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Voices from the Energy East resistance

Pipeline resistance. Image: Council of Canadians

Today [October 5] is a good day. We stopped Energy East. Some are trying to make this about partisan fighting or suggesting it was a simple market decision. In no small irony this is happening at the same time as the costs of climate chaos in extreme weather events is dominated the news.

The fact is, the death of Energy East has been written on the wall for a while now. 

Be it the threats to tar sands expansion and the transport of diluted bitumen, drinking water contamination, violation of Indigenous rights or TransCanada's poor spill record, Energy East was facing a wall of opposition and had no chance of proceeding.

TransCanada first suggested it may pull the plug on Energy East in a press release literally the day after the National Energy Board (NEB) included a climate test in its list of issues for reviewing Energy East. This came after over 100,000 Canadians sent messages to the NEB insisting on a climate test for Energy East. After 2,000 people applied to intervene, citing climate change as a reason. After countless press releases, public events, rallies and actions conveying the climate costs of a 1.1 million bpd pipeline and how utterly incompatible it would be with doing our fair share to address climate change. 

Energy East threatened the drinking water of over 5 million Canadians including in WinnipegNorth BayOttawa, Montreal and Saint John. It is a company with a terrible spill track record: most of their Canadian spills were found by people, not the spill detection systems they lauded at their Energy East open houses. The pipeline crossed the territory of over more than 50 First Nations.

Through four public speaking tours,15 public forums, countless meetings with local groups, First Nations, municipal councillors and landowners along the pipeline path, I've had the privilege of working with people that helped build a wall of resistance to Energy East. Copied below are some of their own voices, taken from our joint efforts over the past four years to stop Energy East.

Today, let's celebrate the end of Energy East. Tomorrow, we wake up and continue the hard work to make sure all new tar sands pipelines are stopped including Kinder Morgan TransMountain, TransCanada's Keystone XL, Enbridge's Line 3 and Line 5. To ensure the protection of water is at the forefront of political decision making. Listening to, and working with, Indigenous communities demanding respect for Treaty rights and Indigenous rights, including the right to say no, is a priority at all levels of government. To help build a movement that will successful stop all new fossil fuel projects and achieve the needed just transition to 100% sustainable economy and society by 2050.

Highlights from Energy East resistance: 

"Evidence continues to show that Energy East is all risk and little reward," says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. "New reports affirm the unacceptable risks of diluted bitumen spills to waterways, that this is an export pipeline, not for Canadian use, and how it will undermine Canada's ability to address climate change."

"Energy East would have put my community, Red Head, at the end of the pipeline path at risk. The people of Red Head stood up to protect our health, the Bay of Fundy and the climate. It felt like David versus Goliath, and David won," says Lynaya Astephen, with the Red Head Anthony's Cove Preservation Association, and the Council of Canadians Saint John chapter. "We want to live in a safe, healthy community and we want to prevent runaway climate change. A rapid transition to clean energy and efficiency will create more jobs and local prosperity than oil and gas." [Spoken at a 2017 rally and BBQ at Red Head beach]

"I can hardly imagine how devastating a toxic tar sands diluted bitumen spill would be for one of our communities," says Mark D'Arcy, Fredericton Chapter, Council of Canadians. "Corporations shouldn't be allowed to drill first and ask questions later" -- in reference to TransCanada drilling bore holes at the terminal without permission.

"These laws and regulations must take into account sovereign Indigenous title -- absolute title -- of the Wolastoqiyik, involving our inherent and inalienable rights, including among others their right to exercise free, prior, and informed consent and our right to participate in economic development that affects the water... Energy East crosses traditional Wolastoq territory. We have not approved this project that presents a very serious threat from spills to our land and water. The WolastoqGrand Council has been working hard to discuss this project with our communities and build awareness,"  says Alma Brooks, elder grandmother, also with the Peace and Friendship Alliance. [Spoken at the Red Head beach rally, 2017.]

"Atlantic Canadians are already on the front lines of climate change," concludes Angela Giles, Atlantic Regional Organizer for the Council of Canadians, "The Energy East pipeline would produce more climate pollution then any single Atlantic province. We don't need Energy East and the threats it brings to our water and climate. We can build the sustainable energy future the region needs and generate good, green jobs." 

"ACFN members are witnessing the rapid and wide-scale industrialization of their traditional lands for rapid tar sands production – lands that have sustained our communities, culture and distinctive ways of life for countless generations. Current production is large enough that 80 per cent of the traditional territories of the ACFN and Mikisew Cree First Nation are rendered inaccessible for periods of the year due to tar sands development," says Eriel Deranger of the Athabasca Fort Chipewyan First Nation, a featured speaker for the Ontario Energy East: Our Risk Their Reward 2014 tour. "Not only do the tar sands put my community's culture and traditional way of life at risk for future generations, diluted bitumen shipped near Ottawa puts your land and water at risk." 

"The Energy East pipeline would not even be a necessary evil – it would be bad for our climate and bad for our city," says Graham Saul, Executive Director of Ecology Ottawa. "We want our elected leaders to listen to the thousands of people that have come forward already to say 'no' to this pipeline."

"Based on TransCanada's own track record, Energy East has a 15 per cent of rupturing somewhere along its length every year," says Calzavara, Ontario Regional Organizer with the Council of Canadians. "The pipeline crosses several creeks that flow into Trout Lake. A major spill in the Trout Lake watershed [in North Bay] would devastate this community, and could cost more than $1 billion and require years of cleanup."

"Energy East represents a profound threat, not only to the culture and legal rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada, but to the very idea of Canada as a constitutional democracy. Our federal government is little more than a crony-capitalist petro-state captured completely by the oil and gas industry," Calzavara continues. "That's why it's up to ordinary Canadians to take economic and environmental governance into our own hands. And that's why the Council of Canadians Thunder Bay Chapter joined a lawsuit challenging the government's unconstitutional amendments to the National Energy Board Act making it impracticable for ordinary Canadians to participate in the National Energy Board's 'public' hearings on proposed energy projects like Energy East. Public interest litigation of this kind is democratic participation by other means."

"Energy East is a project that would contribute to utterly undermining the efforts made by our province and the citizens of Ontario when it comes to reducing greenhouse gases and mitigating the destabilizing effects of climate change," says Newton of Transition Initiative Kenora. "For a region like Northwestern Ontario that is so highly dependent on the well being of its fresh water for everything from tourism -- the current mainstay of our economy -- to public health, to access to food in the form of fish and other wildlife, to drinking water, Transition Initiative Kenora believes this project is simply too big a risk, for too little gain for us to be able to support it."

"We need to take climate change seriously. For that reason alone the Energy East pipeline can't be approved," says Michael Matczuk, speaking on behalf of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition. "Even if Winnipeg and Manitoba aren't yet prepared to address the climate crisis adequately, they must at once recognize their obligation and exercise their legal right to protect Winnipeg's drinking water from the pipeline."

"Water is sacred to us and we are reminded through our grandchildren and children why we must protect and preserve our Water," says Chickadee Richard, an advocate from Treaty 1 Territory providing a welcome and introduction to the town hall this evening. "Water brings life to everything, without water there is no life for anyone or any being. It's important for us humans to put our hearts and minds together to protect our Sacred Water."

"Water gives us life, our job is to protect this life-giving gift," says Daryl Redsky, consultation officer with Shoal Lake 40. "Energy East presents a very real threat to the Shoal Lake watershed."

In Cabri, a town of about 400 people located 310 kilometres west of Regina and just east of the Great Sandhills Ecological Reserve, Mayor Dave Gossard supports the pipeline. He says, "To me, it just makes all kinds of sense [because it will reduce dependence on foreign oil]." But Council of Canadians Regina chapter activist Jim Elliott says this is a "myth" and that "these companies want to export 100 per cent of it as fast as possible."

"Whether Mr. Watson likes it or not, the NEB's function is to review projects that also happen to have a massive impact on our climate," said Cameron Fenton, Canadian Tar Sands Organizer with 350.org. "With no other institution that reviews climate impacts in this country, and with a gaping hole in climate leadership at the federal level, the job is falling to Mr. Watson and the NEB. They can't hide from this forever."

Andrea Harden-Donahue is an Energy and Climate Justice campaigner with The Council of Canadians. 

Image: The Council of Canadians 

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