Sacred fire lit in North Van
A group gathered around Leonard George, a Tsleil-Waututh Nation elder, as he held a sacred fire celebration to pray for the health of Burrard Inlet.
“We need to preserve the earth, water and sea not just for ourselves, but for everyone in B.C.,” said George, as he cleaned the tools he used to light the fire near the ocean.
The ceremony was held from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Cates Park, a traditional Tsleil-Waututh village site also known as Whey-ah-Wichen, on Sept. 21, the last day summer.
“It’s not whether there will be an accident, it’s a matter of when. There’s no guarantee in that business it won’t happen,” George said, referring to the oil that is exported from the Kinder Morgan terminal in Burnaby, almost directly across the inlet from Cates Park.
The Tsleil-Waututh Nation, which means the People of the Inlet, is deeply connected to the water in Deep Cove, said George, and uses it for cultural ceremonies.
“The inlet could become a dead zone that can’t support life,” he warned.
Calling Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline project a twinning of the existing pipeline is misleading, says George’s nephew Rueben George, co-manger of the Tsleil-Waututh’s Sacred Trust.
In fact, said Rueben, the pipeline is separate from the existing one because it goes through more private property.
The pipeline, which would travel from Edmonton to Burnaby, could increase the number of tankers filling up in Burnaby to 360 in 2016, five times more than the record 69 crude tankers in 2010.
This worries Rueben. “When a tanker is full to capacity, it’s less than two metres from scraping the bottom of the inlet. An oil spill is a big threat.”
Rueben doesn’t want anything to happen to the water he played in as a child and, later, used to hold canoe races.
“The water gives to us, helps us and heals us. We’ve learned to have a spiritual connection to the water, it’s essential,” he says, sitting in a chair beside the fire.
Harm to the Burrard Inlet isn’t only a First Nation or environmentalist’s problem, he added, it should be a concern of all Canadians.
“Vancouver was voted the most livable city in the world. That’s something to hang on to.”