Canadian Dimension: Indigenous nations lead opposition to pipeline development

Photo by John Heminger

With the plans for an Enbridge pipeline linking
the tar sands in Alberta to the West Coast temporarily
blocked, activists are mobilizing against TransCanada’s
proposed 4,600-kilometre Energy East
pipeline. If built, the pipeline would be the largest in
North America and would see 1.1. million barrels of
tar sands oil shipped each day from Western Canada
to New Brunswick.

The pipeline is disingenuously being promoted as
a job creator and a way of reducing Canada’s dependency
on imported oil, but make no mistake about it:
Energy East is simply another “rip it and ship it”
resource development scheme designed to make
fast money for Big Oil by getting tar sands oil onto
the international market.

Although many Canadians and Quebecers have
voiced concerns about the environmental impacts of
the proposed pipeline, Indigenous Nations are leading
the opposition to Energy East. In New Brunswick,
Grand Chief Ron Tremblay recently declared: “As
members of the Wolastoq Grand Council we unanimously
oppose the Energy East Pipeline project in
order to protect our non-ceded homeland and waterways,
our traditional and cultural connection to our
lands, waterways, and air. The Wolastoq Grand
Council has serious concerns for the safety and protection
of the animals, fish, birds, insects, plants
and tree life that sustains our Wolastoq Nation.”
Other Indigenous Nations feel similarly. In January
2015, Anishinaabe Grand Chief Warren White stated,
“I do not want to be the grand chief who consented
to a pipeline that’s going to destroy 30 per cent of
the fresh water in Ontario, in Treaty 3 territory … We
will be the ones to stop this. Our communities, our
youth, our leadership are being called on by other
nations.”

Haudenosaunee peoples are also taking a stand
against Energy East. Grand Chief of the Kanesatake
Mohawk community, Serge Simon, said that “The
Mohawks of Kanesatake were inspired by the efforts
of First Nations out West like the Yinka Dene Alliance
who successfully built a wall of Indigenous opposition
to halt the threat posed by the Enbridge Northern
Gateway pipeline. We are now working to extend
that wall of opposition out East to stop the TransCanada
Energy East tar sands pipeline.”

On March 8, 2016, Grand Chief Simon sent an
email to Québec Premier Philippe Couillard (which
was posted on cbc.ca) in which he explained that the
pipeline “threatens Kanesatake’s lands, waters and
our people’s very survival as a result of setback the
project represents in the fight against climate
change,” of which Indigenous peoples are the first
victims. He also pointed out that there are “few longterm
jobs associated with the project, but many
more associated with clean energy, healthy communities,
energy conservation and efficiency.” Simon’s
declaration won support from other Indigenous
groups, including the Iroquois Council and the
Assembly of First Nations Quebec and Labrador.

Canadian Dimension stands in solidarity with
Indigenous peoples opposing Energy East and fighting
for environmental justice. From the fight against
fracking waged by the Elsipogtog First Nation in
New Brunswick to the struggles of recently murdered
activists Berta Cáceres and Nelson Garcia in
Honduras, Indigenous peoples are championing the
defence of their land and the protection of the entire
planet from environmental destruction. But this burden
should not fall on Indigenous peoples alone. It
is a heavy responsibility that must be more equally
shouldered by Canadians and Quebecers. Labour
and activist groups from coast to coast should rally
to support Indigenous land defenders. Because we
share the Earth, we must also share in the struggles
to defend it against the depredations of colonialism
and capitalism.


This article appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Canadian Dimension (Childhood).

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