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An eerie commercial aired in British Columbia (BC) last month. Through mist and cloud the slow, deep, gravelly voice of Exxon Valdez’s captain haltingly delivers his message that the ship has gone aground and is “evidently leaking some oil”. In the background, “Hello darkness my old friend” plays from musician Paul Simon's The Sound of Silence.

On the 24th anniversary of that disaster, when over 40 million litres of oil spilled into Alaskan waters, Simon allowed Canada’s Coastal First Nations (CFN) group to use the song in the commercial that is part of the CFN’s campaign for a ban on oil tankers along BC’s coastal waters, and against the Northern Gateway Pipeline that transport company Enbridge wants to run from Alberta to British Columbian shores.

In a radio interview CFN’s executive director Art Sterritt says the 10% share in the pipeline that Enbridge is offering, expected to be worth almost $300 million over 30 years, is not as sweet as it sounds. When Sterritt looked at Enbridge’s offer that the indigenous Gitxsan chiefs turned down, it would have amounted to about $30 dollars per Gitxsan per year.

“That’s absolutely embarrassing,” says Sterritt. “That’s worse than the beads that were offered in the last century.” Regarding BC’s coastal population, Sterritt says, “There’s actually 30,000 jobs and almost $2 billion in revenue in that region that rely on a healthy ocean. We’re trying to show what reality is. Reality is what happened with the Exxon Valdez.”

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