The Demonstration in Victoria - Rikki MacCuish
Multimedia Communications Specialist
Sierra Club BC

Thousands of Canadians take to the Streets to Defend Our Climate

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PM1On Saturday, May 10, thousands of Canadians took to the streets to “Defend our Climate.” Demonstrations  were held in every province except Newfoundland, as well as in the Yukon and Nunavik.

The Canadian government appears to have leagued itself to the fossil fuel industry and is pushing numerous coal, natural gas and tar sands development projects across Canada.

Demonstrator marching through Beacon Hill Park in Victoria -
(Click on image to expand) Demonstrator marching through Beacon Hill Park in Victoria – Courtesy Rikki MacCuish, Multimedia Communications Specialist, Sierra Club BC

“From Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline to Keystone XL, Kinder Morgan, Line 9 and Energy East to ongoing tar sands expansion, there are many decisions looming on pipelines and extreme energy projects all across the country”, said Eriel Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations.  “If built, these projects will allow the continued polluting of water, threaten communities and treaty rights, and accelerate climate change with significant impacts on all regions across Canada.”

“This government has shut climate out of the conversation. Canadians can’t talk about it in the environmental assessments of pipelines, mines, or insitu projects. The Prime Minister has silenced scientists and closed the national round table on environment and economy,” says Jamie Biggar from Leadnow.ca.

British Columbia is facing multiple threats:

  • Development of what may be the world’s biggest natural gas fields in northeastern BC.
  • Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry tar sands bitumen to a proposed oil terminal in Kitimat
  • Doubling the province’s coal export terminals in the Greater Vancouver area
  • Kinder Morgan’s Tran’s Mountain pipeline expansion, which will triple the amount of tar sands bitumen flowing out through the greater Vancouver area
Defend our Climate Rally in Victoria -  TJ Watt photo
(Click on image to expand) Defend our Climate Rally in Victoria – Courtesy TJ Watt

“An oil spill on Victoria’s shores would be devastating to our environment, to our economy and to our quality of life,” said Mayor Fortin of Victoria. “Thousands of local jobs in sectors like tourism and outdoor recreation depend directly on our stunning natural setting, to say nothing of the ecological devastation that would result from any accident.”

He was one of the speakers that addressed a crowd that Chek news said was “well over 1,000″ and some estimates go as high as 2,500. They marched from Beacon Hill Park to the front lawn of BC’s provincial legislature.

Another thousand demonstrated in Vancouver, where Mayor Gregor Robertson has said, “The (proposed “expansion” of the ) Kinder Morgan pipeline project will bring seven times more oil tankers into Vancouver’s waters – a project that is not in our city’s interest. We need to move beyond fossil fuel projects that threaten our environment and economy.”

The Demonstration in Vancouver - Jens Wieting photo
Defend Our Climate Demonstration in Vancouver – Courtesy Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC

Though the National Energy Board’s “hearing” on the Kinder Morgan project will start soon, Mayor Robertson says it “meets no test of meaningful consultation.”

City councillor Adrianne Carr said the NEB is “fast-tracking” Kinder Morgan’s application, “denying thousands of people who applied to participate the chance to be heard, limiting commentators to just a one-page written statement with no possibility of presenting oral statements as were allowed in previous hearing processes and not allowing intervenors to question witnesses.”

On Tuesday, Vancouver’s city council will decide whether to hold a plebiscite, which may be the only way residents can voice their opinion.

There were demonstrations in at least eighteen British Columbian communities on Saturday.

Vancouver – courtesy Jens Wieting

This may have prompted the BC government to issue a press release laying down the same five key requirements for Kinder Morgan that it has previously established for the Northern Gateway pipeline:

  1. Successful completion of the environmental review process;
  2. World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.’s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines and shipments;
  3. World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines;
  4. Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project; and
  5. British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy-oil project that reflects the level, degree and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment and taxpayers.

Many believe that Kinder Morgan will not find it difficult to pass the environmental review. According to Burnaby’s attorney, the three members of the NEB panel all worked in the fossil fuel industry!

IMG_4206
Vancouver – Courtesy  Jens Wieting

Their real difficulty is satisfying the First Nations, 130 of which signed the Save the Fraser declaration prohibiting pipelines on their territories.

A representative of the Yinka Dene Alliance recently attended Enbridge’s annual meeting to reiterate, “We will continue to uphold our legal ban against this project and will assert our Aboriginal rights and title to the fullest extent possible.”

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation is mounting a legal challenge against the NEB Review of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline, which it claims is running roughshod over their aboriginal title.

Caitlyn Vernon of Sierra Club BC, described Sarturday’s demonstration as a means of reminding “the federal government that no means no, there is no social license for Enbridge in B.C. We can do better than jobs in oil spill response; we can say yes to green jobs instead.”

“When we export tar sands oil, we are importing climate disaster,” said Torrance Coste of the Wilderness Committee. “The risks and consequences of spills are far too high, and the impacts of climate change are already here and will only get worse if we invest in these fossil fuel projects and accelerate the amount of greenhouse gases we pump into the atmosphere.”

According to a study by the Pembina Institute, BC could easily double its current CO2 emissions if it proceeds with development of natural gas from the Montney formation.

Premier Christy Clark has repeatedly called this a trillion dollar opportunity and –  with 3/4 of the British Columbians in a recent poll stating they prefer to develop clean energy  - undoubtedly a subject the provincial government does not want the people to have a say in.

Finance Minister Michael de Jong is in Toronto to discuss BC’s advances in natural gas development and how the “proposed LNG tax will strike the right balance between a fair return for British Columbians while keeping the province an attractive and competitive place to develop LNG.”

The fossil fuels industry faces less opposition in Alberta, where oil has brought decades of prosperity, but there were demonstrations in the provincial capital (Edmonton) and Fort McMurray (in the heart of oil sands).

Demonstrators in James Short Park, Calgary - courtesy Calgary Defend Our Climate Defend Our Communities Day of Action
Demonstrators in James Short Park, Calgary – courtesy Calgary Defend Our Climate,  Defend Our Communities Day of Action

A hundred people gathered in Calgary’s James Short Park, close to the corporate headquarters of fossil fuel giants Enbridge, TransCanada, Enscana and Pembina. There was an open mike. Janet Keeping, leader of the Green Party of Alberta, and a local climatologist were among those who spoke.

There were three open mikes at Montreal’s Parc La Fontaine. Fifteen of the crowd of 200 stepped forward to speak. Afterwards they distributed thousands of flyers to people in the park and some parts of the city.

There were demonstrations in Regina, Winnipeg, and close to 100 Canadian cities.

Rankin Inlet, in Nunavet, was the furthest north.

Hundreds gathering at Rideau Falls Park, in Canada’s capital (Ottawa), where they dismantled a mock-up of the proposed Energy East pipeline. This is meant to be the biggest pipeline of all, dwarfing the Keystone XL, Trans Mountain and Northern Gateway pipelines. If built, it will carry over a million barrels of oil a day from Alberta to New Brunswick.

May 10 Rally in Toronto - courtesy Kevin Konnyu
(Click on image to expand) May 10 Rally in Toronto – courtesy Kevin Konnyu

 

Organizers of the nation’s largest demonstration, in Toronto, issued a press release that states:

“1500 marched the streets of Toronto accompanied by giant puppets and stilt walkers as part of the National Day of Action on Climate. The action, targeting Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline, was one of almost 100 actions across the country protesting pipelines, energy projects, and runaway climate change.

The demonstration began at Toronto City Hall, where City Council recently voted to became the 7th municipality to formally ask the province of Ontario for an environmental assessment on Line 9, the controversial tar sands pipeline. The crowd then paraded to Queen’s Park to deliver a giant petition signed by over 10,000 people demanding the Ontario government conduct an environmental assessment on the pipeline.

“Since the federal government has cancelled the requirement for environmental assessments on pipelines, it is now up to provinces to take action. This will be a provincial election issue, as people across the province are concerned about the pipeline rupturing and threatening their health and safety.” – Lana Goldberg

The May 10 Demonstration in Toronto  - courtesy Kevin Konnyu
The May 10 Demonstration in Toronto – courtesy Kevin Konnyu

A pipeline safety expert, Richard Kuprewicz, has stated that the probability of Line 9 rupturing is “over 90%.” Environmental activists are concerned that if the pipeline spills, it will negatively impact populated neighbourhoods, sensitive ecosystems, rivers, and lakes. The pipeline also runs through or close to 18 First Nations communities who say they have not been properly consulted.

“As a Haudenosaunee woman and mother, I am against the Line 9 project as it would have negative impacts on my community, Six Nations of the Grand River. Line 9 passes right through the Grand River which puts our water and our people at risk. The project also violates our Treaty rights, as we have a right to be consulted and accommodated on projects that affect our territory.” – Melissa Elliot, Six Nations of the Grand River

Beyond the potential local impacts, people are also worried that Line 9 will allow the tar sands project in Alberta to continue to expand, affecting downstream Indigenous communities and climate change.

“The tar sands is the biggest industrial project in the world. It is Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. We have a responsibility to the entire world – which is experiencing extreme weather conditions – to reign in the tar sands and move towards a clean energy future.” – Sakura Saunders

Tar sands production is planned to increase from 1.8 milion barrels a day this year to 5.2 million barrels a day by 2030.

(Click on image to expand) One of the three fracking models at the Halifax demonstration - photo courtesy Stephen Thomas
(Click on image to expand) One of the three fracking models at the Halifax demonstration – photo courtesy Stephen Thomas

There are no pipelines proposed for Halifax, where around a hundred people gathered in Parade Square, but the province’s 2-year ban on fracking is about to end.

“We are rarely told the other side of the story – that another future could be possible if we began to look beyond fossil fuels.” said Katelynn Northam, Atlantic Regional Organizer for Leadnow.ca. “That we can grow our economy without polluting our air and water, and that we can have jobs and a clean environment.”

“No matter what the economic imperative might be of fracking, the reality is it just puts people at risk and it’s not part of Nova Scotias energy future,” said Katie Rae Perfitt, organizer of the Halifax demonstration. “We have these great renewable energy targets and we’re on track to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Pursuing fracking is completely out of line with both of those.”

The demonstrators had three model fracking riggs in Parade Square. They took one to the Seaport Farmers Market, where they handed out handbills. Another went to the head office of Corridor Resources, which is fracking in New Brunswick.

(Photo at top of page: The Demonstration in Victoria – Rikki MacCuish Multimedia Communications Specialist
Sierra Club BC)

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