Council of Canadians public forum in Winnipeg warns against Energy East pipeline

Maude Barlow interview with Terry McLeod
Barlow started the day being interviewed on CBC Radio's Weekend Morning Show.

The Council of Canadians launched a 4-community tour against the Energy East pipeline in Winnipeg last night.

Close to 300 people gathered at the Fort Garry Hotel to hear Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, Shoal Lake 39 Chief Fawn Wapioke and Nebraska-based TransCanada opponent Ben Gotschall speak against the Energy East pipeline. The evening began with an Indigenous drumming circle.


People start to gather for the public forum at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg last night.

Prior to the public forum, our team visited the Winnipeg community of St. Norbert where a TransCanada natural gas pipeline burst in the La Salle River in 1996. Council of Canadians energy and climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue writes, "The location on the La Salle River is also very close to where La Salle flows into the Red River, which then winds its way through Winnipeg towards the historic site of The Forks where the Red River joins the Assiniboine River. [An Energy East] spill here near or in the waterways threatens to see crude flow through the river to this National Historic Site."

Barlow by the La Salle River where a TransCanada pipeline ruptured in 1996. Still from Global News report.
Barlow by the La Salle River where a TransCanada pipeline ruptured in 1996. Still from Global News report.

The Transportation and Safety Board report on the incident noted, “Several eye witnesses saw flying debris and a geyser of mud and water shooting up from the La Salle River, at a point where TCPL crosses the river.”

Harden-Donahue adds, "Visiting the site, we learned that the rupture, first identified by local residents (not TransCanada’s electronic leak detection system) led to the fire and destruction of a local home. ...From the time of the pipeline break, it took around 30 minutes to completely cut off the natural gas supply. This pipeline is 10 ft away from the one they want to convert to carry crude oil for the Energy East project. The Energy East pipeline would pump up to 3 million litres in the course of 30 minutes."

Despite this reality, Kevin Maloney, the Manager of New Build Pipelines for Alberta and New Brunswick for TransCanada, recently stated, "We have never had a failure in a watercourse crossing. Ever." His comment was meant to address the concerns being raised about the threats posed by Energy East to waterways across the country, but it's evidently not an accurate statement. And as Barlow noted in a CTV news report yesterday, "It’s an absolutely insane thing to do; to have this beautiful water and put it at risk."

The Winnipeg chapter had an information table at the forum.
The Winnipeg chapter had an information table at the forum.
About 300 people listen to Barlow warn against the Energy East pipeline.
About 300 people listen to Barlow warn against the Energy East pipeline.

In addition to all this, Barlow and Harden-Donahue warned against the pipeline in a Winnipeg Free Press op-ed last week. In it they wrote, "In Manitoba, the pipeline crosses or passes near critical waterways including the Assiniboine River, Red River, Little Saskatchewan River and the Shoal Lake watershed. It also crosses two metres below the aqueduct that supplies Winnipeg's drinking water. TransCanada's Energy East pipeline is our risk, with the reward going to tar sands corporations cashing in on crude exports."

Tomorrow (April 13) the tour continues in Regina, then to Swift Current on April 15 and Moose Jaw on April 16. For more information on those stops, please click here. The tour is being organized with the support of the National Farmers Union and local partners.

At the completion of this tour, the Council of Canadians will have held 15 public forums against the Energy East project across the country.

Photos by Chris Gallaway.