Health professionals call for a moratorium on Coastal GasLink construction permits

Open letter cites health concerns related to fracking and climate change, and expresses solidarity with Indigenous rights of Wet'suwet'en
Photo: Sally T. Buck
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We are alarmed and concerned by events unfolding in northern British Columbia. Once again we have watched as RCMP officers armed with automatic weapons and equipped with dogs, drones, helicopters, and sound cannon and with the overwatch of RCMP snipers dismantled three peaceful Wet’suwet’en checkpoints.

These blockades arose from the incursion of a fracking natural gas pipeline backed by Dutch, Chinese, Korean, Malaysian and Japanese multinationals into traditional Wet’suwet’en territories, without permission from the Wet’suwet’en leadership and over their strenuous objection.

The health risks from fracking are well known, including release of carcinogenic toxins such as benzene. Pregnant women in northeastern B.C. have serum benzene levels three times the normal level and studies have shown this has an association with increased childhood leukemia rates. U.S. studies have shown increases in congenital heart disease, chronic pulmonary disorders and small birth-weight babies in populations living in proximity to fracking operations. And as we all know, every pipeline leaks.

Once again unceded Indigenous lands are being annexed by force and at the point of a gun.

In addition, the CGL pipeline would feed the massive LNG project in Kitimat. The whole project is geared to shipping huge volumes of LNG to Asian markets and increasing fossil fuel emissions worldwide at a time when the looming devastation of climate change is literally setting countries on fire. Australia is burning, Antarctic temperatures just passed 20 degrees Celsius. The health risks presented by climate change should terrify everyone.

The American Journal of Public Health has pointed out that Indigenous groups are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, “warming temperatures have the potential to affect infectious diseases associated with the preparation of traditional foods (e.g. gastroenteritis, food-borne botulism), zoonotic diseases (e.g giardiasis) and traditional plants or remedies.” In addition, “high-intensity rainfall events could be particularly problematic, with waterborne disease outbreaks (e.g. typhoid, bacillary dysentery, Escherichia coli and cryptosporidiosis)”, not to mention the direct and indirect effects of wildfire outbreaks we have already seen in B.C.

Article 26.2, of the UN Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous People states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of tra­ditional ownership or other traditional occu­pation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.” This right has been enshrined in law by B.C.‘s Bill 41, as has the right of Indigenous peoples not to be removed from their lands. But if the words of the provincial government uphold these rights, their actions do the complete opposite.

Despite the fact that the Wet’suwet’en have an established legal and moral right to govern their own territories, this inconvenient fact is being ignored by the provincial government the RCMP and even the courts. Once again unceded Indigenous lands are being annexed by force and at the point of a gun. And this in turn has led to the polarization and division that has erupted across Canada.

For these reasons, we, the undersigned health care professionals, join our voices with Amnesty International to call for a halt to further work on the CGL pipeline until the free prior informed consent of the Wet’suwet’en people has been obtained and support the call of the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for the RCMP to withdraw.

We also call on Premier John Horgan to place a moratorium on CGL construction permits and to return to the table with the Wet’suwet’en people.

Mary-Wynne Ashford, MD PhD

Juan Ayala retired patient escort

Sandy Bauer retired RN

Jessie Beauchamp RN BSN

Farideh Bozorg RN

Bridie Cain LPN

Krista Barclay RN MSN CNE

Ladan Bayani-Mehrabadi RN BsCN

Karin Bergen RMT

Katherine Bertram, MD, FCFP

Courtney Blake, HCA BScN Student

David Bowering MD, MHSc (retired Chief Medical Health Officer, Northern Health)

Eleanor Cohen RN PhD

Lori Dupuis RN BSN

Freda Edgars RN

Steve Gray MD, CCFP

Mark Galloway RN

Louise Gilfoy RN

Laurie Halfpenny RN

Harriet D. Hall, RMT

April Hautalouma RN

Naseem Janmohamed, MD CCFP

Shawnna Karras RMT

Sabrina Lee Levac, RN

Alex Marshall BSc, BSN, RN

Sandra Marshall RN

Michelle Martinson Lowe RN BSN EMA GNC(C)

Gabor Maté MD CM

Jacqueline Miller RN

Joe Minifie RN

RD Nicoll MD

Will Offley RN

Penny Oyama retired RN

Sophie Pelletier RN

Carol Peters LPN

Sara Phillips BscPN

Jane Prince RN BScN

Lydia Pugh RN

Janet Ray BSc OT MD

Catherine Ryan RMT

Michael Scott Clinical Nurse Educator RN

Sharon Sharp RN

Lyla Smith retired RN

Matei Stoian MD

Christy Sutherland MD CCFP (AM) dABAM

Sharon Tamaro MSc

Stephanie von Dehn MD CCFP

Josette Wier MD

Jennifer Whyte, MD, CCFP

Fariba Wilson RN

Ty Wright RN

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