Support for the Swamp Line 9 campaign continues to grow as more and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of aging pipelines and the transportation of tar sands bitumen under Ontario -- and specifically through high density areas of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.
The epicentre of toxicity
The epicentre of the damage is the First Nations community of Aamjiwnaang near Sarnia, Ontario, with 850 community members. Often referred to as “Chemical Valley,” the area is considered one of the most toxic in North America due to the community’s proximity to tar sands refining plants and other chemical refining infrastructure.
The effects of the toxicity can be measured and accounted for in a variety of ways. For example, the birth rates of community members have been documented by the American journal Environmental Health Perspectives as “deviating from the normal ratio of close to 50 per cent boys, 50 per cent girls. The ratio as found between 1999 and 2003 by the journal was roughly 33 per cent boys, and 67 per cent girls. The First Nation is concerned that this abnormal trend is due to adverse effects of maternal and fetal exposure to the effluent and emissions of the nearby chemical plants. This is the first community in the world to have a birth rate of two girls to every boy.”
Tar sands products are already being refined at an estimated rate of 225,000 barrels/day in Sarnia, Ontario, which has won the region the nickname “Chemical Valley.” Chemical Valley was rated the most polluted place on earth by a National Geographic report.
Resistance to the environmental racism that impacts the Aamjiwnaang First Nations community has been gaining widespread support as more and more Canadians question the safety and negative environmental impact of the tar sands.
Most recently, environmental and Indigenous Rights activists have started a successful Swamp Line 9 campaign to draw public awareness towards an Enbridge Corporations proposal to reverse the flow of the Line Nine pipeline and transport tar sands oil across Ontario.
On July 27, 2012, the National Energy Board approved Phase 1 of the Line Nine reversal. Essentially, Enbridge Corporation wishes to pump tar sands products East towards Montreal instead of West.
Enbridge Corporation describes the process as: “Enbridge will proceed to reverse a section of its Line 9 between Sarnia and North Westover, Ontario to accommodate a request from our customer Imperial Oil Limited for access to the Ontario market. Line 9 is an existing Enbridge pipeline with a current capacity of 240,000 barrels per day (bpd) that extends from Montreal, Quebec to Sarnia, Ontario and currently transports offshore crude oil in a westbound direction.”
Community resistance to Line 9 continues to grow
On Thursday, June 20, Indigenous and Environmental activists launched an occupation of the Enbridge's Westover Pump Station near Hamilton, Ontario. Twenty activists were arrested at the demonstration as police moved in to clear the blockade.
This is one of several sites of construction to retrofit the Line 9 pipeline. The pipeline itself is 37 years old. Activists feel this aging infrastructure will not be able to handle the corrosive, diluted bitumen and is considered high-risk to potentially leak, damaging not only open, environmental areas but densely populated areas, as well.
The four-day action was part of Idle No More and Defenders of the Land’s Sovereignty Summer campaign.
According to anti-tar sands activist, Dave Vasey, “At the local level, Line 9 represents an important struggle for Indigenous and non-Indigenous action. Enbridge has largely ignored the fact that Line 9 crosses the Haldimand Tract and that changing the contents from light crude to tar sands crude is extremely dangerous. According to the 1701 Treaty, most of Line 9 passes through Six Nations lands. Six Nations has taken important stands to protect their lands both historically and in the recent past.”
The next solidarity action has been called for Wednesday July 24, 2013, where Line 9 activists will host a report back updating Torontonians on the struggle. For more information, please see this Facebook events page.
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