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B.C. cruise puts environmental activism on the menu

It will be a culinary cruise to remember and just maybe, in some small way, it might help change the course of British Columbia's future.

While others have been busy holding protests against the proposed Enbridge pipeline, Michael Uehara and David Suzuki have been planning to play host to a dinner aboard the Pacific Yellowfin, a grand old ship built in 1943.

The luxurious yacht, which plies the wild B.C. coast and boasts testimonials from the likes of Uma Thurman, is to be the site of an unusual trip next month, which will feature some of the top chefs in the country.

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Working in the boat's galley will be Michael Stadtlander, whose Eigensinn Farm, North of Toronto and West of Barrie, has earned an international reputation; Robert Clark of C Restaurant and Nico Schuermans, of Chambar, two of Vancouver's top restaurants; and several other luminary chefs.

They will be whipping up dishes inspired by the Gitga'at First Nation and the natural bounty of the Great Bear Rainforest, the region through which a steady flow of oil tankers will shuttle if the Enbridge project goes ahead.

But while the food prepared by the all-star lineup of chefs will be the main attraction, and will help justify the $300-per-person ticket prices, the real point of the evening will be a keynote address by Mr. Suzuki, who will focus on oil, energy and the state of the world.

Mr. Uehara, President of King Pacific Lodge, a floating luxury resort on the coast along the tanker route, said the point of the evening is to get people who are not usually environmentally engaged, involved in the Enbridge issue.

"The goal is to inspire and inform people that we don't think would normally be involved in something like this," said Mr. Uehara. "We want them to go away from this and talk to everyone they know."

The "something" he's referring to, of course, is the Enbridge issue, which promises to become the biggest environmental flashpoint in B.C. since tens of thousands of people flocked to Clayoquot Sound in 1993 to protest against old-growth logging, dance to Midnight Oil and face mass arrest.

The Pacific Yellowfin cruise will be a much more subdued event, but Mr. Uehara and Mr. Suzuki hope they can stir the same kind of passions. They want their guests that evening, which they hope will include some of B.C.'s leading figures, to go away convinced that they can no longer be quiet bystanders.

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"I think we are going to see as this moves on that there are going to be people who don't normally get involved … that are going to stand up and say this is the one, this is the fight that's really going to matter," said Mr. Uehara.

He's confident of that based on the reaction he got when he asked the chefs if they would step up to help make the event happen.

"We simply asked them," said Mr. Uehara, who noted there were so many positive responses that he actually had to limit the number of chefs who could participate. There is only so much room in the kitchen, after all, and on the Pacific Yellowfin that night it will be about a dozen of the biggest culinary stars around.

In a pre-cruise interview, Mr. Suzuki said the Enbridge proposal brings into focus some big issues that people should be talking about.

"It's crystal clear that energy is at the heart of the challenge that's going to face countries around the world in the coming years. Yet here we are attempting to portray ourselves as a petro state – when we don't even have a national energy program," said Mr. Suzuki.

"Half the oil that we are using is being bought from other countries and that just seems crazy to me if we are thinking in terms of long-term energy security. So then the question is, are we really looking at energy from the standpoint of Canada's needs first? And if that is the case, why is the pipeline going west or south? Why isn't it going east?" he asked.

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Mr. Suzuki can also be expected to talk about the richness of the Gitga'at culture and about the environmental treasures at risk in the Great Bear Rainforest, which has white-coated black bears, wolves that hunt salmon and old-growth forests.

Like Mr. Uehara, he hopes that when the cruise ends guests will leave not just talking about the remarkable meal, but about the food for thought as well.

For more information on the event, visit or follow #cookingforacause on Twitter.

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