Earlier today I wrote and submitted a letter to the organizers of the Ride To Conquer Cancer over their current National Title Sponsor: Enbridge. I also sent my letter to the news departments of the CBC, CTV News and The Globe and Mail.
I am related to many cancer fighters – winners and losers – and would like to take part in this symbolic and significant fundraising event, however with the involvement of Enbridge, I simply cannot do so. Why, you ask? I believe there is a sad irony and conflict of interests at play: the sponsor’s business of health-impacting oil pipelines and environmental degradation versus The Ride To Conquer Cancer’s proposed core value of fighting cancer.
Enbridge’s participation is not terribly different, although less bold, from having a cigarette manufacturer as National Title Sponsor.
In the town of Terrace today, the local newspaper outlined how finalists and the winner of a Chamber of Commerce award sponsored by Enbridge all declined to accept on the grounds of a similar conflict. http://www.terracestandard.com/news/181001941.html
From the ‘winning’ organization, Skeena Wild Conservation Trust said, “It’s very clear that Enbridge is using sponsorship of community events as a public relations tool to help gain social licence for its project,” said Skeena Wild’s Julia Hill. “We are not interested in being a pawn in their PR game.”
Given the popularity of the annual Ride To Conquer Cancer and the overwhelming debate concerning Enbridge, I wanted to raise this issue with organizers and local media, to investigate Enbridge’s penetrating PR effort to earn favour amongst British Columbians.
Dear Ride To Conquer Cancer Team,
I would like to take a brief opportunity to write you and share my concern and disappointment with your choice of National Title Sponsor, Enbridge.
First, I would like to reassure you that I am not a member of an ‘interest group’, nor a random, anonymous individual with a social agenda, nor a flamer who lobs grenades from behind the safety of his computer screen. I am a fairly normal 33 year-old who manages a successful company in Vancouver, and is a married, tax-paying homeowner with a dog and has a mother who successfully fought and won against Leukemia 3 years ago.
This year I took up road cycling in a fairly serious fashion and have fallen head over heels for the activity and its resultant fitness and camaraderie with fellow cyclists.
I am very supportive and proud of your event’s efforts and your faithful organizers. I know your values and goals are sincere. I truly believe that each of you works incredibly hard to put together a strong event with wonderful aspirations for fundraising and community in a collective effort to contribute to the fight against cancer. Being the son of a cancer survivor, as well as nephew to an uncle who last year fought prostate cancer, and an aunt who a few years ago unfortunately did not survive ovarian cancer, I find your cause noble and close to my heart.
However, this does not and I feel cannot supersede my disappointment with the status of Enbridge as your National Title Sponsor. I firmly, unequivocally believe it is a massive disservice to your efforts to have Enbridge involved in any capacity. As a result, I will not participate in, nor recommend, your Ride To Conquer Cancer.
My concerns are two-fold:
1) Enbridge is currently embroiled in one of British Columbia’s greatest debates about the creation of an oil pipeline from Alberta’s oilsands to the west coast. Pulling every oilsands trick in the book, they are hiring the best public relations spin-doctors in the industry to persuade and convince British Columbians and First Nations that their effort is worthwhile, harmless and in fact beneficial. This includes sponsoring events like yours. They are manipulating perspectives to frame the conversation as an economic driver without any regard for potential (inevitable) environmental and health-related consequences.
Moreover, it is becoming clear that Enbridge is pouring money into events and festivals such as yours to endear themselves to a wide-ranging public to further their agendas. In essence, your event, staff and cyclists are participants, unwilling or otherwise, in their efforts. I have seen it for myself. A close friend intends to ride on behalf of a relative, in spite of Enbridge’s involvement, which is precisely the attitude Enbridge wishes to foster.
Relating to their distasteful involvement in community events, a story emerged on November 27 about a Terrace Chamber of Commerce award sponsored by Enbridge which was to be given to Skeena Wild Conservation Trust – a local environmental group. Fortunately the group was wise to the act:
“The company behind a contentious oil pipeline project has no place sponsoring a local environmental award according to the organization which won, but declined to accept it,” states the Terrace Standard newspaper. “‘It’s very clear that Enbridge is using sponsorship of community events as a public relations tool to help gain social license for its project. We are not interested in being a pawn in their PR game,'” stated Skeena’s representative.
2) More directly relevant is Enbridge’s history of accidents and environmental catastrophe, which may inadvertently yet directly propagate cancer. Enbridge’s 2010 Keystone Pipeline disaster in Michigan, which poured 3 million litres of oil into wetlands and on to peoples’ property, went unchecked for nearly a day. Rather than admit fault, in the days following they claimed they’d followed all protocols and that they’d dealt with the spill quickly and effectively – eventually determined to be inaccurate. The cleanup continues to this day and nearby residents have complained of headaches, nausea and dizziness. Many have had their properties bought out due to an inability to clean up the mess and required decades of natural healing. Imagine the health issues – near and long term – if one were to drink the water in that river, or children to play on its banks? Could it lead to cancer? An educated guess might be yes.
Additionally, an increasing number of communities in Alberta that surround or are downstream of the oilsands are now fighting inexplicable health concerns that they and independent researchers believe are related to oilsands development. Cancer-causing poisons like mercury and thallium are being found in high concentrations in places like Athabasca, which scientists are tying directly to oilsands development, and Enbridge is a significant participant.
As a born-and-raised Calgarian who uprooted his family and moved to Vancouver two years ago to engage in a more wholesome lifestyle where citizens are actively concerned about their health and environment and intently care about each other, I find the efforts of Enbridge to saturate BC with its Alberta- styled ‘economy-trumps-environment’ propaganda to be very invasive and disgusting. Furthermore, I believe it is against our communal core values.
Our provincial motto has long been, “Super Natural British Columbia.” I want to keep BC super and natural, and I believe it would be to the benefit of your values and the fight against cancer that you reconsider your choice of Enbridge as National Title Sponsor.
The Terrace Standard, November 27,
The Globe and Mail, July 10, 2012: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on- business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/enbridge-slammed-for-keystone- kops-response-to-michigan-spill/article4402752/
New York Times, August 20,
2012: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/opinion/the-dangers-of-diluted- bitumen-oil.html
CBC News, August 30,
2012: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2010/08/30/oil-sands-athabasca- river.html