suggestion that greens were trying to “hijack” the regulatory process to achieve their “radical ideological agenda” is seen as a spark that contributed to the explosion of opposition to West Coast pipelines and more oil tankers.”

British Columbians, and Canadians need to decide how far they will let Mr. Harper’s wanton approach to resource development harm future prospects for harmonious resource development and partnerships with First Nations and other communities in Northern BC and elsewhere that are truly responsible, sustainable and supported by local communities. We will have a chance to make that decision in the next federal election schedule for October 2015.

Pipeline of mistrust: How the federal Conservative government undermined public trust in the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline review process

Stephen Harper and his federal cabinet are expected to make a final decision on whether or not to approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and tankers project by June 19, 2014. This timeline follows a positive recommendation from the Joint Review Panel that conducted hearings into the pipeline in British Columbia over the past two years. That recommendation is now the subject of several applications for judicial review, launched by First Nations and conservation groups who say the panel erred in law in the way it arrived at its recommendation.

Nonetheless, cabinet consideration of the pipeline is no doubt proceeding, and as Stephen Harper and his ministers meet, they do so mired in an atmosphere of public skepticism and mistrust, fuelled largely by their own missteps and transgressions against the public interest.

Governments Defeat Themselves

Bill Gallagher does an excellent job of documenting the demise of ill-conceived resource development projects in his book Resource Rulers: Fortune & Folly on Canada’s Road to ResourcesAmong the many lessons in the book, is one akin to the adage, “government’s defeat themselves”, or (with a twist), “government’s undermine their own regulatory reviews.” In the case of Northern Gateway, a federal review and consultation process that among other things was supposed to be based on the duty to consult honourably (a concept in Aboriginal law), the federal government has clearly failed that test, and through a stream of (mis)calculated rhetoric and intimidation tactics, has undermined public confidence in the regulatory review process itself (infographic includes links to media coverage for each event):

The legal implications of the federal government’s actions may someday be addressed in any one of the lawsuits that would surely follow an approval by cabinet. In the meantime however, the damage has already been done to Northern Gateway. How can anyone believe this process has been conducted in a fair and honourable fashion, with good faith, when it’s clear the government was intent on undermining voices of dissent before and during the regulatory review process itself? How can First Nations and British Columbians have confidence that all registered intervenors in the review process were able to present their evidence and to have it received and considered objectively, when the government was pressuring and spying on those same intervenors behind the scenes, and the RCMP was creating surveillance reports, and apparently sharing them with the National Energy Board (the organization responsible for the Joint Review Panel)?

The Right to Say “No”

There are many reasons that the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and oil tankers project is a bad idea for British Columbia and Canada, chief among them being the inevitable oil spills that would result, and their potentially disastrous effects on coastal communities, fisheries, and endangered wildlife on BC’s North Coast. Personally, I believe in the right of First Nations and British Columbians to determine what kinds of development and industry they will permit in their traditional territories and the province more generally. Fundamentally, I believe in the right of communities to say “no”, if and when they find that the risks of a project outweigh the benefits.

All of that aside, the federal Conservative government has added its own entry to the growing list of reasons the pipeline should not be approved: A compromised regulatory review process that British Columbians and Canadians are right to mistrust.

The Gitga’at First Nation Is Protecting Its Way of Life From Oil Tankers and an Unlawful Environmental Assessment

Judicial review challenge alleges Enbridge Joint Review Panel breached the honour of the crown in its dealings with the Gitga’at First Nation.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA (January 22, 2014) – The Federal government cannot proceed directly to approve the Northern Gateway pipeline because a recent Joint Review Panel assessment did not meet its constitutional obligations to First Nations, according to a judicial review application filed with the Federal Court of Appeal.

The application was filed by lawyers for the Gitga’at First Nation who say the Joint Review Panel erred in law, including by failing to properly consider all evidence provided by the Gitga’at, whose culture and way of life would be severely threatened by supertanker traffic, shipping bitumen from Alberta and importing condensate from Asia and elsewhere.

“The JRP came to our community and we bared our souls to them,” says Arnold Clifton, Chief Councilor for the Gitga’at First Nation. “We gave testimony and shared an important feast with them to demonstrate our connection with our territory through food. Clearly they didn’t listen to us. It’s like they were never here.”

Gitga’at traditional lands and waters encompass 7,500 square kilometres, including all approach routes for ships transiting to and from the Port of Kitimat. The Gitga’at have never surrendered their aboriginal rights or title.

“Today we’re fighting an unlawful environmental assessment and review process that failed to meet its constitutional obligations to First Nations,” said Clifton. “We owe it to our children to defend our rights, our coastal communities and our way of life from the dangers of oil tanker traffic.”

The application states that while the Gitga’at are resilient, they are also highly vulnerable to threats to their local ecosystems and community wellbeing from impacts cause by increased tanker traffic. The negative impacts to Gitga’at society, culture, identity, health, and economy will only increase in the event of an oil spill, with the impacts increasing with the size and consequences of the spill.

Traditional foods harvested from the sea comprise the largest portion of the Gitga’at diet.

High Definition B-roll footage available upon request.

Contact Information:

Andrew Frank
Communications Officer
Gitga’at First Nation

Gitga’at First Nation Reacts to Announcement of Chevron Canada EPC Contract for Kitimat LNG Project

Speed of engineering and construction is outpacing meaningful consultation with local First Nation.

HARTLEY BAY, BRITISH COLUMBIA – (January 21, 2014) – Arnold Clifton, Chief Councillor of the Gitga’at First Nation is reacting to Chevron Canada’s recent announcement of an EPC contract with Fluor Corporation and JGC, for the Kitimat LNG project in Bish Cove, British Columbia.

“We are disappointed that Chevron feels it can move forward with engineering, procurement and construction at a time when it has failed to consult meaningfully with our First Nation,” says Clifton. “Chevron says that this is the most advanced of the proposed LNG projects in British Columbia but that is simply not the case when it comes to consulting with Gitga’at.”

The 2006 Environmental Assessment process excluded the Gitga’at First Nation and consideration of any impacts in their territory. The Kitimat LNG Partnership was to have worked with Gitga’at to complete a full and comprehensive review of the project impacts on Gitga’at interests by the end of last year, but they have not even started that process with Gitga’at.

Gitga’at territory encompasses approximately 7,500 square kilometres of land and water, including a major portion of Douglas Channel, which is the route LNG carriers would have to travel to get to and from the LNG terminal in Kitimat. The LNG carriers will travel right by the Gitga’at home community of Hartley Bay, through traditional fishing grounds.

The EPC contract includes completion of the existing Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) as well as engineering and procurement services for the proposed initial phases of the Kitimat LNG project.

“Consultation with the Gitga’at is a legal requirement,” said Chief Councillor Clifton. “There is no way that this project is at an ‘advanced’ stage when consultation with one of the most directly affected First Nations has yet to really get off the ground.”

Map of Gitga’at territory (free for use by media):

Contact Information:

Andrew Frank
Communications Officer
Gitga’at First Nation

Increase Your Media Profile: Public Relations Service-Learning Opportunity


Public Relations students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University are looking to partner with local civic, community and business improvement organizations to produce media kits on a pro bono/service-learning basis that can help tell stories and increase media profile.

Media kits include:

  • Profile of the organization
  • Bio of a key individual (or individuals)
  • News release & template
  • Issue backgrounder
  • Original photograph for the organization

Depending on the nature of the organization, students may also develop additional fact sheets, Q&As, logos or other media materials in consultation with their clients.

Media kits must be completed on or before April 7, 2014 and require a 20 minute meeting and Q&A session with a representative from the organization before production begins. These meetings will ideally take place in the classroom on either Feb. 17 or Feb. 24 at the Kwantlen campus in Richmond (across from the Canada Line station at Lansdowne) between 10am and 12:50pm.

Clients should expect 1 – 2 follow-up emails from students to clarify information and seek additional creative input during media kit production.

Organizations or individuals who are interested in this unique service-learning opportunity should contact Public Relations instructor, Andrew Frank, at andrew.frank “at” or 604-367-2112.

We look forward to helping tell your organization’s story!

Gitga’at First Nation Disappointed in Joint Review Panel Recommendation; Hopes Federal Government Will Reject Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Project

20100525-GITAHARTLEY BAY, BRITISH COLUMBIA (December 19, 2013) – The Gitga’at First Nation is disappointed in the Joint Review Panel’s recommendation on the Northern Gateway project, but is hopeful the Federal government will reject the project as inconsistent with its constitutional and international legal obligations to respect the rights of Aboriginal peoples and in the interest of building positive relationships with the Gitga’at and other BC First Nations.

“We are disappointed in the Joint Review Panel’s recommendation,” said Arnold Clifton, Chief Councilor and Hereditary Chief of the Gitga’at First Nation. “We presented solid evidence to the Joint Review Panel of the severe and irreversible harm that Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline and oil tankers project would bring to our territory, resources, and way of life.”

The Gitga’at say that if the Federal government is serious about improving its relationship with First Nations in British Columbia, then it will consider the wider legal and political implications and reject the pipeline.

“The Eyford report was clear in what is at risk if the Federal government fails to build trusting relationships with First Nations in British Columbia,” said Clifton. “We are still hopeful that they will see the merit of stopping this project due to the significant impacts that oil tankers would have on the Gitga’at people’s rights and way of life, and the risks this project would pose to other First Nations along the proposed pipeline and tanker route.”

Over the next week, the Gitga’at First Nation will meet internally to discuss the panel’s conclusions and the extent that Gitga’at evidence was considered, at which time it will be in a better position to communicate its next steps.

“The JRP’s recommendation is by no means the final say on this project,” said Clifton. “All tankers en route to Kitimat must pass through our territory and we will continue to protect our resources and culture from the severe damage this project would cause. All options are on the table.”

Contact Information:

Gitga’at First Nation
Andrew Frank
Communications Officer
937-767-7427 (until Dec. 27)

First Nations Gain Powerful New Allies in Fight Against Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and Tankers

YDA Nation Logos

Solidarity Accord aligns First Nations with supporters from across Canadian society ahead of a Joint Review Panel decision on the project. 

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA, COAST SALISH TERRITORY – (December 5, 2013) – The Yinka Dene Alliance (YDA) has welcomed a new signatory to the Save the Fraser Declaration and has also launched a new Solidarity Accord, backed by some of Canada and BC’s most powerful unions, as well as a host of local leaders from tourism businesses, municipal government, health and conservation organizations.

The Save the Fraser Declaration is an indigenous law banning tar sands pipelines and tankers from crossing BC, signed by representatives of over 130 First Nations.

Chief Archie Patrick of the Stellat’en First Nation signed the declaration, just moments before the launch of the new Solidarity Accord by Unifor, the BC Teachers’ Federation, the BC Wilderness Tourism Association, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the David Suzuki Foundation among others.

The Stellat’en First Nation is one of many First Nations along the proposed pipeline route that Enbridge has been trying to woo for years.

“First Nations opposition to Enbridge’s project just keeps growing,” said Chief Martin Louie of the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation. “Never before have we been joined by such a vast range of supporters from across Canadian society. This gives the alliance greater strength for the fight ahead and shows the magnitude and power of public opposition to this pipeline that is proposed to cross over our territories.”

Through the Solidarity Accord, non-First Nations organizations and individuals pledge to stand with First Nations in upholding the Save the Fraser Declaration and stopping the Enbridge project, with a new website launching at

“The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project is simply too risky a proposal for our industry to support,” said Jim DeHart, President of the BC Wilderness Tourism Association. “An oil spill would affect the major rivers or coastline of BC and threaten the entire provincial tourism industry. That’s why we’re signing this accord today.”

“Unifor is proud to stand in solidarity with First Nations as they resist the Enbridge Northern Gateway project,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Area Director for BC. “It’s time for a new vision for Canada’s energy industry –one that addresses the reality of aboriginal title and rights, respects our social and environmental commitments, and generates lasting wealth for all who live here.”

The Save the Fraser Solidarity Accord may be found online at:

Contact Information:

Chief Martin Louie
Nadleh Whut’en First Nation

Geraldine Thomas Flurer
Yinka Dene Alliance

Olympic Medal Designer Creates Necklace to Champion Equality For Women’s Soccer in Canada

Corrine-Hunt-wwwcm-pendantFans and supporters of women’s soccer in Canada will soon have an opportunity to show their support for the “beautiful game” and equality in Canadian soccer, by wearing a new necklace created by Olympic Medal designer, Corrine Hunt, and jeweler, Sandra Bars.

The necklace was created as a fundraiser for Why the Women’s World Cup Matters (WWWCM), a non-profit organization dedicated to creating positive changes for girls and women on and off the field using the Women’s World Cup as a catalyst.

“I support this campaign because soccer is good for everybody and equality and soccer is even better,” said Hunt.

Titled, Kiwkw, the silver necklace features an eagle and an equal sign on one side, and a World Cup soccer ball on the other. “All is fair in the air” is the artist’s motto for the piece. There will also be a limited edition in gold.

Necklaces are available for purchase online:

Proceeds from the necklace will help support initiatives including a First Nations Girls Soccer program, a World Cup Leadership program in schools, and a documentary exploring the role of soccer in changing the lives of women from all walks of life, around the world.

“It’s an honour to have an artist like Corrine Hunt create such a powerful symbol for our social equity campaign,” said former hall of fame national soccer team member, Carrie Serwetnyk, founder of Why the Women’s World Cup Matters. “Both Corinne and Sandra have loved playing soccer and they worked together to create this exquisite necklace to encourage empowerment for girls and women in our country and beyond.”

The necklace will be formally unveiled as part of a post-Canada/Mexico game party fundraiser featuring speakers including Former BC Sports Minister Olga Illich, First Nations leader Carla George, and Vancouver City Councillor Adriane Carr. Vancouver Whitecaps official national anthem singer Marie Hui will headline the music with her band Groove n’ Tonic.

Tickets to the event, which includes food, bands, silent auction, raffles and prizes, are available at

Event Details:

Post-Canada/Mexico Game Party Fundraiser
Hosted by Why the Women’s World Cup Matters
Sunday, November 24 @ 3pm
Shark Club, 180 Georgia Street (Cambie)

Contact Information:

Carrie Serwetnyk
Founder, Why the Women’s World Cup Matters

Coastal First Nations honoured as winners in the 3rd Annual 2013 PR World Awards for oil spill awareness campaign


VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA (November 6, 2013)The Coastal First Nations have earned a prestigious PR World Award for Cause-Related Campaign of the Year, for their oil spill awareness television ad campaign, The Sound of Silence, produced with Andrew Frank Communications. The campaign is a reminder to British Columbians of the threats oil tankers pose to BC’s coastal waters, wildlife and communities.

Described by the Globe and Mail as a “crafty public relations move,” and a “victory” in the public relations war against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, the ad features the music of Paul Simon, and has been featured on CBC’s The National, Global TV, CTV, CityTV, Vancouver Sun, The Province, Calgary Herald, Ottawa Citizen, Edmonton Journal, Metro, 24 Hours, News 1130, CKNW and many other media outlets.

The coveted annual PR World Awards program encompasses the world’s best in public relations and marketing campaigns, from every major industry in the world. More than 50 judges from a broad spectrum of industry voices from around the world participated, and their average scores determined the 2013 PR World Awards winners.

About the PR World Awards                               

The PR World Awards are an annual industry and peer recognition program honouring the best of PR and corporate communications in every major industry from large to small and new start-ups in North America, Europe, Middle-East, Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin-America. The annual 2013 PR World Awards are part of the Silicon Valley United States worldwide recognition programs. The SUVS Awards consist of nine world award programs in which companies can participate every year, each held at a different date and location. Learn more about the PR World Awards.