Protests escalate against Enbridge Line 9 pipeline as government of Ontario refuses to conduct environmental assessment
SHAGHAYEGH TAJVIDI, TRNN PRODUCER: In Toronto in the early morning hours of Tuesday, December 3, activists locked themselves to machinery on a construction site where Enbridge is replacing parts of its Line 9 pipeline. The oil giant is applying to reverse the flow of the pipeline to increase its capacity and to send tar sands diluted bitumen through it.
MEGHAN MILLS, RISING TIDE TORONTO: Pretty self-explanatory. I’m just secured with another member of Rising Tide to a barrel.
INTERVIEWER: So are you actually chained together in there?
MILLS: We’re secured in there.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. And so how long do you intend to be here?
MILLS: For as long as it takes.
AMANDA LICKERS, HAUDENOSAUNEE ANTI-PIPELINE ORGANIZER: Because the National Energy Board hearings have taken place, and Rising Tide Toronto–like, as I said, I was an intervener there, and I gave a two-and-a-half hour deputation. But as we can see, there’s construction happening, and Enbridge is basically planning for the reversal.
VANESSA GRAY, ACTIVIST, AAMJIWNAANG FIRST NATION: The tar sands affects First Nations communities in Alberta, who are also living on the front lines and dealing with rare cancers and health risks. They are unable to hunt because their animals are drinking the poisonous water that the tar sands are leaking into the Athabasca River.
TAJVIDI: The lockdown, which has been part of a wave of anti tar sands actions across Toronto and throughout Canada, comes after a recent announcement by the Ontario government of Kathleen Wynne that the province will not be seeking a provincial environmental assessment of Enbridge’s Line 9B proposal plan.
Experts and activists alike have stated that it is not a matter of whether the 38-year-old pipeline might rupture, but when.
On the company’s safety record, Enbridge’s public affairs manager states:
MICHELLE WASYLYSHEN, PUBLIC AFFAIRS MANAGER, ENBRIDGE: We’ve done extensive outreach and consultation with various people around the province and in Quebec on the safety measures of the pipeline. We hold regular emergency exercises with first responders and other stakeholders to ensure that the pipeline operates in a safe manner.
GRAY: And Enbridge has showed us that their pipelines are unable to flow this type of oil, because they have a track record of, like, over 800 spills in 11 years.
LANA GOLDBERG, PRODUCER: I think some communities are saying that even though there were meetings, they weren’t really consultations, that, you know, folks came in and had a quick meeting, but that they don’t consider that consultation.
WASYLYSHEN: I consider what we’ve been doing consultation. We have sat down. We have gone through the project details at the open houses. What we did is we had our subject matter experts come in from Calgary and Edmonton. We had videos. We’ve had all kinds of different means to try and help the public to understand what exactly the project is.
LICKERS: There has been absolutely no consultation with First Nations communities along the route. And the Line 9 pipeline is in violation of a number of treaties, as well as the Canadian Constitution, where the Crown is obliged to consult with First Nations in matters which directly affect their territories.
TAJVIDI: When the Ontario government was asked about the security of the pipelines, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli shifted the burden of safety measures to the National Energy Board, citing the NEB’s responsibility to obtain the right information to decide on the project. However, the NEB is expected to rubber-stamp the Line 9B project due to the board’s ties to big oil and its history of approving tar sands projects.
This is in context of the federal Conservatives’ commitment to an aggressive resource development agenda, which has translated into two omnibus bills which have significantly weakened environmental legislation, among changes to various other policies, changes which are of course favorable for industry.
LICKERS: This sort of posturing of prioritizing corporate interests over the needs and wants of the people is really just the status quo. And I think that what’s happening with the Harper government is they’re just becoming more honest about it. And that means that–.
But ultimately I don’t think that it means that people are scared. I think that it means that people are feeling an increased sense of urgency and a fiery passion to rise up, because they understand that if they don’t act now, it’s going to be even worse. And I think that it’s with this sense of urgency and this sense of responsibility that you see things like the Line 9 resistance and the resistance to the tar sands.
MILLS: I’m obligated to be here today as a treaty person to put my body on the line and honor the treaties that are outlined. And right now Line 9 is in violation of the Canadian Constitution. So I’m obligated as a Canadian citizen to be here today.
LICKERS: And I think that it’s a really crucial time, because as this colonial infrastructure continues to develop and industrialization, like, furthers itself, we see increased rates in cancer, in birth defects, in all these adverse, you know, health impacts in communities, and I think it’s really hitting home for folks. And so I think that we need to be really critical of the idea of a democracy on stolen native land.
TAJVIDI: For The Real News Network, Shaghayegh Tajvidi and Lana Goldberg, Toronto.