PRESS RELEASE: Vancouver, B.C. - On March 22, thirty-five participants from First Nations tribes, U.S. tribes, Canadian and American NGOs came together to discuss current and proposed vessel traffic that would ship tar sands and coal through the Salish Sea, and the associated increased risk of an oil spill.
The purpose of this gathering was to build a coalition of Canadian and U.S. partners for the protection of the Salish Sea as increased vessel traffic from coal and tar sands threatens our shared waters.
Participants discussed ways to collaborate on the shipping of coal and tar sands and signed the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred from Tar Sands Projects. Signing the proclamation represented solidarity with the Treaty Council members, traditional leaders, societies, and their allies.
“It was very informative for me to understand where the debate is progressing and how we, as a First Nations, can be a part of that conversation,” said Chief Ian Campbell of the Skwxwu7mesh (Squamish) Nation, “These types of strategy sessions and think tanks are really important for us to recognize that we’re not alone, we’re not in isolation, and that there are a lot of synergies we can draw upon and pool these resources to really be effective.”
“What I got out of the day was connecting with so many people from the American side of the border who are as concerned about all the changes that are happening and projects that are being proposed, whether it’s coal or oil. I got a sense that we are very much on the same page and that we’ll have the opportunity to work together,” said Christianne Wilhelmson, Executive Director with the Georgia Strait Alliance, “We firmly believe that these projects can’t happen in order to build a healthy future. Having American partners on this will only strengthen our ability to protect our coast.”
“All of these vessels whether they are carrying coal or tar sands will collectively pass through the waters surrounding San Juan County. As an Island community in the heart of the Salish Sea, keeping our water clean is critical for our environment, our food, and our economy. This conference was an affirmation that we stand together for the values that all nations surrounding the Salish Sea hold dear,” said Stephanie Buffum, FRIENDS of the San Juans’ Executive Director.
The multi-nation coalition called the Safe Shipping Alliance of the Salish Sea (SSASS) sponsored this event.
The mission of the SSASS is to protect the environmental and economic integrity of the Salish Sea and all that depend on it from adverse maritime impacts. This network assures all significant projects receive full environmental review, informs the public of major changes in maritime trade impacting the Salish Sea, engages the public in commenting opportunities and other action items, provides cross-border political support for increased shipping safety and monitoring, and responds to emerging issues and arguments.