On July 4 Winnipeg Demonstrates We are Greater than the Tar Sands

By Tessa Blaikie Whitecloud
June 25, 2015
Thank to Charles Wright of Christian Peacemaker Teams for submitting this article

Thank to Charles Wright
Christian Peacemaker Teams
for submitting this article


By Charles Wright of Christian Peacemaker Teams

The Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition (MEJC) in conjunction with 350.org is organizing a celebratory event on July 4 in Winnipeg/Treaty 1 territory as a call to action to protect the land, water, and climate from fossil fuel expansion. Pedallers and paddlers will be carrying this message to The Forks as they canoe down the Assiniboine, or cycle through the city, to join others at noon in the Oodena Circle for speakers, song, and family fun.

The event is part of 350.org’s We>Tar Sands National Days of Action campaign, which is also timed with the Pan American Climate Summit and Economic Summit. “The only way to overcome a small, powerful group who have a lot to lose is to build a massive movement of people with everything to gain,” proclaims 350.org’s Call to Action.

A particular focus of the July 4 event is the dangers posed by TransCanada Corporation’s proposed Energy East pipeline. The pipeline would convert an old natural gas pipeline in Manitoba to carry 1.1 million barrels a day of diluted tar sands oil from Alberta to Eastern Canada, primarily for export. The Energy East pipeline presents inevitable risk of breaks, leaks, and explosions, and the upstream impact could add up to 32 million tonnes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere per year.

Winnipeg is at particular risk from TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline, currently under review by the National Energy Board. The pipeline crosses the Red River and the LaSalle River in St. Norbert, just south of the perimeter, and also crosses 2 meters below the Winnipeg aqueduct. The aqueduct is within the spill zone of the pipeline for most of its length.

The natural gas pipeline system that TransCanada plans to convert in Manitoba runs parallel to five natural gas lines that have had twice the amount of breaks, leaks and explosions in the last 10 years than in previous decades. An explosion in the adjacent natural gas line could cause a rupture and explosion in the dilbit line. A dilbit explosion could be lethal because of deadly toxic smoke and fumes.

However, Energy East is not simply an environmental concern to city dwellers – up to 155 Aboriginal communities across Canada could be affected by this project. For example, on the other end of Winnipeg’s aqueduct, Shoal Lake 40 First Nation has lived under a boil-water advisory for over 17 years and also faces significant risk from a pipeline spill in their territory. Located in Treaty 3 territory, the region holds 30% of Ontario’s fresh water and supplies Winnipeg with its drinking water. The rocky and hilly terrain of Treaty 3 lands will make it especially hard to reach bitumen spills and leaks, further threatening Indigenous ways of life. On May 27, Grand Council of Treaty 3 Anishinaabe Nation declared that “no oil bitumen shall be transported through Anishinaabe Aki without our full, prior and informed consent.”

“We hope the July 4 event can serve as a public statement and mobilize Winnipeggers to join the movement for green jobs, environmental justice, and climate protection,” stated grandmother and MEJC organizer, Janice Graham.

Pedallers and paddlers will be meeting at the Assiniboine Park foot bridge at 10AM. Music, speakers, and celebration begin at 12PM at Oodena Circle, The Forks. More information can be found on the Facebook event page: Protect the Water, Land, and Climate: Celebration and Concert.

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