Thousands march against Energy East pipeline in Quebec

Energy East march
Photo by Mario Pelletier from Infodimanche.com

Thousands marched against the Energy East pipeline in Quebec yesterday.

That's because a critical part of the Energy East pipeline project is to construct a marine terminal on the eastern shore of the St. Lawrence River to load supertankers with 700,000 to 1.1 million barrels of tar sands bitumen for export. The terminal would be located in a habitat critical for the endangered beluga whale.

People travelled from Montreal, Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Rimouski and Tadoussac to take part in the protest.

The Montreal Gazette reports, "A couple of thousand protesters marched through Cacouna and down to its waterfront on the St-Lawrence River on Saturday demanding Quebec halt planned oil projects in the region. ...The marchers came from different corners of the province to speak out against TransCanada’s plans to build an international oil port in Cacouna, near Rivière-du-Loup, and a pipeline to carry crude from the Canadian West to Quebec. ...Many protesters held up signs calling for the protection of threatened belugas that swim in the waters near Cacouna."

An online petition calling for a permanent ban on "all work in critical habitat for beluga" has also collected more than 30,000 signatures.

The Council of Canadians stands in full solidarity with this demand. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has stated, "To protect the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River we must ban all transport of tar sands bitumen on, under and near the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River."

Energy East rally
Photo from Journal EPIK Facebook page

Groups at the protest included Non à une Marée noire dans le St-Laurent, Regroupement Vigilance Hydrocarbures Québec and Mouvement Stop Oléoduc. Infodimanche.com reports (in French), "The Quebec Centre for Environmental Law (CQDE), the David Suzuki Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-Canada), Greenpeace, Nature Québec and the Society for Nature and Parks Canada (SNAP), have called for an emergency debate [on the issue] in the National Assembly..."

Politicians that marched yesterday included Parti Québécois MNAs Pascal Bérubé, Martine Ouellet and Harold Lebel, Québec solidaire MNA Françoise David, Bloc Québécois leader Mario Beaulieu, former Bloc MP Paul Crête, and Sylvain Tremblay, the mayor of nearby Saint-Siméon.

The Council of Canadians has called on the Harper government to respect the Species at Risk Act and declare the St. Lawrence Estuary a protected zone.

On Thursday (October 9) the federal NDP - which holds 56 of the 75 federal ridings in Quebec - introduced a motion that states, "the proposed Port of Gros-Cacouna oil terminal, which will be used for the sole purpose of exporting unprocessed Canadian oil, will have a negative impact on the Canadian economy through the loss of well-paid jobs, will constitute an unacceptable environmental threat to the St. Lawrence ecosystem, including the beluga whale population, and therefore, is not consistent with the principle of sustainable development, and must be rejected."

This past Friday (October 10) the Quebec environment ministry issued TransCanada a warning for noise levels and boat traffic with a requirement that they reduce the number of boats (from 10 to 8 trips a day) that they use to transport workers to the work site on the river. On Tuesday (October 14) TransCanada is expected to file its application for the pipeline with the National Energy Board. On Thursday (October 16) a temporary injunction against TransCanada drilling in the St. Lawrence River is set to expire. TransCanada has indicated it will resume exploratory work for the terminal at that time. The following Monday (October 20) the House of Commons is expected to vote on the NDP motion against the terminal.

From October 26 to November 6, the Council of Canadians and local partners will visit communities in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to talk about why TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline is all risk and little reward for Atlantic Canada. Our tour will include public forums in Halifax (October 26), Cornwallis (October 27), Saint John (October 29), Fredericton (November 4), and Edmunston (November 6). For more on our campaign against the Energy East pipeline, please click here.