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As protestors staged sit-ins at Canada’s Prime Minister’s residence, Keystone XL Campaign Organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network’s Dallas Goldtooth and environmental activist Dimitri Lascaris discuss the grassroots strategies needed to keep the pressure on politicians

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JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. To welcome the new prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, climate activists have planned a series of civil disobedience actions this week. On Thursday, dozens marched to Trudeau’s residence and held a sit-in to demand Trudeau stop the extraction of tar sands. Trudeau has voiced support for the Keystone XL pipeline, and now sits on the opposite side of the argument from President Obama. On Friday morning President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, citing concerns about its environmental impact. So where does this leave Trudeau’s plan for the environment? Joining us now to discuss all of this are our two guests. Dimitri Lascaris, he is an attorney, and he actually joins us there on the ground in front of Trudeau’s residence, and he’s a board member of the Real News. And joining us from Chicago is Dallas Goldtooth. He’s a Keystone XL organizer for Indigenous Environmental Network. Thank you both for joining us. So Dallas, this is major, major news for those following the climate change grassroots movement. First of all, congratulations, because I know you’ve really been on the front line of this. And what do you see as being the major, major catalyst for getting President Obama to change his mind about the Keystone XL pipeline deal? DALLAS GOLDTOOTH: First of all, I want to say thank you. We are crazy ecstatic about the news and this decision that President Obama made today. I can’t hold my excitement in, I’m just kind of running all over. Because this has been a decision that’s been seven years in the making. I mean, this has, it’s been–the permit application has been sitting with the State Department for over seven years. And it’s really been the grassroots effort, the people on the ground, tribal nations, tribal communities, treaty leaders, First Nations people in Canada, landowners and farmers and ranchers coming together, unifying on this effort together, and having a strategic plan of sustained action that has created this, this movement that we’re seeing right now, and culminating in this decision by President Obama. So it’s a great, this is a great experience. It’s a great day. DESVARIEUX: I hear you. And this movement is definitely going strong in Canada, as well. Dimitri, you’re joining us there outside of Trudeau’s residence. Can we, can you just tell us, what has Prime Minister Trudeau’s response been after President Obama’s announcement? DIMITRI LASCARIS: [Inaud.] the celebration hasn’t stopped. And I want to congratulate our brothers and sisters in the United States for their tremendous success in bringing an end to this disastrous pipeline project, this is wonderful news. The prime minister promptly issued a statement following the announcement by President Obama. The first thing that he said was that he was disappointed with the decision, which caused a hearty round of boos from the activists here. But then he went on to say that he understands that this is the prerogative of the U.S. president, that the relationship is much bigger than one pipeline project. The relationship between Canada and the United States. And that he’s looking forward to working towards a resolution of the climate crisis and the development of the green economy. The problem with this statement, it sounds good enough on the surface, but fundamentally he is not committing to freeze the expansion of the tar sands. And there are other pipeline projects on the table. The biggest one, Energy East, which would run right across Canada, almost the entire length of Canada, that’s not one we can be saved from by President Obama. It doesn’t cross the border. So we would have to without the help of our American friends bring that to a closure. And right now Prime Minister Trudeau is not committing to bring an end to those pipeline projects and to freeze expansion of the tar sands. And so that’s why we’re here today. And we’re not going anywhere until we get that commitment. DESVARIEUX: Dallas, you just heard Dimitri talk about the Energy East pipeline. I want you to be able to have this moment and celebrate, but what are sort of plans for the future with proposed pipelines? What do you guys have planned? GOLDTOOTH: Yeah. Well, here in the Indigenous Environmental Network, I mean, we’ve been a part of this campaign to shut down the tar sands for a number of years. I mean, this movement really began with a small group of families right in the heart of the tar sands [inaud.] families who just started voicing their opinion and telling the world about the issues that they’re facing. So this is a huge win, not only for the KXL campaign, it’s not just a huge win for the U.S. climate justice movement, but this is actually a very strategic win for the campaign to shut down the tar sands. I mean, the tar sands is a mega project of, has octopus arms going all over the place. And our job is to basically take down those little octopus legs to get it to the market. And so this sends a huge signal to the industry that their time has come, and that they should see the writing on the wall. So I think that here in the U.S. we definitely want to pay attention to also Enbridge efforts to expand their capacity going through Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Enbridge network in the United States. So I think definitely we want to celebrate this moment, acknowledge it and just live it up. But we know that the struggle continues and that we are going to push forward using this energy, this amazing, amazing energy, to accomplish our goals to shut down tar sands and to address climate change in a very direct way. DESVARIEUX: Yeah, and I think that was a great visual, thinking of all the tentacles of these pipelines. Because Trudeau, he’s really come out campaigning, talking about building a better nation-to-nation relationship with Canada’s indigenous people, Dimitri, and I want to turn to you. So Dimitri, we just heard Dallas saying that they’re going to continue their fight on the U.S. side of the border. In terms of the Canadian side of the border, what about the future proposed pipelines? What are you guys planning to do to really change the course of these pipelines? LASCARIS: You know, we have to, we just have to exert constant, massive, relentless pressure, and that’s the only way. I mean, we’re dealing here with a government, it certainly seems to be more sensitive to the climate crisis than the predecessor. But the predecessor government of Stephen Harper set the bar so low that just about anything would constitute an improvement. What we need is for this government to understand that it represents the people of Canada, and not the oil industry of Canada. And that means it must freeze tar sands expansion, it must say no to pipeline projects that will facilitate the expansion. And frankly, given its relationship to the oil industry historically, the only way that’s going to happen is with massive public pressure. So this is the beginning–it’s not even the beginning. This has been going on for some time. But this is the next step in our efforts at the grassroots level to apply that pressure and to increase the pressure so that finally the prime minister begins to respond to the needs of the populace and humanity as a whole, and not a narrow, industrial interest based in Alberta. DESVARIEUX: All right. Dimitri Lascaris as well as Dallas Goldtooth, thank you both for joining us. GOLDTOOTH: Thank you for having us. LASCARIS: Thank you. DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


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Dimitri Lascaris is a lawyer that focuses on human rights and environmental law. He is the former justice critic of the Green Party of Canada and is a former board member of the Real News Network. You can follow him @dimitrilascaris and find more of his work at