Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams and Canadian singer Sarah Harmer are among a delegation of six women who will be touring Prince George this week as part of an examination of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.
The Nobel Women's Initiative is sponsoring the nine-day tour which began Monday night in Fort McMurray, Alta., and will continue along the proposed route of the 1,177-kilometre pipeline.
"We're coming as women to listen to those women on the ground and then share what we hear more broadly," Nobel Women's Initiative executive director Liz Bernstein said in a phone interview after arriving in Fort McMurray on Monday.
The Nobel Women's Initiative was created in 2006 by six female winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, including Williams. It's aim is to shine a light on the work women do to support peace in their communities.
In the past the group has travelled to conflict areas, including visits to Sudan, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras. The trip to Alberta and B.C., is motivated by the organization's concern about climate change and how the expansion of production in the oilsands and well as the possible construction of the pipeline could contribute to that phenomenon.
"We're really interested in learning about the impacts of the [oilsands] expansion on women in their communities," Bernstein said. "We oftenfind that women's voices are seldom taken into account by decision makers."
The group kicked off the tour on Monday night with a meeting with Fort McMurray Mayor Melissa Blake. On Tuesday the group gets a tour of the oilsands from Suncor and has a number meetings set up with First Nations and healthcare groups in northern Alberta on Wednesday.
"We've come to listen and learn from women, community leaders as well as industry representatives and government officials, about what they see as impacts of the expansion of the oilsands and the pipelines," Bernstein said.
The group will arrive in Prince George on Wednesday night and meet with the Sea to Sands Conversation Alliance on Thursday morning before hitting the road towards Kitimat later that day. Stops include Vanderhoof and Burns Lake, where the group will meet with First Nations leaders.
The delegates are hoping to secure a meeting with Premier Christy Clark and will hold a news conference in Vancouver on Oct. 16 to discuss their findings.
"We hope to listen and learn what impacts [women are] seeing now, what they might fear or hope for and be able to share some of what we hear from them with decision makers in Canada as well as globally," Bernstein said.
Williams, an American, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work in helping to ban land mines. Harmer is a Juno-award winning folk singer from Burlington, Ont., who has been involved in environmental activism in the past.
Bernstein said in the past the organization has found it helpful to invite women from all sorts of backgrounds, including science, the arts and business. The delegation to Alberta and B.C. also includes University of Alberta earth and atmospheric sciences professor Marianne Douglas, American corporate executive Chris Page, Kenyan environmental activist Ikal Angelei and North Dakota aboriginal environmental activist Kandi Mossett.