Controversial Film lands in Hope

Petitioning voices were heard at the screening of the documentary film Directly Affected, which addresses concerns over possible pipeline.

Chawathil First Nations representative Patricia John

Directly Affected appeared in Hope for a screening of its new documentary which tells the stories of West Coast residents who could be impacted by the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.

It was met with a series of oppositional voices by concerned citizens and First Nations represenatives including Grand Chief Ronald John of the Chawathil First Nations and his wife Patricia John.

Patricia John gave an impassioned speech about the dangers of the proposed pipeline and the complete disrespect for Mother Earth that it represents, while discussing environmental issues with the existing pipeline.

“It’s legislative violence,” said John, who compared the bargaining tools of big corporations to the mastery of being educationally oversaturated to the third degree (literally) — a luxury, or cultural difference her forebears were unable to attain or bridge.

Others patrons balked at the transportation of bitumen, a thick tar substance which is toxic and extremely explosive. The bitumen would be sent to the U.S. to be refined, thus, contractors would most likely be outsourced and financial gains would be minimum, compared to what it would be if the oil was refined in Canada, which it currently is not.

The oil would be exported to the U.S. and then re-imported. A law preventing American oil from being refined elsewhere is currently in place.

Canada has no such law, which is a huge oversight for the construction of a pipeline that would serve little purpose, but to wreak havoc on the environment and possibly create a disaster that would leave local emergency responders in the lurch at its potential eventuality — according to the protesting voices that emerged after the film’s showing.

While consultation has been extensive for the TransMountain project, the filmmakers with Directly Affected decided to turn their cameras on the people along the route  — including several from Hope who might otherwise have been silenced by the restrictive hearing process.

Director Zack Embree is a Vancouver-based photographer, videographer, and digital storyteller, who teamed up with co-producer Devyn Brugge and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation to make Directly Affected.

They travelled the route of the pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver to record different perspectives, and received a type of crowd funding from Telus to make the documentary with Storyhive.

The group is currently making the track from Vancouver to the Alberta Oil Sands for screenings in select cities.

So is the film art or political propaganda?

“I certainly have my perspective,” Embree replied. “But the way we are seeing this play out has left the sides dangerously polarized.”

Embree calls himself a “chronicler of conscience” and he explains the film was made with people in the Fraser Valley in mind and other B.C. regions, to give them a platform to talk about how it might affect their transected properties to have 890,000 barrels of unrefined bitumen go from Alberta to the Lower Mainland for export.

It’s those human stories, voices from local farmers or fishermen for example that were not being heard, that the filmmakers wanted to document and capture.

“As an artist, I link my practice with current events,” he said. “It’s important to underline that this is a creative pursuit, and a documentary. The questions being asked in this film are much larger than just one perspective, and they point to some of the larger questions we should all be asking.”

The 22-minute film has interviews with Hope and Chilliwack residents, like Mike Euler ( Hope,) who was also in attendance at the screening, Yarrow Ecovillage resident Michael Hale, and river steward Chris Gadsden, and others across the Fraser Valley and Vancouver, including First Nations reps.

The film records voices of people who may not have been sanctioned by the National Energy Board for being “directly affected” by the proposed pipeline expansion for export-only bitumen.

“What we’re hearing from Chilliwack was concern about everything from issues around fair compensation and concern their use of the land won’t be impeded,” he said.

He gave an example of a farmer who was worried he might have to apply for permission to drive a tractor over his land during the haying season.

The locals wanted to talk about what they see as the risk to the aquifer, and to their way of life, to the mighty Fraser River, the many species of salmon.

For whatever reason they did not obtain intervenor status at the NEB level, and therefore their testimony is missing in the process.

“With changes made to the regulatory environment around hearings, it led to a narrow definition by the NEB of who will be ‘directly affected.’

“In a democratic society, we need processes in place that support and listen to multiple perspectives,” said Embree. “We also needed to take this issue into the public sphere and ask if this path is not ultimately unsustainable.”

It’s come down to the big question of “how to move forward as a society with respect to release of carbon,” toward “a development economy cognizant of the need to reduce carbon in the atmosphere,” he said.