Twelve cities across Canada participated in solidarity actions Tuesday in support of activists who took over a pumping station north of Hamilton, Ontario last Thursday morning.
The takeover was part of the Idle No More campaign called Sovereignty Summer.
Dubbed Swamp Line 9 because the Enbridge Westover pumping station is located close to Beverly Swamp, the action aimed to prevent construction on Line 9 and block the transport of tar sands through Ontario and Quebec.
The 2,400-hectare Beverly Swamp spans three watersheds -- Fairchild, Spencer and Bronte creeks -- and offers one of the best and largest lowland swamp forest representations in south central Ontario.
Line 9 is an existing pipeline that currently runs east to west from Montreal to Sarnia.
Enbridge has applied to reverse the direction of the pipeline in order to ship tar sands oil and heavy crude from Alberta to the East Coast.
But Line 9 is an aging oil pipeline owned by Enbridge Inc. that runs through some of the most densely populated parts of Canada.
The 38-year-old pipeline carries conventional oil and runs across Ontario and Quebec.
“Tar sands oil is more dangerous to ship through pipelines than normal oil,” said Environmental Defence, on their website.
“There is strong evidence that pipelines carrying tar sands oil spill more often than those carrying normal oil.”
Environmental Defence added, “When tar sands oil spills, it can damage both human health and the environment. A tar sands oil spill into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010, caused hundreds of people to permanently lose their homes and severely impacted many people’s health.
“Tar sands oil has the consistency of peanut butter and needs to be diluted with condensate before being sent through a pipeline. When tar sands oil spills into water, the condensate evaporates, creating a toxic, carcinogenic cloud while most of the heavy bitumen sinks and coats the bottom of the lake or river with thick goo, making it much more difficult to clean up than a normal spill.
“It’s also more expensive to clean up. The oil spill in the Kalamazoo River has cost $765 million and the clean-up is not yet complete. It’s worth noting that the pipeline that spilled in Michigan was about the same age as Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline.”
Once the tar sands oil reaches Montreal, it is expected that a second pipeline will be reversed to carry the oil south to Portland, Maine for export.
The Line 9 pipeline crosses the territories of 18 Indigenous nations along its route, including the Six Nations of the Grand River, who have not given free, prior, informed consent to the project.
Only the first leg of the reversal has been approved by the National Energy Board, and public consultations for the second section are scheduled for the fall.
But Enbridge has already begun construction on this project.
Line 9 crosses dozens of major rivers draining into Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, including Beverly Swamp in the headwaters of Spencer Creek, Hamilton's largest watershed, putting the drinking water of millions of people at risk of an oil spill.
After 5 days of stopping work on Line 9 at Enbridge's Westover pump station, the Swamp Line 9 camp was served an injunction on Tuesday morning.
In response to this legal maneuvre by Enbridge, four protestors on the site locked themselves to the gates of the pump station.
Other protestors rallied across the street, in front of Enbridge's Westover Terminal, to continue demanding that tar sands oil not be shipped through their communities.
They invited their allies and the public to join them Tuesday morning in solidarity.
“It's disgraceful that Enbridge is trying to resolve this situation with an injunction when the conflict is rooted in their refusal to meaningfully consult and seek consent from impacted communities,” said Trish Mills, in a press release issued Tuesday morning.
“First Enbridge tried getting the Line 9 reversal done by stealth, then by trickery, and now, finally, they will do it by force.”
Mills participated in the lockdown.
“The injunction means our strategies for how to stop this project need to adapt,” said Elysia Petrone.
“Some of us will leave the site to continue demonstrating across the street, while others have decided its necessary to lock themselves down to remain on the site as long as possible.”
The injunction was served at approximately 8:15 am on Tuesday. It gave the protestors two hours to leave the site.
But Enbridge allegedly put the wrong address on the injunction, which had to be corrected in writing before it could be served again and enforced.
In Toronto, a protest action was held outside the 361 University Avenue courthouse at noon.
“Even though what they’re doing might be illegal,” said Sakura Saunders, a mining justice activist.
“What they’re doing is definitely right in stepping up to protect their swampland. And protect all the people and the waterways that this line is going to pass through.”
Activists decided to block a construction site at the Enbridge Westover pumping station, where work was being done to repair a portion of the Line 9 pipeline.
“We found out that they were about to enter 24 hour cycles of construction,” said Saunders. “And that’s why there was a call to occupy.”
On Tuesday, the Swamp Line 9 supporters released a letter they had written to Enbridge.
“Your company’s ongoing track record of spills are a clear indication that we cannot trust your public messaging regarding the safety and integrity of your pipes,” said supporters.
Using data from Enbridge’s own reports, the Polaris Institute calculated that 804 spills occurred on Enbridge pipelines between 1999 and 2010, releasing approximately 161,475 barrels of crude oil into the environment.
Line 9 runs through northern Toronto just north of Finch Avenue.
“And a pipeline that’s carrying such a toxic substance we cannot let this happen in northern Toronto,” said Saunders.
“It’s too densely populated an area to transport, especially since it’s more likely to spill.”
A spill that would seriously damage the Don River. Damage Toronto’s water supply. Leaving Torontonians without water for an indefinite period of time.
“So we have to oppose it,” said Saunders. “And spread the word about what’s happening.”
A number of construction changes have to be made to Line 9 in order to reverse the flow.
“There are going to be many opportunities to resist this,” said Saunders. “And this is just the first action with Solidarity Summer where we are going to put ourselves on the line.”
To reverse the direction Canada’s taking on the environment and First Nations’ rights.
“So every moment we are at this site, we are ensuring that there is less oil, less pollution and the rights of First Nations people are being protected,” said Syed Hussan, an organizer and writer in Toronto working with undocumented and migrant people as well as in defense of Indigenous sovereignty.
“What folks are doing in Hamilton is immediately making change.”
Making it harder for Enbridge to push through its pipeline projects.
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