Activists Crash Press Conference to Challenge Trudeau on Climate Policy
Former Trudeau supporters Hayley Zacks and Jake Hubley were arrested after confronting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about his support of the Alberta tar sands and approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, despite posturing as a ‘climate crusader’
DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris for The Real News Network. Despite the elaborate posturing at the just concluded COP23 Climate Summit in Bonn, Germany, not everyone is buying that Canada is a climate champion. The Trudeau government continues to support the Alberta tar sands, which is not only the largest industrial project on the planet, but is also the dirtiest and most polluting. Former NASA scientist, Dr. James Hansen, has called the continued exploitation of the tar sands “game over for the planet, and necessarily for the human species.”
On November 15th, to express their peaceful opposition to Justin Trudeau’s commitment to the tar sands industry, two Canadian youths were arrested in Vancouver, B.C. at a press conference where they challenged the Prime Minister on his climate policies and his government’s approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. If that expansion is completed, Kinder Morgan’s trans mountain pipeline will carry far more highly toxic, diluted bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands to Canada’s west coast, where it will be transported by tankers to other countries, including the United States.
When these two youths confronted Trudeau, they stated that this most recent election was the first national election in which they were old enough to vote, and that they voted for him because he promised climate action. But now, they said, he’s pushing through the trans-mountain pipeline expansion and betraying his commitment to protect their generation and subsequent generations.
With us to discuss the Kinder Morgan pipeline controversy, Trudeau’s climate policy and their arrest are the two protestors themselves. Joining us from Vancouver is Haley Zacks, a 20 year-old climate campaigner with Stand.earth in Vancouver. Also joining us is Jake Hubley, a 24 year-old community organizer from the city of Vancouver. Thank you very much, both of you, for joining us today.
HALEY ZACKS: Thank you for having us.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: So Haley, I’d like to begin with you. First of all, could you tell us please what the purpose of this November 15th press conference was?
HALEY ZACKS: Justin Trudeau went in Vancouver to meet with the U.N. Ministerial Defense Committee, so he was there as part of this conference. And the specific part that we were attending was a press conference to discuss the previous commitments made to the U.N. by Prime Minister Trudeau. However, he was in Vancouver and since he’s approved the pipeline about a year ago, the Kinder Morgan pipeline, he hasn’t met with the public; he’s just been doing press events or private events. So, we decided to take the public to him through this press conference.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: Were you invited to this event, or did you find creative ways to get yourselves inside?
HALEY ZACKS: We found creative ways to get in.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: So, Haley, what did you say to the Prime Minister when you had the opportunity to speak to him?
HALEY ZACKS: I said that Jake and I are youth that voted for Justin Trudeau in our first ever federal election, and we voted for him on his promise for change and those promises were real climate action and reconciliation with indigenous nations in Canada. And then he went and approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline and you cannot meet those commitments to climate action and reconciliation when approving a detrimental tar sands pipeline that’s going through indigenous territory.
And I also mentioned that we’re young people and we’re scared of what climate change means for our generation and future generations. And approving a pipeline that is going to produce 8.8 million gallons of CO2 of emissions equivalent to 2.2 million cars on the road means that he’s not taking climate change seriously.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: And Jake, what did the Prime Minister say, if anything, in response to these comments?
JAKE HUBLEY: He gave us his nice eyes and his smile and at the end kind of when we were being dragged out, he said something along the lines of, “It’s so great to see young people fighting for what they believed in. Please continue your activism.” Which to me, if he’s really supporting activism, he wouldn’t be shoving a pipeline down our throats at the same time.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: And he encouraged this activism as you were being removed from the premises?
JAKE HUBLEY: That’s right, yeah.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: And so, Jake, what did the police say to you? What was their explanation for arresting you, in effect?
JAKE HUBLEY: So, the police removed us in interest of safety. The charges we were going to be charged with were criminal mischief and obstruction of justice. There was also a couple loose things said around using a fake ID, which we used as freelance journalists to get into the conference. And then our charges were later dropped outside.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: And what explanation, Haley, did the police give to you and Jake for dropping the charges? And were you released with any conditions attached?
HALEY ZACKS: We were released with the condition that if we committed any sort of, the police officer that we were dealing with said “anything as stupid” as we had done that day, that these charges would resurface. So, anything that we’re charged with in the future – if we are caught protesting or obstructing construction for the Kinder Morgan pipeline – that we could have these charges reappear on our criminal records. The charges of obstruction of justice and criminal mischief could reappear.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: Now Jake, it’s emerged that Justin Trudeau was, in fact, courting the oil sector while campaigning in 2015, and he never promised to curtail oil sands and tar sands production; he was just selective in disclosing his true intentions. Does that surprise you? Were you under the impression that the Prime Minister would have a much more progressive policy on the environment?
JAKE HUBLEY: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, his campaign was really to appeal to my generation; the generation who voted for him and gave him power to be leadership, and that sounded like strong climate action, real change, and renewed reconciliation with First Nations, and that’s simply not happening. He also promised to implement UNDRIP, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. That, so far, isn’t happening. One of those, something within that is free, prior, and informed consent for First Nations, particularly around economic projects. And meanwhile, he has approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which goes through indigenous territory without their consent.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: Now, Federal Environment Minister, Katherine McKenna, was sending out tweets from COP23 in Bonn about the pitfalls of coal. There was a lot of discussion by the Canadian delegation about coal. And according to Minister McKenna, “Burning coal is responsible for 41 percent of our global emissions.” In addition, when President Trump announced the US would pull out of the Paris Accord, the Canadian government issued a statement which said, “We are deeply disappointed that the United States federal government has decided to withdraw from the Paris agreement. Canada is unwavering in our commitment to fight climate change and support clean economic growth.”
Now, this whole business about coal, Minister McKenna at COP23 took what appeared to be a leading role in forming an anti-coal alliance, which a number of states signed on to. But in an interview with Der Spiegel in the German language, she acknowledged that even under this plan – if, in fact, it is implemented – Canada would still be generating energy powered by coal beyond 2060; for some period of time beyond 2060. When you add it all up – and my question’s really to the both of you – taking into account the initiatives in regard to coal and any other environmentally friendly initiatives that the Trudeau government has pursued, do you think that this is a government that is really pursuing a different course of action from its predecessor under Stephen Harper, or are the differences largely rhetorical and cosmetic?
HALEY ZACKS: If I could start, I would say that a lot of them have been cosmetic. I think that what’s important to recognize when we’re talking about COP is that the commitments that Justin Trudeau made in Paris in his first COP as Prime Minister were actually Harper’s commitments. So, those aren’t strong promises at all if we understand what the previous government was about in terms of climate change. So, one was that Justin Trudeau is only tied to the commitments that the Harper government had made to keeping promises to COP. And then the second being that even just the Kinder Morgan pipeline alone stops us from meeting the bare minimum commitments that we made in Paris. The emissions and the impact of building this pipeline will stop us from ever being able to meet our very minimal commitments to tackle climate change. So arguably, anything else we’re doing is being outweighed by the fact that we’re emitting way beyond what we should be.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: So Jake, let me sort of approach that same question in a different way by talking about another pipeline project, the Keystone XL pipeline, which was temporarily shut down after it was detected that it was leaking on Thursday morning. 210,000 gallons of oil spilled in South Dakota from a leak in the pipeline near the town of Amherst, and this came right before the Nebraska Public Service Commission made 3 to 2 decision on Monday to approve a more costly alternative route for Keystone XL. People like President Trump and some people within Canada that are promoting the interests of the tar sands industry say that these pipelines create jobs and that they’re safer than transporting oil by train. How would you respond to those arguments, Jake?
JAKE HUBLEY: I think there’s a lot of things, and I think with that spill, first of all, I think the upped the amount that was spilled; it was closer to 900,000 barrels. I’m pretty sure. Haley, you can correct me if I’m wrong.
HALEY ZACKS: 900,000 liters, 800,000 liters. Sorry.
JAKE HUBLEY: 800. But you know, the first thing I wrote after that was a post on Facebook, “My mouth is getting tired from all the I-told-you-so’s.” And I think that’s echoed in all the indigenous communities, especially at Standing Rock, who said this is going to happen again. It’s happened so many times, not only in our history of fossil fuel use, but especially with the trans-mountain and Kinder Morgan here. Over 80 tons in their history, and here we go again. It spilled and people’s water tables are at risk. What was the second part of that question?
DIMITRI LASCARIS: My first part of it was about job creation. I suppose one cynic could argue that the jobs being created are in the oil spill cleanup business. But the second part of my question was whether this is, in fact, safer than transporting oil by train. And I think, in light of the statistics you’ve cited, there’s good reason to question that particular assumption or claim. But in terms of jobs, do you think there’s any merit at all that sort of permanent, good jobs are being created by the construction of these pipelines?
JAKE HUBLEY: Yeah. In terms of jobs, what we’re seeing with Kinder Morgan is they give you these big job numbers and they’re based on really crappy economics, saying “for every one worker on the pipeline, we might have three to five workers in various Tim Horton’s there, the copy shops,” that kind of thing, and really it’s 50 permanent jobs for that whole project. And those jobs are temporary, they’re insecure especially with the fluctuating oil market, and they take people out of the communities and away from their families, which at the same time not only are they taking them away from their families, but a lot of oil workers aren’t super proud of what they’re doing.
I mean, everyone has to make a living. There’s groups like Iron and Earth, who’ve been doing an amazing job at trying to advocate for the retraining and repurposing of oil workers for renewable energy so that they can have jobs in their communities and jobs that they can be proud of. And there are many statistics already that show that even in the solar industry alone there’s over 200,000 jobs, and with climate leadership in Canada there could be that many in the solar industry. Meanwhile, there are only about 23,000 jobs in the tar sands.
So frankly, investing more into fossil fuels – which is a very fluctuating and dying industry, and one which has to die if we’re not to have catastrophic global warming take us – it’s actually investing in more insecure jobs for people that take them out of their families when we could be investing in long term, secure jobs in people’s communities in renewable energies for the long term. So it’s actually it’s an investment against oil workers, ironically enough, in my opinion.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: And Haley, do you have anything to add to Jake’s thoughts on the job creation potential and the safety of pipelines, tar sands pipelines?
HALEY ZACKS: Yeah. I think that Jake summed it up really nicely, and I think the one thing I’ll add is also all the jobs that are risked when you build a pipeline through a community. So it’s been assessed in Vancouver that the number of jobs that could be risked by a potential oil spill are in industries ranging from travel and tourism, to banking jobs that rely on having buildings directly on the water, to small businesses and restaurants. Like, the amount of jobs that would be risked in any area that is impacted by the pipeline if there is an oil spill. And as we’ve seen, it’s not if but when, like we saw with Keystone. There’s bound to be an oil spill and it’s risking way more jobs than it’s creating.
JAKE HUBLEY: If I could just add, the fisheries industry is a huge one there as well. The salmon industry alone, as far as I know, is a $900 million industry a year for B.C., while also being a sacred food source for indigenous folks here who aren’t consenting to the pipeline in our community, and which are very crucial for our forests.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: Well, this has been Dimitri Lascaris speaking to Vancouver based climate campaigners, Haley Zacks and Jake Hubley, who were arrested for peacefully dissenting from the Trudeau government’s climate policies at a press conference on November 15th. Thank you very much for joining us today.
HALEY ZACKS: Thank you.
JAKE HUBLEY: Thank you.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: And this is Dimitri Lascaris for The Real News Network.