British Columbia·Updated

Vancity pressured to drop Enbridge from mutual funds

A group of environmentalists is pressuring the Vancity credit union to sell assets in its mutual funds linked to the Enbridge's Northern Gateway Pipeline.

Protest planned for Enbridge annual general meeting in Toronto

A group of environmentalists is pressuring the Vancity credit union to sell assets in its mutual funds linked to the Enbridge's Northern Gateway Pipeline.

The Forest Action Network says it discovered last week Vancity includes Enbridge stocks within mutual funds it labels as "socially responsible," so it mobilized activists to campaign for Vancity to end the practice.

Spokeswoman Zoe Blunt says Vancity president Tamara Vrooman has since agreed to ask Enbridge to halt the pipeline.

"Tamara said in the event that the Northern Gateway Pipeline is going forward at the end of this year, they will take a look at their position, they will re-evaluate their mutual fund decisions, and they will likely divest," said Blunt.

A statement issued by Vancity said holding shares in corporations such as Enbridge allows the credit union to "advocate for the positive social environmental and economic change that our members want to see."

But the credit union confirmed it would sell off its investments in Enbridge if the pipeline company "failed to demonstrate a willingness to change."

"If the Northern Gateway Pipeline proceeds, given the position we have taken that considers the environmental, membership, market and financial conditions, we would be compelled to re-evaluate our position on Enbridge," said the statement.

Protest planned for Toronto meeting

Meanwhile Toronto on Wednesday, representatives of several B.C. First Nations are protesting at the annual meeting of Enbridge shareholders, as part of a cross-Canada tour opposing the pipeline.

The group says Enbridge's plan to build the $5.5-billion dollar Northern Gateway Pipeline to carry crude oil from Edmonton to Kitimat, for shipment overseas, will threaten B.C.'s environment and the First Nations' livelihoods.

Protesters from BC first nations groups landed in Edmonton earlier this month to protest the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

They are planning to march through downtown Toronto to the hotel where the shareholders are meeting, said Chief Jackie Thomas of the Saik'uz First Nation.

Thomas says the economic benefits for B.C. residents don't justify the risk the pipeline poses to the provinces two major watersheds.

"The two watersheds that we are talking about, the Skeena which flows to Prince Rupert and the Fraser, which flows to Vancouver, we all depend on those two watersheds. The risk of a spill is pretty straightforward to people. The economic benefits just aren't worth the risk."

First Nations support growing says Enbridge

Despite the protest, Enbridge spokesman Todd Nogier says not all First Nations communities are opposed to the project and he insists First Nations support for the pipeline is growing.

"In terms of our equity offer, the one we have before First Nations now, over 40 percent of First Nations along the proposed corridor have entered into agreements with Enbridge and we continue talks with the expectation that number will grow," he said.

A protest was held Tuesday in Terrace were the Federal Joint Review Panel was in town to gather opinions on the project.

But supporter and former Prince George mayor Colin Kinsley says the pipeline and tanker route will make shipping safer by adding radar and better, more accurate weather stations and other navigational aids.

Earlier this month the B.C. NDP formally registered opposition to the controversial proposal.