A few weeks ago, Beth Buczynski wrote about the Keystone XL pipeline protests in Washington, DC. Now it is Canada’s turn. On Monday, September 26, more than 1,000 Canadian and international activists rallied on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to protest the tar sands and the Keystone XL pipeline project. Protesters gathered in a large peaceful solidarity rally and more than 180 people crossed police barricades in waves in an attempt to force a sit-in in the foyer of Canada’s House of Commons. Police made arrests as people crossed the barriers.
Fighting for Environmental and Human Rights
The TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline project is a $7 billion initiative to move oil from Alberta to Texas that has been widely criticized by environmental groups. According to protest organizers, the The Council of Canadians, Greenpeace Canada and the Indigenous Environmental Network, we need to act now “for the health of our planet, our air, our water, our climate and our children” (Source: Ottawa Action). In the invitation to the rally, the organizers explained that:
Tar sands mining and other extreme forms of energy extraction like Arctic drilling, shale fracking, and nuclear power generation send us in the exact opposite direction that we, as a civilization, must go to ensure global survival. If we burn the tar sands, we blot our nation’s reputation; if we leave that carbon in the ground, we’ll do the world an enormous favour.
Indigenous leaders at the rally spoke about their rights and the way they have been treated by managers of this pipeline project and other energy projects in Canada’s North. “The tar sands represent a path of broken treaties, eroded human rights, catastrophic climate change, poisoned air and water and the complete stripping of Canada’s morality in the international community,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Indigenous Environmental Network. Speaking on the Hill, Aboriginal leaders noted that “Enbridge offered us money to shut up and open our lands,” but they refused and have said they will not let Enbridge on their land.
Protesters Supported by Advocacy Groups, Celebrities and Politicians
The protest, which began at 10:00 am at the Parliament’s Centennial Flame, is supported by numerous prominent advocacy groups including the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Équiterre, Global Exchange, Peaceful Uprising and more. It was also supported by numerous First Nations groups, including the Assembly of First Nations.
Celebrities and politicians have also thrown their support behind the protesters. Green Party leader Elizabeth May was at the protest this morning, before returning back to her seat in Parliament to vote against Canada’s ongoing participation in the war in Libya. Members of the New Democratic Party were also at the protest.
After the rally and numerous speakers talking about the importance of stopping the pipeline project, a group of protestors started crossing the fence in waves attempting to stage a sit-in at the Parliament’s Centre Block. Dozens of protesters were arrested during the demonstration. The arrests appeared to be peaceful, with protestors chatting with police as they were documented and detained. Arrests included key members of environmental, citizen and First Nations groups.
Photo credit: Annie Urban