Protestors drove the point home when they placed 116 oil barrels on the steps of the Legislature to represent the amount of carbon dioxide that will be produced by Shell’s Jackpine mine expansion every second.
The installation was the backdrop to which 150 people braved Edmonton’s first day of significant snow and cold temperatures to rally with counterparts across the country on Nov. 16 for the Defend Our Climate, Defend Our Communities.
“Here in Alberta, we are home to the world’s largest industrial project on the planet – Alberta’s tarsands, which is wreaking havoc on numerous communities, including my own,” said Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, communications coordinator for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, which is leading the protest against the Jackpine mine expansion.
“What we’re seeing is the contamination of waterways, the contamination of animals and the biodiversity that many Indigenous communities still rely on for sustenance and to continue their cultural and treaty rights, which are supposed to be protected and upheld by the federal government,” she continued. “Enough is enough. It’s time for this country and this government to stand up and take a stand not just for people in this country, but for global climate change.”
Crystal Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation and an environmental tarsands program coordinator with the Sierra Club of Canada, said, “It comes down to water. . . here we are today airlifting our babies to hospital for drinking contaminated water. People dying from cancer. Oil water advisories. People having top time their showers. Fish with tumours hanging off of them.”
She likened the pipelines to the prophecies of the Elders of a black snake going across Turtle Island. “We have the constitutional power to stop these pipelines, these developments, and this encroachment on what little we have left. As a First Nations people we not only have this law in Canada to abide by. We also abide by natural law and there is nothing natural about people dying from cancer.”
“Defend Our Climate, Defend Our Communities” rallies took place in over 130 communities across Canada, demanding an end to tarsands expansions and pipeline developments causing negative environmental and health impacts on surrounding communities. Approximately half of the events were held in Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces, where opposition to the Line 9 and Energy East pipelines and concerns about fracking are gaining momentum.
“They are standing with you to demand action on the climate. They are standing with you to say no to super storms and extreme floods and other extreme weather events. They stand with you to say no to the tar sands and they stand with you to say yes to a green, just energy future.” said Mike Hudema, with Greenpeace in Edmonton.
“That is only one mine out of many mines in the tar sands. The actual impact is going to be many, many more than these barrels here today,” he continued.
The rallies were organized with the cooperation of more than a dozen organizations such as Keepers of the Athabasca, Council of Canadians, and the Coastal First Nations Great Bear Initiative.
Photo caption: Crystal Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation and an environmental tarsands program coordinator with the Sierra Club of Canada, stands in front of the 116 oil barrels on the steps of the Alberta Legislature.