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TORONTO—Environmental justice protestors temporarily shut down a hearing into a proposal to have tar sand oil piped through Ontario. The hearing took place place in London, Ontario, on Wednesday.
The three day hearing, held by the National Energy Board (NEB), is examining a proposal by Enbridge to reverse the flow of an existing pipeline (Line 9), which currently carries imported overseas oil west. Enbridge wants to instead use the pipeline to bring oil east. However activists are concerned that this will allow Enbridge to bring tar sands to the east coast for export to Europe.
After entering the hearing, protestors employed the People's Mic, where the crowd would echo back whatever was said by a spokesperson in order to project their voices. After a few minutes of the People's Mic commencing, most other attendees at the hearing exited the room. The NEB hearing was shut down for approximately an hour.
The spokesperson who led the Peoples Mic was arrested and then removed from the room. She was later released with a ticket for trespass.
The protestors raised concerns about the environmental impacts of the Alberta tar sands, the possibility of a spill in Ontario and the lack of prior and informed consent being sought from First Nations in Ontario.
"Six Nations rights already have been violated in this review process," stated Wes Elliot, a resident of Six Nations in a press release. "Free, prior, and informed consent is not a factor in these hearings."
Line 9 cuts through the Haldimand Tract, land which was deeded to Six Nations in 1784.
"We also must object to the illegitimate and anti-democratic conduct of the officials who are fast-tracking this review," said Elliot in the release.
Following the protest, demonstrators held what they dubbed an unofficial "People's Hearing on the Tar Sands Pipeline."
"The current framework of the National Energy Board hearings does not allow us to draw connections between tar sands extraction, toxic refineries and upgraders, and various other downstream consequences," said Taylor Flook a member of Occupy Toronto who attended the event in London. "The People's Hearing was arranged as a more open forum, where anyone can share any of their concerns about relevant issues."
"The tar sands industry is attempting to build as many pipelines as they can," said Flook. "We should not accept the fast-tracking of these projects," she said. "No tar sands operations should proceed without the consent of everyone who may be impacted."
As the extraction of tar sands from Alberta has increased, a series of new pipeline projects have emerged to bring the dirty oil to refineries and ports across Canada and the US.
The Harper government has loudly endorsed these projects. But following a series of protests against TransCanada's XL pipeline, which would send tar sands oil south, President Obama delayed approval for a section of the project that goes through the United States until after US elections, which will take place in November.
Opposition by First Nations and environmentalists to Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would bring oil from Alberta to the BC coast for shipment overseas, has garnered attention across Canada.
Protestors worry the Line 9 Reversal could be rushed through before there is time to build awareness and opposition to the pipeline. But they say many of the concerns with the Northern Gateway Pipeline also apply to the Line 9 reversal.
The Line 9 approval process is taking place in two phases. The London hearing deals with bringing oil from Sarnia, Ontario, to Westover, Ontario. The second phase regards oil transport from Westover to Montreal, Quebec.
Tim Groves is an investigative journalist and regular contributor to the Toronto Media Co-op, where the original version of this article appeared.
The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.