As Gateway decision nears, RCMP, District of Kitimat in long term planning for potential protests

At least three rallies are planned for Kitimat on Tuesday, June 17, as BC Premier Christy Clark is scheduled to arrive to announce a new agreement with the Haisla Nation and, a few hours later, the Harper government will announce its decision on approving the Northern Gateway project.

The Harper government is expected to approve the highly controversial pipeline, terminal and tanker project and once that happens, it is  likely that Kitimat will be the focus of protests against (and perhaps for) Northern Gateway.

District Council was told Monday,  June 16, that the RCMP and District staff have had meetings to come up with contingency plans if large numbers of protesters come to Kitimat in the future.

S/Sgt. Phil Harrison
RCMP Staff Sergeant Phil Harrison briefs District of Kitimat Council on plans for future protests in Kitimat, June 16, 2014. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Answering a question from Councillor Phil Germuth,  Staff Sergeant Phil Harrison, Kitimat detachment commander told Council that RCMP had met with Kitimat deputy chief administrative officer Warren Waycheshen  to discuss  the groups they were aware  of that might be protesting in Kitimat.

“It’s actually hard to plan for some of them, we don’t know how large they’re going to be,  “Harrison told Councl,  “There are all sorts of different factors that go into coming up with an operational plan for any kind of a demonstration

“We’ve talked about where we may be able to hold demonstrations, how we are going to do accommodate the people, what are we going to do for sanitation,
what we are going to do for garbage collection. all that kind of stuff,” the staff sergeant said.

“Until we get more information regarding what kind of demonstration it’s going to be, it’s hard to plan for. We do encourage any leaders of any organization that’s going to be demonstrating to come and chat with us.

:Demonstrations are fully legal in Canada. We have no problems with those.  Our concern is when it comes to the safety of the public and so, therefore, if there isanything we can do to help to mitigate any kind of problems that might arise if the safety of the public, we’d like to know that before hand.”

Waycheshen said it was up to Council to set policy but noted that the staff has been working on long term plans, saying. ‘We do a lot of pre-planning and then just wait to see if it comes or not.”

Waycheshen  said that while the RCMP and District staff have  studied the more obvious locations,   “as the RCMP point out, there are certain times when people won’t congregate where you want them to, so we have to work around their locations.’

“We’ve looked at the need for water, porta-potties, meals and stuff,” Waycheshen said. “It’s always tough until you know the numbers When they come in, are they going to be self sufficient or not?

“We’ve talked to our suppliers to make them aware that this could be happening at short notice, so they’re aware of it,

“We’ve done as much as we can And almost like the emergency plan, we’ve talked to the emergency planning group for the District. There might be a point where we  activate the EOC [Emergency Operations Centre] plan, not to treat it as an emergency but to give you a lot more flexibility to react in a quick way.”

“Some of the suppliers say we should be able to get you this and that,  but we will have to know at the time.

“It’s really contingent on when they’re coming in. Our purchasing department has been really good about contacting people, this is the potential of what we could
have.”

It all starts on Tuesday when Premier Clark is scheduled to arrive at the old hospital site to announce the agreement with the Haisla.

Douglas Channel Watch says it plans to rally at the “Downtown Kitimat” sign across the street from the hospital site at 10:45.   Kitimat’s teachers who will officially be on strike on Tuesday, plan their own rally at Centennial Park at the same time.

The Harper government will announce its decision on the Northern Gateway shortly after 4 p.m. Eastern Time,  after the market close in the east, 1 p.m, Pacific  Time.

Shortly after the government announcement, Douglas Channel Watch will then hold a second rally in Centennial Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enbridge sponsored coffee for spy conference, CBC and Guardian report

Classified briefing on energy infrastructure
Documents show that Enbridge supplied the coffee for a secret briefing on “critical energy infrastructure.” (CBC)

Updated with Guardian report and link

Documents obtained by The Guardian and by CBC News under the Access to Information Act show that Canada’s security agencies, the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, together with other departments including Natural Resources Canada and the National Energy Board met with Canada’s big energy companies, including Enbridge, to discuss threats to the country’s energy infrastructure.

As the agenda obtained by CBC shows, Enbridge supplied the breakfast, lunch and coffee for those attending the security conference.

The agenda for the conference show there were panels on “BC Resource Development,” and “Aboriginal Protests and Occupations.”

The Guardian reports:

the meetings – conducted twice a year since 2005 – involved federal ministries, spy and police agencies, and representatives from scores of companies who obtained high-level security clearance.

Meetings were officially billed to discuss “threats” to energy infrastructure but also covered “challenges to energy projects from environmental groups”, “cyber security initiatives” and “economic and corporate espionage”.

 

The Guardian: Canadian spies met with energy firms, documents reveal

CBC story:  Why would Canada spy on Brazil mining and energy officials?  (includes links to documents)

 

After the earthquake: Kitimat must immediately upgrade its emergency communications

As a 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit off Haida Gwaii shortly after eight o’clock on Saturday, I was at the Haisla Recreation Centre as the Haisla Nation marked the return of the G’ps Golox totem pole. Like a boat being lifted by gentle waves, the Rec Centre began to quietly roll up and down, then the rolling seemed to accelerate just a bit. I realized that it was an earthquake. As I told CBC’s Ian Hanomansing  later in the evening, I have been in a number of earthquakes, and for me at least, this quake, at least at Kitamaat Village, the rec centre was not shaking as badly as in some of the others I have felt.

The subsequent events of the evening show that the emergency communication system in Kitimat needs immediate improvement.

Cell service

Cell phone service at the village is poor and after the rolling stopped neither myself nor my Kitimat Daily colleague Walter McFarlane was able to get “bars.”

Now as a former network producer for both CBC and CTV I have handled a large number of earthquake stories from around the world over the past quarter century (sitting at a desk, I should add). With that experience, I was hoping to get a cell hit at the village so I could bring up Twitter. I already subscribe to the US Geological Survey and Canadian earthquake alert feeds. The US and Canadian computers automatically report earthquakes within seconds of detection and send out a Twitter bulletin as the same time as those computers are alerting their human masters. If I had been able to get cell service I would have known within minutes that the Haida Gwaii earthquake was a major event. (I did follow the alerts from my computer once I got back to Kitimat itself).

Recommendation One. Cell service in Kitimat, Kitamaat Village, the harbour area must be upgraded as soon as possible. Telus has applied to council to erect a new cell tower here. Given the events of the past 24 hours, District Council should make sure that all parts of the District of Kitimat and the Haisla Nation have proper cell coverage no matter what service one subscribes to, not just for the convenience of subscribers but for emergency situations.

Automatic alerts

With experience one knows that in a situation such as Saturday night, the official websites such as the US Geological Survey and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center as well as  Natural Resources Canada are often overwhelmed. That is why the media use RSS feeds, Twitter feeds and e-mail alerts. It is also important to realize that these emergency organizations have their own language and procedures. It appears that a lot of the confusion on Saturday came from misinterpretation of the various Canadian and US warning systems.

Recommendation Two. If Kitimat emergency services are not familiar with how the US based earthquake and tsunami centres work, they should be trained in those systems, simply because the Americans are well ahead of Canada in these areas because the alerts go out by computer automatically and are constantly updated and as Saturday night showed, are often quicker and farther ahead than the Canadian systems.

Once I was back in Kitimat, it was clear that communications were breaking down, and this was at a time the tsunami warning was still active. There were numerous messages on Twitter and Facebook, from residents of Kitimat either trying to find out what was going on or retweeting/reposting rumours including one that the Kildala neighbourhood was being evacuated. I am told that residents were calling the RCMP to ask what was going on. This was another breakdown since North District HQ in Prince George handles all police services in this region and were likely busy with quake calls on Haida Gwaii, so that information calls in Kitimat that should have been handled by an emergency services public communications person were being handled the Mounties.

There were reports that one man was going door to door in Kildala telling people to evacuate. Whether this person was well intentioned but misinformed or a imposter intent on mischief doesn’t matter, there was an information vacuum.

It was clear from Twitter that other districts and municipalities were using that service to spread official information. (I don’t follow other areas on Facebook so it is unclear if information was being posted on Facebook. There was certainly no official presence from Kitimat on Facebook Saturday night.) It appears from reports in the Kitimat Daily and tweets about the Northern Sentinel that Kitimat emergency services was sending information out by fax. While faxing information was an advance in the 1980s, faxes are obsolete in 2012. Many major newsrooms no longer use fax machines after being inundated by junk faxes and after they laid off all the editorial assistants who would have cleared those fax machines (even by the late 90s most faxes were dumped in the garbage unless the EA had been told to look for a specific fax). Also though it is now more than two years since I returned to Kitimat and I regularly freelance for Global, CBC and Canadian Press, I had no contact from anyone in emergency services (also I don’t have a fax machine).

Recommendation Three: The District of Kitimat must immediately bring its emergency communications into the 21st century, with Twitter accounts, a Facebook page and an emergency e-mail or text message plan for media and other officials who can get the messages. ( A number of jurisdictions already use text messages for emergency alerts at various graduated levels, official, media, public). When the main means of communication today is social media, an emergency organization can no longer follow outdated procedures, an organization must be on social media immediately it becomes clear that there is an emergency (as we are seeing with all the official tweets with the Hurricane Sandy crisis on the east coast)

CFTK

In an emergency situation, local radio and television are vital to communications and letting people know what is going on.

CFTK did a much better job on March 27. 1964 after Kitimat felt the magnitude 9.2 Good Friday Anchorage earthquake than it did on the weekend with the Haida Gwaii earthquake.

The inadequate coverage of the quake was certainly not the fault the of the current CFTK news staff who were working hard (probably on their own time and unpaid) keeping Twitter updated with what they knew. The fault lies with corporate management across the media which these days doesn’t want to spend the money and resources and training to fulfill the public service portion of their broadcast licence mandate.

(There was a similar breakdown in the May 2000, Walkerton, Ontario e-coli crisis where the local medical officer of health was initially unable to alert the public because local radio wasn’t staffed on the weekends–the local stations were taking satellite feeds from their corporate headquarters)

In 1964, long before satellites, when the microwave towers that joined CFTK to the Canadian networks were still being built, the staff of CFTK, then, of course under local management, went to a live special within an hour of the Anchorage quake being felt far off from Alaska in Kitimat. The CFTK anchors were keeping its audience updated with “rip and read” wire copy, a camera on an atlas for a map and phone interviews.

In contrast, on this Saturday night, CFTK was taking the CBC BC network feed which was a hockey rerun (hardly a show that attracts  major audience numbers and certainly not a vital broadcast) until the CBC management in Vancouver decided to go to full network news special.

Since CFTK is the station that broadcasts not only to Kitimat, but to Haida Gwaii as well, CFTK should have been ahead of Vancouver on this story, called in its staff and mounted their own live special, joining the CBC feed when it began but, as on an election night, breaking away for local news when justified. CFTK has a responsibility under its licence from the CRTC to provide that service to the northwestern region, not just sending what ad revenue it generates back to Astral.

Rio Tinto Alcan

Another question that must be asked in this situation is where was Rio Tinto Alcan on Saturday night? In all areas that were under a tsunami warning the first scrutiny and clue if there was to be a problem is that region would be found by observing what has happening between the low tide line and the maximum hide tide line. In Prince Rupert, from the Twitter feeds I saw, public officials were monitoring the waterfront and the tide lines and updating the public. RTA has all the advantages of the private port of Kitimat. It appears that monitoring the water level at the tide lines at the port of Kitimat was the responsibility of Plant Protection. Was RTA communicating what was happening with emergency services? Since RTA runs the private port, unlike in other jurisdictions, RTA had a responsibility to the people of Kitimat to report promptly to the public the conditions on the waterfront. Corporate public relations cannot just be sending out news releases with “good news.” That means that RTA public relations should have used its corporate Twitter account which usually sends out a news release every few weeks, to keep Kitimat updated on a minute-by-minute basis. If RTA communications staff in Kitimat do not have access to the RTA corporate Twitter account, they should establish their own local Twitter feed.

Both in 1964 and in 2012, the tsunami that came up Douglas Channel was minimal. But we know that this region does have a record of major quakes and that Douglas Channel has also experienced major landslides that can, in some circumstances, trigger a tsunami without an earthquake. The next few years will be seeing more industrial development along Douglas Channel which can also bring other hazards to the Kitimat region. While there are always communications breakdowns in situations like happened on Saturday, it is clear that the Kitimat emergency communications system needs a major upgrade to make sure the public is informed quickly and accurately of what is going on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gitxsan lift Hazelton blockade to allow forensic audit of treaty office, repeat there is no deal with Enbridge on pipeline

A news release issued late this afternoon, June 11, 2012, by the Gitxsan Unity Movement says the group has lifted the blockade of the boarded up treaty office in Hazelton.

Gitxsan Unity says the group took down the blockade, remoiving the plywood and lumber blocking all access to allow an “enforced forensic audit” from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (formerly Indian and Northern Affairs Canada) Special Investigations office. According the release, the Chief Audit and Evaluation Executive, Anne Scotton, from Departmental Audit and Evaluation Branch, arrived at the office, once known as Gitxsan Treaty Society, now called the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs Office, accompanied by two auditors from the Ottawa branch of Deloitte and Touche

Access to the office was negotiated in collaboration with the RCMP over the past two weeks. The release says GTS staff were permitted to enter the building to assist the auditors to locate material related to the forensic audit.

The release says

Scotton advised the auditors will be mirroring (copying) the hard drives of all the computers as well as scanning all the files and paperwork in the offices. They will also attend all the satellite offices and the off site accountants offices in Smithers to ensure they secure all the documentation for their investigations.

The release goes onto say the movement appreciates the help of Aboriginal Affairs and the RCMP “in securing all financial statements and material relative to the operations of the GTS. It will show accountability to the money received in the name of the Gitxsan people.”

it adds:

GUM remains open to and extends an invitation to the GTS Gimlitxwit to meet and settle unresolved issues pertaining to transparency and the return of authority and jurisdiction back to its’ rightful place, the Gitxsan Simgigyet and the Gitxsan Nation.

 

The release then goes to the heart of the issue  when on Dec. 2, 2011, Elmer Derrick signed an agreement with Enbridge for a stake in the Northern Gateway Pipeline. That agreement was repudiated by Gitxsan leaders the following day and the office blockaded that weekend. While there was a court injunction ordering an end to the blockade, negotiations continued for months for a peaceful end to the dispute.  Last week, on June 5, 2012, when Enbridge claimed it has the support of 60 per cent of First Nations along the route of the controversial pipeline, Enbridge repeated its contention that the agreement signed by Derrick is valid.

However the Gitxsan Unity Movement says:

TAKE NOTICE that the Gitxsan Treaty Society and terminated staff, Gordon Sebastian, Elmer Derrick and Beverley Clifton-Percival, are not authorized representatives of the Gitxsan people. Any act engaged in by this entity or individuals representing themselves as authorized representative is invalid and of no force and effect as against the Gitxsan people. Any Government, entity or individual who engages in negotiation or business transactions with GTS or terminated staff, do so at their own risk

GUM has moved a step closer, but also realizes the real work has just begun. Our goal is to bring harmony between the Gitxsan government and the values, law and will of the Gitxsan.