Montreal mayor Denis Coderre is the president of the MMC, which represents 82 Montreal-area municipalities and a total of 3.9-million people. The Montreal Gazette has reported, "The MMC based its decision [to oppose the Energy East pipeline] on a series of public consultations it organized last fall. Coderre said 92 per cent of citizens and organizations who deposited 143 briefs and made presentations were against the project, particularly for environmental and security reasons. The vocal opposition of First Nations groups was also a determining factor, he said."
In today's Montreal Gazette, Mayor Coderre highlights, "The planned route of Energy East crosses several major rivers, including the Ottawa River, the Rivière des Mille Îles, the Rivière des Prairies and the Rivière L’Assomption. In case of a leakage incident, the drinking water intakes of several Greater Montreal municipalities could be threatened. I wish to emphasize that the cost of a major spill in the Metropolitan Montreal region could reach $10 billion." The public consultation report focuses on the issue of "La protection des sources d'eau potable" on pages 75 to 81, which can be read here.
In her report Energy East: Where Oil Meets Water, Council of Canadians energy and climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue cites some of these same rivers.
She notes, "The pipeline crosses La Rivière des Mille Îles slightly east of Terrebonne, which sits on the northern shore. The river supplies the drinking water for Terrebonne (106,000 residents) and neighbouring municipalities. Approximately 400,000 residents of Montreal’s northern tier rely on it for their drinking water. ...The pipeline crosses Rivière des Prairies beside the Parc Nature and Ile du Mitan. ...La Rivière des Prairies originates in the Lake of Two Mountains and flows east, cutting through the Montreal Islands. It bisects Montreal Island with Laval on its north shores and Montreal on its south shores."
The United Nations recognizes the human right to water and the responsibility that government's have to respect, protect and fulfill that right. The obligation to protect means that governments are obliged to prevent third parties from interfering with the enjoyment of the human right. We believe the mayors of the 82 Montreal-area municipalities are doing just that by opposing the Energy East pipeline. Furthermore, Energy East pipeline would cross at least 90 watersheds and 961 waterways across the country. We call on all municipal councils along the Energy East pipeline route to act in a similarly responsible manner as the Montreal Metropolitan Council in defence of their community's drinking water.
And when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Mayor Coderre at 7 am ET this morning, it is our hope that the prime minister will solidly be in the camp of water protection. We will wait to see what comes out of that meeting, but already the Globe and Mail has commented, "Mr. Trudeau will meet Mr. Coderre on Tuesday, presumably to distance his position from the mayor’s."
During the last election, the Liberal platform stated, "Stephen Harper’s changes to the Fisheries Act, and his elimination of the Navigable Waters Protection Act, have weakened environmental protections. We will review these changes, restore lost protections, and incorporate more modern safeguards. ...We will modernize the National Energy Board, ensuring that its composition reflects regional views and has sufficient expertise in fields like environmental science, community development, and Indigenous traditional knowledge." We call on the prime minister to not only restore these lost protections for freshwater, but to significantly strengthen all protections for drinking water from the threat of pipelines.
While the federal Conservative party, some provincial premiers, columnists and even a comedian have argued that Montreal's opposition to the Energy East pipeline threatens to divide this country, we believe that our shared concern - indeed imperative - for drinking water could serve to unite us. As Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow recently concluded in a speech, "Imagine caring for our water as a fiercely managed public trust based on the principles of justice and sustainability. Imagine a world in which water becomes nature’s gift to teach us how to live in peace with one another and dwell more lightly on this lovely planet."
To hear the Mayor of Laval's defence of freshwater against the threat of the Energy East pipeline on CBC Radio's As It Happens (in part three of last night's episode), please click here.