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NEWS: Ottawa Keystone pipeline expansion protest planned for Sept. 26

The Montreal Gazette reports:

So far, 150 Canadians are planning to risk arrest on Sept. 26 on Parliament Hill in what organizers are hoping will be the biggest civil disobedience action on the climate issue in Canada.

Inspired by the 1,253 peaceful demonstrators arrested recently at the White House during a two-week sit-in to protest against a proposed pipeline to bring Canadian oil to the U.S., Canadians are signing up for a similar protest of expansion of Canada’s oilsands operations.

“There comes a time when you need to take a stand,” says the invitation to the Ottawa sit-in, sent out two weeks ago by the Council of Canadians, Greenpeace Canada and the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Although it does not directly ask protesters to break the law, it notes “many will be risking arrest” to oppose oilsands expansion.

The event is endorsed by several prominent Canadians, including Maude Barlow, Shirley Douglas, Graeme Gibson, Clayton Ruby, Judy Rebick and Naomi Klein.

“This fight that our allies in the United States started is really our fight and we can’t let them do it on their own,” Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, told The Gazette on Friday.

Barlow, who spoke at the Washington event, said this is a watershed moment in the fight against global warming, when regular people are beginning to “wake up to the insanity” of what’s happening in Alberta.

“There is a growing movement in Canada and around the world against the expansion of the tar sands,” Barlow said.

“I’ve watched it happen before on other issues.

“You push and you push and then all of a sudden something tips, and suddenly everybody starts talking about it.”

The Washington sit-in targeted TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a 2,673-kilometre, 36-inch pipeline, which would carry crude oil over 2,500 kilometres from Alberta to Texas.

Opponents say the pipeline poses a threat because leaks could contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer, which spans eight states and provides drinking water to two million people.

Critics say the pipeline project, which requires approval by President Barack Obama, undermines the president’s promise to move the U.S. to a “clean energy economy.” Refining bitumen from the oilsands produces about three times as many greenhouse gas emissions as does refining conventional oil.

In Canada, environmental groups are opposing a move by Enbridge Pipelines Inc. to revive its controversial Trailbreaker project, which would pipe oilsands oil to Montreal from Alberta, then on to the U.S.

Barlow said the groups are not asking the Canadian government to shut down the oilsands operations immediately, but to stop expanding operations and begin investing in conservation and renewable energy.

“If they won’t stop it because they are ruining the forests, harming the health of local communities and increasing greenhouse gas emissions, they have to stop it because we don’t have the water to continue. … We are talking about an industry that is destroying 3.5 units of water for every unit of usable oil extracted,” said Barlow, who has written several books on water issues.

Barlow said the groups calling for Canadian action were impressed by the White House sit-in, because it recalled the “moving and dignified” nature of the civil rights protests, where people peacefully defied laws to get arrested and draw attention to their cause.

In Washington, protesters willing to be arrested simply moved from a park across the street onto the White House lawn. There, police informed them they would be arrested for loitering if they remained. Those who did were arrested and fined about $100 each and released the same day.

Among those arrested were NASA climate scientist James Hansen and actor Daryl Hannah.

Barlow said organizers are working out with police what exactly the protesters will do to get arrested in Ottawa. Even though the fine will probably be small, she noted, being arrested for civil disobedience can cause problems at borders and other complications.

Tony Clarke, executive director of the Polaris Institute and author of Tarsands Showdown, said he is among the Canadians who intend to risk being arrested.

“I don’t do this lightly; I know there could be consequences. But I have written a book on the tar sands and at a certain point you have to ask yourself, ‘Look, how much credibility do you really have if you shy away from taking action because there might be personal consequences?’ … I am a grandfather … I think it’s time to stand up and be counted.”

Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema said protesters who intend to risk arrest are being asked to register on the event’s website,

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