In the middle of eight days of private hearings on the Northern Gateway pipeline project, protests by First Nations and Canadian grassroots groups are ramping up.
On Monday night, over five hundred people rallied in Vancouver’s Victory Square outside of the hearings to protest the Enbridge Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline project and the Canadian government’s ‘Joint Review Process.’ Originally open to the public, the review process was altered in the Conservative government’s last round of budget bills. Now, the public can only view the hearings through a closed-circuit television link at a hotel a half-mile from the actual proceedings. Tuesday, five people were arrested for sneaking into the room and protesting within the hearing.
On Wednesday, First Nations protesters blocked railways and highways from coast to coast in a day of action expressing their frustration with the federal government for ignoring their rights. In one of the biggest actions, participants blocked one of the access roads to the Ambassador Bridge, which is a major trade crossing from Ontario to the United States. Over 150 people also rallied outside the home of New Brunswick Lt. Governor Graydon Nicholas to express concerns about the state of environmental protections under the present government.
Idle No More, which united Wednesday’s non-violent direct actions, is a nationwide movement that emerged to demand that the Harper administration respect the sovereignty of First Nations. First Nations used to hold a protected status under Canadian law which allowed them to block infrastructure projects affecting waterways, such as pipelines and dams, if the projects had negative environmental impacts. Under new policies implemented by the Conservative Harper administration, consultation with First Nations has been drastically reduced, meaning risky projects can get the green light without consideration of their impact on First Nations.
In the past year, the Canadian government has also rolled back the influence of scientists in their environmental reviews and regulations. Stephen Harper’s government is accused of bowing to the interests of oil companies and making tar sands exploitation a national priority despite the public outcry against it and the threats it poses to public health and ecology.
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About the AuthorEmily is a graduate of St. Mary's College of Maryland with a B.A. in psychology. While in school, she spent her time leading environmental and social justice campaigns. She recently worked for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network as a grassroots organizer for a moratorium on natural gas fracking in Maryland.
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