Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

An alternative anniversary

An alternative anniversary
Charlotte Hilling
Northern News Services
Published Friday, July 3, 2009

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - The social justice coalition Alternatives North has been making life easier for some, and uncomfortable for others, according to a raft of speakers at the 17th anniversary get together last Friday.

Union of Northern Workers president Todd Parsons said he would struggle to cope with his workload if it were not for the volunteer organization.

"I could not do all this work by myself - and because Alternatives North exists - I don't have to," he said.

Former MLA Bill Braden reminisced fondly about being accosted by members of the group in various situations - and the effectiveness of this approach.

"The one-on-one challenges to MLAs, city councillors, and seniors bureaucrats - all of us at some time have been buttonholed by somebody from Alternatives North, and this was especially effective," he said.

He went on to praise the group for their dedication and perseverance when it came to sifting through bland and complicated government documents in order to present clear and simplified summaries of the facts.

Brian Chambers, executive director of the Northern Gas Project Secretariat, expressed his admiration for Alternatives North and their efforts in opposing the Mackenzie Gas Project (MGP).

"Some of the most incisive, probing, and difficult questions were asked by Alternatives North during the review of the MGP," he said.

The gas project is a proposed 1,220-km natural gas pipeline, connecting gas from the Beaufort Delta to the rest of Canada and North America. Alternatives North has published a review of the project, and opposed the proposal on the grounds that it is not in the public interest.

Alternatives North was established in 1992 by the late Jim Evoy - a former president of the Northern Federation of Labour - and is a coalition of women's, church, labour, anti-poverty, environmental and small business groups.

One of the five directors, Suzette Montreuil, emotionally explained her admiration for her contemporaries.

"It's a huge part of my life, and it's really remarkable that people who, for a whole variety of reasons, put themselves out there, and I'm just really happy to know them," she said.

Things have changed a great deal in 17 years, but Montreuil said the constant influx of young people to the group keeps things fresh and up-to-date - the organization recently established a Facebook site, for example.

Montreuil said tangible social progress is hard to judge, but either way she will not stop trying to make a difference.

"Have we changed things? I don't know. But I'm never going to retire," she said.


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