The conflict around the construction of Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is much more than a spat between two provincial governments. It cannot be reduced to a battle of jurisdiction between Ottawa and Victoria either. Witnessing this struggle from Québec, we are reminded of the acrimonious debates that surrounded TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline.
We stood against Energy East from the start and today, we stand with those who are opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline. Our opposition to Energy East was grounded in the firm conviction that building up pipeline capacity is bad for the planet, and ultimately bad for Canada. Expanding transport capacity translates into expanded extraction, further locking in Canada’s dependence on the long-term development of the oil sands sector when we should in fact be planning the phasing out of this carbon intensive industry. We are convinced that each extra barrel exported moves us further from our already inadequate greenhouse gas reduction targets. In addition, we believe that the risks of a major oil spill are too high a price to pay for hydrocarbons that should be left in the ground.
Our opposition to Energy East was further strengthened by the fact that peoples from the First Nations in Québec were also firmly opposed to the pipeline project and made this opposition an issue of sovereignty. In coming together as allies against Energy East, we defended our shared territory and confronted the colonialism that too often marred the history of our relationship. And in voicing their opposition, both First Nations and Québécois faced a barrage of racist attacks that reminded us of some of the darkest days of this country. Today the First Nations and people of British Columbia are facing the same intolerance for dissent.
Thankfully, the struggle against Energy East ended much faster than we anticipated and an escalating conflict between TransCanada and civil society was avoided. Over 42,000 people had signed the Élan Global manifesto against Energy East, hundreds of citizens’ committees had been formed in almost all communities on or near the pipeline’s planned trajectory and rallied the Coule pas Chez Nous coalition. First Nations across North America stood behind front line communities such as the Mohawks of Kanesatake in the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion. Opposition was firm, strong and organized, support was broad and reached across Québec’s usual political fault lines, bringing together federalists and sovereigntists, people from the left, right and center, First Nations and Quebecers of all origins.
Today, we see the same broad alliance of movements mobilized among the peoples that live on the Salish Sea coast. We see the motivation and determination and we recognize that the reasons to oppose Transmountain are substantially the same as those that inspired our struggle against Energy East. Politics and economics have moved the struggle West, but it remains our struggle.
We stand with you, citizens and governments of British Colombia, First Nations of the coast and the interior. You are not struggling against the people of Alberta, you are not acting against Canada’s “national interest,” you are not seeking to damage or harm the economy. You are trying to fight climate change and to open a new era of low-carbon economic development. You are holding Ottawa to account on its obligations and undertakings stemming from the Paris climate agreement, and you are trying to protect the natural waters that surround you and the ecosystems they harbor. You are defending the dignity and sovereignty of First Nations all over this country.
Though we have seen a change of government in Ottawa, it seems that the priorities of the oil industry still exert undue influence and trump our attempts to transition away from a carbon dependent economy and way of life.
That’s why for us in Québec, your struggle is our struggle.
Mr. Trudeau, oil and water don’t mix. Scientific study after scientific study has shown that expanding the oil sands is incompatible with realizing the objectives stated in the 2015 Paris climate agreement and you know it. Pretending otherwise amounts to climate denialism. For too long, you and your ministers have entertained this fantasy and are now using the screen of “national interest” to cloud the real terms of the debate.
Though Burnaby is on the other side of the country, we fully understand the implications for us here in Québec of the resistance against the Trans Mountain pipeline project. By supporting this company in its efforts to impose on unwilling communities a major pipeline, you are undermining our efforts here in Québec and elsewhere in Canada to limit climate change and transition to a low carbon economy. By invoking “national interest” against a determined civil society and against First Nations, you are thwarting the democratic principles and practice of reconciliation that you publicly affirm.
Know that an attack on the democratic rights of citizens and the sovereignty of First Nations anywhere in Canada is on attack on all, be they in Québec or in B.C.. We stand by them in this historical moment when we make decisions that will engage this country and the world for generations ahead. We were ready for Energy East, now our energies will be directed to supporting those struggling for the climate and against Kinder Morgan’s pipeline.
Élan Global collective
Camil Bouchard, associate professor, department of psychology UQAM, former MP for the Parti Québécois;
Jérôme Durpas, professor, department of Natural Sciences, UQO and musician, Cowboys Fringants;
Karel Mayrand, David Suzuki Foundation and author;
Eric Pineault, Professor, department of Sociology and Environmental Sciences Institute, UQAM;
Annie Roy, artist, ATSA;
Laure Waridel, Associate professor Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Wellbeing, Health, Society and the Environment (CINBIOSIS), UQAM.
Chloé Sainte-Marie, singer and actress
Françoise David, former MP for Québec solidaire at the National Assembly of Québec
Sara Teitelbaum, Assistant Professor, Director of Environmental Programs and Sustainable Development at the Université de Montréal
Josée Blanchette, columnist Le Devoir
Armand Vaillancourt, sculpter and painter
Richard Séguin, songwriter and singer
François Delorme, economist
Bruce Johnston, lawyer at Trudel Johnston & Lespérance
Claude Béland, Advocatus Emeritus (Quebec), Chairman of the Board of the Institute and Economis Progress in a Quebec University
He was active in the Cooperative Movement and Chairman of de Desjardins group from 1987-2000.
- André-Pierre Contandriopoulos, Professor Emeritus, Department of Management, Evaluation and Health Policy, School of Public Health, University of Montreal
- Léa Clermont-Dion, Author and blogger
Fred Pellerin, storyteller, songwriter, singer
Mark Fortier, publisher, Lux editions
Peter Brown, professor, McGill
Anne-Céline Guyon, former president, Coule Pas Chez Nous