“We thank the Creator for the four winds: east, west, north, and south – for giving us clean air,” said a speaker leading the opening prayer at the entrance of Oka National Park last Saturday morning. Several hundred people gathered, by invitation from the Mohawk community of Kanehsatà:ke, in peaceful protest.
This National Day of Action Against Pipelines saw demonstrations across Canada, with groups organizing in more than 120 communities in opposition to the expanding tar sands industry in Canada. Particular attention was paid to the reversal of the Enbridge Line 9 pipeline, which runs through the unceded Mohawk territory that is now called Oka Park. The weakening of environmental protection laws through Bill C-45 and Bill 38 were also criticized.
“[We are] faced with the realities of climate change, faced with governments who will exploit the last drops of oil, and faced with companies who are still allied with those governments.”
At 11:45 a.m. the opening prayer was shared over a megaphone with the people gathered, first acknowledging that the location of the gathering and the whole island of Montreal are unceded Mohawk territory. Following the prayer were singers and a dance that invited all of the women present at the gathering to partake in the centre of the circle of people.
“We talk about creation, but we are creation,” said the opening prayer’s speaker.
Speeches were made by Idle No More’s Melissa Mollen Dupuis, Patrick Bonin of Greenpeace, Beverly Jacobs of Six Nations, Lily Schwarzbaum of Climate Justice Montreal, and Amir Khadir, Québec solidaire Member of the National Assembly for Montreal’s Mercier riding. The speeches connected the Indigenous struggle with ongoing colonialism and the environmental movement.
“In Idle No More, we used to ask ourselves if we were alone in our fight for the environment, in our fight for the earth, but I can say that today we are feeling less and less alone,” Dupuis told the crowd in French.
Bonin shared views on solidarity with the crowd. “We are here because we realize that we don’t have a choice in being together,” he yelled through the megaphone. “[We are] faced with the realities of climate change, faced with governments who will exploit the last drops of oil, and faced with companies who are still allied with those governments.”
Khadir also shared his concerns about the Alberta tar sands industry, calling it “the dirtiest oil on the planet.”
“Why do the people of Quebec need to kneel before Albertan oil?” Khadir continued.
The Facebook event for the demonstration at Oka indicated the greater problem of long-term environmental sustainability and the lack of consultation with Indigenous peoples, who are key stakeholders in the land.
“The pipelines and this issue of corrupt government, corrupt corporations, and the potential to destroy the beautiful landscape that we have in our community, affects everybody,” protest organizer Ellen Gabriel told The Daily in an interview.
“We need to change how capitalism is working, we need to change how we as consumers allow these kinds of corporations to continue to be exploiting our land.”
“Why do the people of Quebec need to kneel before Albertan oil?”
Saturday’s National Day of Action was partially in response to a deal signed on November 4 between Alison Redford, the Premier of Alberta, and Christy Clark, the Premier of British Columbia, that would lay the framework for future pipeline expansion in both provinces. The basic five-point agreement eliminates what was previously a major obstacle to the expansion of pipelines in Western Canada, notably the proposed Northern Gateway project.
“It’s illegal, it’s illegitimate,” Gabriel said in regards to the agreement in an interview. “I don’t think they consulted with the original people of this land.”
“If it goes ahead, its going to be bad not just for the Indigenous peoples but for [all] Canadians, because if they’re allowed to break the rule of law, what’s to stop them from taking democracy away?” she continued.
“What we have seen is that the Premier of BC seems to want to negotiate conditions which aren’t representative of what the population wants,” Bonin told The Daily in French. “The population has clearly expressed its will as being against the projects.”
“In reality, the decision of Christy Clark doesn’t respect this political will,” he added.
The fight for sustainable development against fracking and tar sands took to Highway Route 344 West, just outside the entrance of Oka Park, where protesters participated in a festive round dance around four singers, taking up the breadth of the road. The gathering dispersed at 1:30 p.m..
According to protesters, the creation of gatherings and protests against unsustainable development will only continue in the future.