Maude Barlow: I Stand with Those Who Stand Against Tar Sands Pipelines

Source: Council of Canadians

Today, I will be in Victoria to join the many others who, like me, envision a different future than that which the Harper government has set out. We see a world with clean rivers and streams for fishing and drinking, clean air we can breathe, and land protected from industrial clearcuts in the name of pipelines and fossil fuels. We envision a world with lively, sustainable, and healthy communities that we can protect, free from corporate influence.

First Nations communities along the pipeline routes, along BC’s coast, and in the tar sands have been taking action and showing leadership to protect their communities and coastlines. But no matter how loudly they say “no” their message is falling on deaf ears. That’s how we know it’s time to act.

Last year in Ottawa, I was arrested on Parliament Hill along with hundreds of others speaking out against tar sands and pipeline projects that would threaten both people and the planet. The energy was inspiring and phenomenal. No matter how afraid or nervous we all may have been, we were supportive of each other and we took action together. This year, we are showing that we are not going away. We are showing that there is a critical mass willing to do what it takes to stop these pipelines.

And we know we may be in it for a while. The fight against the Keystone XL has been a long one—from petitions and phone-in actions to getting arrested at the White House, the world has watched as public opposition gains force. Now we are watching the brave activists in Texas who have been locking themselves to machinery and climbing trees to halt construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. They are stopping this pipeline at the point of destruction. Here in BC, members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have already built a cabin in the direct route of two pipeline proposals, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and the Pacific Trails Pipeline.

I am truly inspired by these acts, and they make me hopeful for a better future. I have four grandchildren whom I love more than life itself and want to grow up in a safe and healthy world. I am doing this for them and for the next generations. I want a future where they can drink the water and they can breathe the air. I want a future without subsidies and tax breaks for oil and gas companies and polluters. I want a future in which public funds are going into education and health care. But creating this future can’t start tomorrow. Creating this future has already begun, and we need to keep going.

The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion and Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline would transport over one million barrels per day through BC. This would have devastating effects if either of them goes through—which of course they won’t. Additionally, the day after we take action on October 22nd, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation will be attending a constitutional hearing about a Shell Tar Sands Mining expansion proposal that would severely impact their community. The ACFN says that neither the company nor the government has respected their treaty rights. We cannot accept that theses powers consider themselves above the law when their actions undermine communities’ sovereignty and well-being.

I am grateful to be joining all the brave people taking collective action today against the tar sands and pipelines and to stand up for environmental justice. I will not be risking arrest this time, but the experience of being arrested last year still resonates with me. As some are prepared to risk arrest, we will be there to support them. Demonstrating that we can take care of each other, cultivate community, and stand in solidarity for environmental justice is merely one more way for us to counter the negligent behaviours of corporations and governments and show that there is a better way forward. Not only are we showing our people power to say what we do not want, we are coming together to show what we do want. We want people from all ages and all walks of life to come together and recognize that we will not back down.

And we will win.

Maude Barlow is the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, chairperson of Food and Water Watch in the U.S., and co-founder of the Blue Planet Project, which is instrumental in the international community in working for the right to water for all people.