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UPDATE: How well did mainstream media cover our tar sands protest?

The protest on Parliament Hill yesterday was a tremendous success.

It was also extensively covered (in a mixed way) by Canada’s mainstream media. There was more coverage than is noted below (this is largely limited to print media), and there is fuller commentary to be made (including noting page placement, choice of photos, inches given to criticism of the action, etc.), but below is an initial overview of the news reports.

Non-print media coverage for the Council of Canadians yesterday included Maude Barlow on CBC-TV’s morning national news program as well as CBC Radio’s As It Happens, and climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue on CTV the day of the protest, as well as in the lead story on the CTV National News the previous evening.

Toronto Star (Joanna Smith, Ottawa Bureau)

  1. Lead-line: “Jo Wood, 72, sat with her knees tucked up against her floral blouse behind the barricade, her light sun hat contrasting with the dark pants of the police officer standing guard behind her. ‘I don’t want to say I didn’t do everything I could to try to stop this thing, because I think it’s so awful,’ said Wood…”
  2. Numbers: “RCMP Sgt. Marc Menard said just over 100 people were arrested after they climbed the short metal fence marked with yellow police tape and a sign warning them not to cross. …About 300 others cheered them on from the lawn, singing traditional protest songs — with updated lyrics to incorporate their fight against climate change — and advising others who wished to cross to get instructions and legal advice from organizers.”
  3. The Council of Canadians: “‘This is a time-honoured practice for us to say in a peaceful way that we are going to disobey the laws that we consider to be unjust and we are going to take a stand and put ourselves on the line,’ Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians told a crowd of about 500 people gathered on the lawn of Parliament Hill before she joined the first group of protesters to cross the fence and be led away in plastic cuffs.”
  4. Editorializing: minimal
  5. Grade: C+

Postmedia News (Mike DeSouza, Carmen Chai)
DEMONSTRATORS ARRESTED AT ANTI-OIL SANDS RALLY ON PARLIAMENT HILL (Vancouver Sun, Montreal Gazette, Edmonton Journal, Calgary Herald, Windsor Star, etc.)


  1. Lead-line: “Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government blasted critics of its environmental record as ‘extremists’ on Monday as the oil and gas industry launched a new public relations campaign which coincided with civil disobedience on Parliament Hill over a controversial U.S. pipeline expansion project.”
  2. Numbers: “About 100 protesters from First Nations communities and environmental groups crossed a police barricade on the Parliament Hill lawn and peacefully allowed the RCMP to arrest them for the action.”
  3. The Council of Canadians: “The protesters who were arrested included Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, an advocacy group promoting social justice issues. …Brent Patterson, political director of the Council of Canadians, said the organization anticipated mass arrests, so activists had legal briefings as a precaution. ‘There’s so much concern across the country around the tarsands, the destruction of water, the impacts on first nations people and the amount of climate emissions released,’ Patterson said. ‘There’s concern that the Harper government isn’t listening and actively promoting the expansion of the tarsands. This [protest] brings the message directly to Parliament Hill.'”
  4. Editorializing: minimal
  5. Grade: C+

MetroNews (Jessica Smith)

  1. Lead-line: “More than 100 protesters climbed over a fence police erected on Parliament Hill on Monday and then sat peacefully, waiting to be arrested.”
  2. Numbers: “RCMP Srgt. Marc Menard said more than 100 protesters were arrested for obstructing police, but ultimately only given a provincial offence notice for trespassing.”
  3. The Council of Canadians: “Greenpeace, the Council of Canadians and Indigenous Environmental Network organized the protest against the development of the tar sands and pipelines that carry Canadian oil to the U.S.”
  4. Editorializing: minimal
  5. Grade: C+

Global News (Rebecca Lindell)

  1. Lead-line: “It may have been an act of civil disobedience, but Monday’s Keystone XL pipeline protest on Parliament Hill was an exercise in civility as demonstrators exchanged niceties with the police waiting to arrest them.”
  2. Numbers: “Over 400 people gathered on Parliament Hill to protest the controversial pipeline. After about an hour of speeches, 117 of them were arrested after they crossed the police line.”
  3. The Council of Canadians: “Among the first to be arrested were Maude Barlow, head of the Council of Canadians, and Dave Coles, a prominent Canadian union leader.”
  4. Editorializing: “The sedate environment was noteworthy given the size of the civil action organized by Greenpeace Canada…”
  5. Grade: C


  1. Lead-line: “More than 100 protesters were arrested Monday after trying to enter the House of Commons during a demonstration on Parliament Hill against a proposed oilsands pipeline project. Hundreds of people flocked to the Hill to voice their displeasure with TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline project, a $7-billion plan to ship crude oil from Alberta to Texas.”
  2. Numbers: “RCMP officials said more than 400 people attended the protest, and 117 people were arrested, charged with trespassing and released.”
  3. The Council of Canadians: “Greenpeace Canada spokesman Peter McHugh promoted the event as ‘a historic mass act of civil disobedience over the tarsands’, which also included members from the Council of Canadians. …Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, has said the government needs a conversion plan to move to alternate energy sources. ‘Tarsands mining has destroyed much of Alberta’s water table and will put the fragile Ogallala Aquifer [the world’s largest known aquifer] in peril. We join with the millions of Americans who oppose the expansion of this deadly industry,’ she said in a statement.”
  4. Editorializing: “But the attempt by protesters to jump a fence and enter the Centre Block was orderly. The CBC’s Karina Roman said there was even laughing and joking between police officers and those taken into custody.”
  5. Grade: C

Postmedia News (Peter O’Neil)

  1. Lead-line: “The Conservative government has accused the NDP of siding with the job-killing “extremists” who held an anti-oilsands protest on Parliament Hill on Monday that led to arrests. The broadside came during a day of protest against the federal government’s support for the oilsands industry…”
  2. Numbers: “About 500 protesters listened as Council of Canadians chairwoman Maude Barlow and aboriginal leaders from B.C. and Alberta denounced the environmental impact of the industry.”
  3. The Council of Canadians: “Speakers in Ottawa denouncing the industry included Barlow, one of the first to be led away in cuffs by police, and Brigette DePape, a former Senate page who drew national attention for being fired in June after raising a ‘Stop Harper’ sign during the reading of the Throne Speech.”
  4. Editorializing: “The protest Monday lacked some of the celebrity sizzle of a similar event in Washington, D.C., last month, when actress Daryl Hannah was among those arrested for objecting to the Keystone XL megaproject.”
  5. Grade: D

The Globe and Mail (Gloria Galloway)

  1. Lead-line: “As civil disobedience goes, it was remarkably civil – on both sides.”
  2. Numbers: “Hundreds of people converged on Parliament Hill on Monday to protest a massive pipeline project that, if approved by Washington, would transport 700,000 barrels per day of bitumen from Alberta to a Gulf Coast refinery hub in the United States.”
  3. The Council of Canadians: “Also arrested in the first group were Maude Barlow, the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, and Dave Coles, the president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union who says the pipeline will kill jobs in Alberta because processing will be done in the United States.”
  4. Editorializing: “While the police had prepared for the arrival of thousands of protesters, in the end there were no more than 500. But they came from all parts of Canada. And they were determined to get arrested – much like 1,200 people who were charged during a similar demonstration in front of the White House last month.”
  5. Grade: D

CTV (News staff)

  1. Lead-line: “Environmental activists planned a mass act of ‘civil disobedience’ on Parliament Hill on Monday, but a potential standoff instead played out as a polite exchange between demonstrators and police.”
  2. Numbers: “The participants said they were willing to risk arrest as they protested against the Keystone XL pipeline extension, but the crowd of about 400 remained peaceful throughout the demonstration. …About 400 people attended the protest, with 100 people being arrested for obstructing police officers, RCMP Sgt. Marc Menard said.”
  3. The Council of Canadians: “The rally in Ottawa was organized by Greenpeace and other groups that oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. Other groups involved include the Council of Canadians, the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Polaris Institute.”
  4. Editorializing: “The Monday protest was expected to be one of the most public rebukes of the pipeline to date, following in the footsteps of another high-profile protest that took place outside the White House last month and involved more than 1,000 people. However, the Ottawa protest remained tame, with many protesters climbing over a small barricade only to be politely arrested by police.”
  5. Grade: F

Sun Media (Mark Dunn, senior national reporter)

  1. Lead-line: “Oilsands protesters were called extremists and job killers Monday with dozens issued trespassing fines and temporary bans from Parliament Hill after what organizers billed as a demonstration for the history books flopped.”
  2. Numbers: “About 100 protesters were issued $65 fines for trespassing and banned from Parliament Hill for a year.”
  3. The Council of Canadians: Photo caption – “Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians is arrested by RCMP after she climbed a police fence as protesters gathered for a Greenpeace demo on Parliament Hill…”
  4. Editorializing: “A similar stunt in the U.S. in recent weeks drew thousands of people opposed to an underground pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast of Texas, where refineries can process bitumen. The Greenpeace-organized event drew a few hundred on Parliament Hill where police manned barricades in anticipation of a demonstration of upwards of 8,000 protesters.”
  5. Grade: F

The Canadian Press (Heather Scoffield)

  1. Lead-line: “As protests go, it was the antithesis of the G20 in Toronto.”
  2. Numbers: “Several hundred people showed up on Parliament Hill on Monday to protest the Keystone XL pipeline and the expansion of the oilsands. …After an hour or so of speeches, more than 100 of the protesters organized themselves in small groups and gingerly climbed over a police barricade in front of the Peace Tower. …RCMP said later that a total of 117 protesters were arrested for obstructing police, but not held. No criminal charges were laid. Police estimated about 400 people participated in the protest.”
  3. The Council of Canadians: “Among the first to be cuffed with plastic ties were Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union and veteran activist Maude Barlow.”
  4. Editorializing: “But unlike last summer’s demonstrations in Toronto, where destruction and violent confrontation were the order of the day, this event was downright sedate. …Despite the lack of ruckus, politicians seemed to take note. Even before the demonstration began, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver were pushing back, defending the oilsands and the pipeline as beneficial for the Canadian economy.”
  5. Grade: C