Around 1,000 people gathered on Saturday afternoon at Norman Bethune Square to protest fossil fuel projects and northern development project Plan Nord. The demonstration was organized by étudiant(e)s contre les oléoducs (ÉCO), or “students against pipelines,” a new coalition of student associations that aims to stop pipeline projects in Quebec and to shut down the tar sands. The coalition represents 90,000 students, now that the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) has joined it.
The march lasted about two hours, and ended at Square Victoria for collective singing, puppet demonstrations, and a concluding speech.
Contingents from various student groups attended the protest, including one from Divest McGill. Demonstrators held colourful signs opposing TransCanada’s Energy East and Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline projects, both of which would carry heavy crude oil into Quebec if completed, and demanded that the government respect Indigenous treaty rights. Attendees also voiced opposition to Plan Nord, the Liberal’s government project to increase energy development and mining in Northern Quebec.
“I’m thinking about the future as opposed to [the] short term,” said one student protester. “Renewable energy is going to happen sometime, and we should start [trying] to protect our home and our environment. I also thinking we should respect the treaties of the First Nations, and [these pipeline projects are] clearly a violation of that.”
The Whalebone Collective, an eco-activist group that uses art as a medium for conversations about social change, was also present at the protest. Members carried cut-outs of trees, a giant whale puppet, and stop signs to protest the pipelines.
A member of the collective spoke to The Daily about Whalebone’s presence at the demonstration. “We’re helping facilitate [this protest]. […] The [Concordia Student Union] is really supportive of us. We talk to other people who were activists and we kind of just got up together to organize this.”
Other activists who attended were also involved in the People’s Climate March that took place on September 21 to advocate larger global action against climate change. According to demonstrator Katie, this experience was helpful in organizing the ÉCO protest.
“We’re part of the organizing committee from the [People’s Climate March], so we got to know some people who were all pulling together for the same cause,” Katie told The Daily.
Lutie emphasized the importance of listening to different Indigenous communities when thinking about how to tackle climate change.
“Climate issue is the issue of our time. […] We need to have a belief system that is closer to the belief system of the Iroquois philosophy of thinking ahead […] and making decisions that will be positive seven generations down the road, not just thinking about the bottom line for today,” said Katie.
According to protester Cindy Brown, who also attended the march, it is important for people to push for economic policy changes.
“We need green energy and it’s possible, there are so many wonderful things out there and the money is all in the wrong places and the influence is all in the wrong places,” Brown told The Daily. “We want to have changes in policy regarding climate change, and we’re not going to stop asking for it until [the government] listen[s].”
ÉCO plans to hold additional demonstrations in the coming months.