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Piping tar sands oil through Ontario protested

National Energy Boards hearing on Enbridge pipeline reversal shutdown

by Tim Groves

protest in London (from Tayztea)
protest in London (from Tayztea)
Photos from the hearing (from Cabl3guy2012)
Photos from the hearing (from Cabl3guy2012)

Environmental justice protestors temporarily shutdown a hearing into a proposal to have tar sands oil piped through Ontario, which was taking place in London, Ontario this Wednesday.

The three day hearing, held by the National Energy Board (NEB), is examining a plan by Enbridge to reverse the flow of an existing pipeline (Line 9) that currently brings overseas oil west, and instead use the pipeline to oil east. Activis fear it would pave the way for tar sands oil being brought to the east coast and speculated that this oil will then be exported to Europe.

After entering the hearing, protestors employed "the People's Mic", where the crowd would echo back whatever was said by a spokesperson, in order to project their voices. Within minutes of this commencing most other attendees at the hearing exited the room. The NEB hearing was shutdown for approximately an hour. 

The spokesperson who led the Peoples Mic was arrested and then removed from the room. She was released with a trespassing ticket.

The protestors raised concerns about the environmental impacts of Alberta's tar sands, the possibility of a spill in Ontario and the lack of prior and informed consent of Ontario's First Nations.

"Six Nations rights already have been violated in this review process. Free, prior, and informed consent is not a factor in these hearings." stated Wes Elliot, a resident of Six Nations in a press release. Line 9 cuts through the Haldimand Tract, a large parcel of land which was deeded to Six Nations in 1784. 

"We also must object to the illegitimate and anti-democratic conduct of the officials who are fast-tracking this review," said Elliot.  

Following the protest, demonstrators held what they dubbed an unofficial "People's Hearing on the Tar Sands Pipeline."

"The current framework of the National Energy Board hearings does not allow us to draw connections between tar sands extraction, toxic refineries and upgraders, and various other downstream consequences. The People's Hearing was arranged as a more open forum, where anyone can share any of their concerns about relevant issues," said Taylor Flook, a member of Occupy Toronto who attended the event in London. 

"The tar sands industry is attempting to build as many pipelines as they can," said Flook. "We should not accept the fast-tracking of these projects. No tar sands operations should proceed without the consent of everyone who may be impacted."  

As extraction of tar sands from Alberta has increased, a series of new pipeline projects have emerged to bring the dirty oil to refineries and ports across Canada and the US. 

The Harper government has loudly endorsed these projects. However, following a series of protests against TransCanada's XL pipeline, President Obama delayed approval for a section of the project until after this November's US elections. 

Opposition by First Nations and environmentalists to Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline, which would bring oil from Alberta to the BC coast to shipped over seas, has garnered much attention across Canada. 

Protestors worry the Line 9 Reversal can be rushed through before there is time to build awareness and opposition to the pipeline. However, they feel many of the concerns with the Northern Gateway Pipeline also apply to the Line 9 reversal.  

The approval process is taking place in two phases. The London hearing is on bringing oil from Sarnia, Ontario to Westover, Ontario; a second phase would bring oil from Westover to Montreal, Quebec.  

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