Josette Wier admits to be a bit intimidated by the process, but is eager to question Enbridge at the hearings into the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline in Prince George beginning this week.
Wier is among a handful of independent individual intervenors who will get the chance to cross-examine the Calgary-based company behind the $6 billion plan to build a pipeline from Alberta's oilsands to Kitimat.
"It's been a full-time job for me for a year now," she said of the labourious preparation process. "I learned a lot and I want people to know what I've learned."
The National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel has entered the final hearings phase of its environmental assessment. Last month it held hearings in Edmonton and now it's Prince George's turn to host the formal question and answer sessions.
Wier, a medical doctor by training, has no formal legal training. Originally from France, she moved to Canada 35 years ago, first living on Haida Gwaii before settling in Smithers.
Among the questions she wants answers to are: How secure will the long-term Canadian oil supply be if Northern Gateway is built a more crude is exported; how possible upgrades to B.C. Hydro's transmission lines will be paid for; if there's enough electricity available to support the pipeline's operations and why Canada is supporting the export of raw resources.
"We are becoming more and more like a third world country exporting unprocessed resources," she said.
Wier has estimated she'll need 5 1/2 hours to question a pair Enbridge witness panels - one regarding the company's emergency plan in the event of a pipeline spill and another regarding the socio-economic effects of the $6 billion project.
"The application is full of holes and they need to be addressed," she said. "It's a process for citizens, it's not only lawyers and consultants, we need to have the citizenry involved, I feel very strongly about that."
Wier still isn't sure exactly when she'll get to ask her questions as the Prince George hearings span a month, but to prepare for the big day she attended a retreat in San Francisco last week. When the time comes, she's confident she'll be ready.
"We are given quite an opportunity to change the course of systematic planet destruction for the greed and profit of very few, in this case blatantly the oil producers who cannot even be called Canadians," she said.
Wier compares her stand against the pipeline with the Battle of Batoche in 1885 between the Metis in Saskatchewan and the Canadian military. Like Louis Riel and company, Wier said she's standing up for her rights and for the land against overwhelming odds.
The Metis were heavily outnumbered and outgunned, but dug themselves in for a fight. Wier pointed to the millions of dollars pipeline proponents have at their disposal as evidence of the long odds she faces, but she's determined not to back down.
"I'm digging a hole from which I'm trying to defend myself," she said.
The Metis lost that battle, but history has looked favourably on their plight. Wier hopes it won't take as long for decision makers to come around to her point of view on the pipeline.