Order of Canada recipients pen letter opposing Trans Mountain pipeline

In an open letter, 42 B.C.-based Order of Canada recipients are asking that the pipeline be cancelled and investments directed toward clean energy and a diversified economy.

42 B.C.-based Order of Canada recipients want the pipeline cancelled for the sake of climate change

42 B.C.-based members of the Order of Canada have signed an open letter asking the federal government to cancel the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project. (desirebetter.org)

Filmmaker Bonnie Sherr Klein says she is turning heartbreak into action by joining 41 other B.C.-based Order of Canada recipients who have signed a letter calling on the federal government to cancel the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

"I hesitate to use the word heartbroken but that's how I've been feeling after those unbreathable weeks in our city [caused by the wildfires,]" said Sherr Klein from her Vancouver home.

Steel pipe to be used in the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project sit on rail cars in Kamloops, B.C. The plan to twin the existing 1,150 kilometre-long pipeline has been indefinitely suspended. (Dennis Owen/Reuters)

The letter opens with the line: "As members of the Order of Canada, whose motto is 'They Desire a Better Country,' we believe it is our role as citizens to speak out about our government's purchase and building of the Trans Mountain pipeline."

Signatories include Robert Bateman, Raffi Cavoukian, Dorothy Grant, Joy Kogawa, Ga​bor Maté, and David Suzuki.

Sherr Klein, a 2012 officer of the Order of Canada, said there wasn't a great deal of formal organization behind the letter, but once the idea was hatched it came together quickly.

"A few of us who happen to know each other started calling people we knew who had Orders of Canada and it just kind of snowballed," she said.

A pipeline marker for the Trans Mountain pipeline as it passes by a playground near the Coldwater River and Coldwater Reserve in B.C. (CBC)

"It was very unscientific and no doubt if we had a method of polling everybody [with an Order of Canada] there would be many more signatures."

'Economy vs. climate'

The letter expresses concern about the deep divisions that have been created by the current framing of the argument as "economy vs. climate," and asks that "as a nation we invest in the transition to clean energy and a diversified economy as rapidly as possible."

Sherr Klein said only a few people who were approached chose not to sign the letter. Some said they agreed with the government's position on the pipeline, while others felt it wasn't appropriate to connect the Order of Canada honour to the group's position.

However, Sherr Klein feels speaking out against Trans Mountain aligns perfectly with the values the Order of Canada recognizes.

"We have been honoured for our role as citizens and for love of country and for the desire for a better country, yet most people we approached felt powerless to do anything, so we decided to act on our citizenship," she said. 

"I think the feeling is climate change is too big an issue to be left entirely to government, and citizens are going to have to engage, young and old."

With files from Yvette Brend

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