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Ambassador Doer: Stop lobbying for the Keystone XL pipeline

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Today the Council of Canadians joined with the Indigenous Environmental Network and Greenpeace Canada to send a clear message to Gary Doer (Canadian Abassador to the U.S.): stop lobbying for the Keystone XL pipline. We delivered a letter with this demand to Chris Plunkett, counsellor and spokesperson with the embassy, outside of the embassy in Washington. Doer was unfortunately unavailable to join us, he is currently in Winnipeg.

We were a group of around fifteen Canadians present in Washington to support the ongoing unprecedented two weeks of non-violent civil disobedience sit-in outside the White House demanding Obama refuse to sign the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

We had large photos of tar sands operations to help passing public understand why we are present, and honestly, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. This is particularly true in the case of the tar sands, whose tailing ponds are so massive you can see them from outer space.

The event began with Clayton Thomas Muller of the Indigenous Environmental Network leading a welcome on his drum. Clayton gave a brief statement of why he was present, followed by statements from Adam Thomas of the Carrier First Nation in Saik'ue B.C. (opposed to the proposed Enbridge pipeline that would ship tar sands crude to the B.C. coast), Gitz Crazy-boy, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (in the heart of the tar sands), Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Cree from Northern Alberta and Climate and Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Canada and Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians.

The statements underscored grave concerns over the impacts tar sands development are having on downstream First Nations. Concerns that independent studies have confirmed toxins in the Athabasca river and Delta one of the largest freshwater deltas in the world. People are concerned that this may be linked to unusually high rates of cancer through the consumption of contaminated fish and meat. To date, 5 legal cases have been launched over violations to treaty rights by tar sands projects. In B.C. over 80 indigenous communities are saying no to the proposed Enbridge pipeline. Melina, who is from Little Buffalo, spoke about her communities' experiences with a recent pipeline spill.

The statements challenged Doer to stop acting like a salesman for tar sands crude, and encouraging him and the Canadian government, to shift their focus to using our energy wisely and planning for a transition to a sustainable energy future. According to Environment Canada, the tar sands emissions may triple by 2020, they are already the fastest growing source in Canada. This means by 2020 they could account for 12 per cent of our national emissions!

Media present included CBC, CTV, Canadian Press and a photographer for Postmedia.

While Doer wasn't able to meet us today, he did give CBC an interview in Winnipeg. Our letter was raised and a number of points highlighted. While we didn't have the opportunity to directly respond to Doer, I feel compelled to answer one of his points.

While the U.S. (yes… the U.S. -- watch the interview and you'll understand my emphasis here) State Department concluded that Obama should move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline, the U.S. (yes… the U.S.) Environmental Protection Agency has blasted the two previous State Department reports for lacking critical information about the environmental impacts of the pipeline.

To understand the criticisms of this report, including by the EPA, I recommend starting with this press release from Friends of the Earth U.S. and this press release from the NRDC.

For responses to Doer's other arguments in favour of the pipeline, check out (and why not send an email while you are at it?) our action alert: Ambassador Doer: get your facts straight!

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