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Council of Canadians writes UNESCO to stop tar sands tankers on the St. Lawrence River


Lac Saint-Pierre is under threat from Suncor tar sands supertankers.

Lac Saint-Pierre is under threat from Suncor tar sands supertankers.

On October 15, we highlighted in a campaign blog a brief reference in a Le Devoir article that supertankers carrying tar sands bitumen were now travelling through Lac Saint-Pierre, a World Biosphere Reserve recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The lake is located on the St. Lawrence River, east of Montreal, between Sorel-Tracy and Trois-Rivières. The supertankers Genmar Daphne and Minerva Gloria have now passed through those waters carrying hundreds of thousands of barrels of bitumen. La Presse has reported that dozens of municipalities along the river have said they are unprepared should there be a tanker spill and a committee of experts has found that only 5-20 per cent of an oil spill could be recovered from the water.

By October 21, the Council of Canadians had written a letter to UNESCO stating, “We urge you to intervene and to stop Suncor’s tar sands vessels in order to protect the Lac Saint-Pierre Biosphere Reserve. We have called upon Canadian and Quebec officials to conduct a thorough environmental assessment and conduct community consultations.”

Yesterday, Le Devoir reported (in French) on our letter to Qunli Han, the director of the Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences at UNESCO. Their article notes the lake was designated a World Biosphere Reserve by the UN in 2000 and that over 90 percent of the lake is still in its natural state and that it has over 20 per cent of all the marshes on the St. Lawrence River. It also notes that the lake is protected under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (which Canada signed in 1981).

Les 2 Rives La Voix, the Sorel-Tracy Express, and SorelTracy Magazine have also reported (in French) on our letter.

This Sunday (October 26), Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui and I will be in Sorel-Tracy to participate in a protest march against tar sands supertankers on Lac Saint-Pierre and the St. Lawrence River. The Facebook page for the mobilization says, “All are encouraged to wear black to show mourning for an environment in danger.” The Marchons Ensemble contre les bitumineux a Sorel-Tracy will start at 1 pm at Parc Maisouna (10700, Marie-Victorin – Route 132) and will go to the Kildair Services storage facility where the bitumen is received by train and then transferred to the supertankers.

Suncor wants to send 20-30 supertankers a year on the St. Lawrence River. In addition, TransCanada wants to build a marine terminal in the St. Lawrence River about 400 kilometres east of Sorel-Tracy in Cacouna to fill supertankers with bitumen from the Energy East pipeline. That marine terminal would be located in a protected habitat for beluga whales.