Churches raise ethical concerns about Northern Gateway project
By Aaron Epp | Thursday, August 16, 2012
Photo by "afterfate" via Flickr.
TORONTO, ONAn ecumenical justice organization that includes 11 church groups from across Canada has issued a primer to help churches as they discuss the proposed Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline.
Released in July by Kairos, the "Ethical Reflections of the Northern Gateway Pipeline" is aimed at the $6 billion Enbridge project that would take diluted bitumen from Alberta to the British Columbia coast.
"Our general sense is that anything that potentially has a dramatic impact on the lives of communities or on creation itself is something that should be of interest and concern to Christians," says Jennifer Henry, executive director of Kairos. "Our relationship with communities and creation is linked to our relationship with God, so these questions [about the pipeline] become questions of faith."
The document applies an ethical framework to the question of the pipeline and is meant not as a statement, but as a discernment tool to assist Kairos members who are considering the issue.
According to the document, the pipeline proposes intersecting challenges for economy, ecology and Canada's relations with Indigenous peoples.
"Ultimately, there are concerns that the Northern Gateway project stands counter to two much needed priorities for Canada: the affirmation of the right of Indigenous peoples to be self-determining, distinct peoples with an adequate land base and the much needed development of a just, clean and sustainable energy strategy," the primer reads.
Members of Kairos include the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Mennonite Central Committee and the United Church of Canada.
"We are trying to give resources to support discernment in our own denominations," Henry says.
Churches across Canada are already speaking out against the pipeline. This past April, the Anglican Bishops of British Columbia and Yukon issued a statement that questioned the integrity of the pipeline's environmental impact review.
"Recent public statements by various officials of the federal government…have raised concerns that NEB hearings may become subject to improper time constrictions and industry influence," the statement read in part. "Our prayer is that the created world, which flows from [Jesus Christ's] life, will be respected and safeguarded by all."
More recently, delegates at the United Church of Canada general council meeting in Ottawa this past August debated a resolution that calls on the Church to reject construction of the pipeline.
The resolution was drafted as a result of concern that a spill would poison the environment.
"People care so much about this. People understand that you cannot separate economic health from ecological health," Mardi Tindal, moderator of the United Church, told the Canadian Press at the beginning of August. "The Church has a responsibility to contribute to the conversations that make for the best public policy for the common good."
"What Christians want to do is make a contribution to public debate," she says. "When we raise our voice, bring our concerns, when we participate, what we are doing essentially is making a more vibrant democracy."