The Council of Canadians - Winnipeg Chapter


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Winnipeg: Energy East: Our Risk Their Reward Tour

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on April 12, 2015 at 11:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Council of Canadians - Winnipeg Chapter were among the hundreds gathered at the recent Energy East: Our Risk Their Reward Prairie Speaking Tour on April 11 at the Fort Garry Hotel. Opening with an Energy East 101 for audience members who were new to the issue, panelists presented on several unique areas of opposition to the pipeline. The many questions asked during the Q&A and conversations at informal info sessions afterwards indicated a strong commitment amongst Winnipeggers to put a stop to this pipeline development.

Ben Gotschall of Bold Nebraska shared his experiences and the extraordinary grassroots mobilization that grew in the fight against Keystone XL. “I moved from NIMBY to NOPE, not on planet Earth,” he said, in a reference to the way Nebraskans quickly realized that it wasn’t enough to keep the pipeline out of Nebraska. Bold Nebraska gained momentum and volunteers as they fought to stop the pipeline altogether.

Chief of Iskatewizaagegan (Shoal Lake 39) First Nation Fawn Wapioke spoke from the heart about the indigenous relationship with water and land, describing rivers as the veins of Mother Earth. Chief Wapioke invited the audience to participate in and support the Eagle Lake to Shoal Lake Treaty 3 Anishinaabe Water Walk planned for August 3-7. The walkers will follow the pipeline route and can be contacted at

National chair of the Council of Canadians Maude Barlow wrapped up the evening, addressing the shortage of water around the world, the way we are drying up the land when we remove vegetation, California’s reality of finally running out of water, and the frightening disappearance of China’s rivers. (Since 1990, half of the rivers have disappeared. Not polluted, she said. Gone.) Somehow Maude still managed to offer a sense of hope and solidarity, finishing to a standing ovation from an appreciative audience.

Both the Winnipeg Chapter and the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition (the Council of Canadians-Winnipeg Chapter is a member of the coalition) were present with fact sheets, locally specific information and opportunities for more engagement. Many of the audience members signed an online petition to the energy minister Chomiak, asking the minister to refuse permits for the Energy East Pipeline; and also put their names to the Wilderness Committee/MEJC postcards carrying a similar message. The Act On Climate photo booth was busy, with volunteers adding dozens of new messages to the Premiers’ Conference in Quebec, where Canada’s climate change policy is under discussion.

With such an enthusiastic show of support from Winnipeggers, the MEJC is continuing its plans for more public events, political action and engagement of Manitobans outside Winnipeg. There is an orientation session for new volunteers on April 26, 1PM at the St Norbert Community Centre. All are welcome!

For more info, or to register to attend, please contact us at or the MEJC at

Watch here for an upcoming series of blogs interpreting several of the many issues with the Energy East proposal that must be addressed; and the soon to be released peer reviewed report examining potential impacts of the Energy East pipeline on Manitoba.

Contributor: Mary Robinson - Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter Chair

Recipe for a Happy World Water Day

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on March 19, 2015 at 11:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Mitigation, Adaptation and Water Thinking

About Carrie Saxifrage’s new book The Big Swim, Maude Barlow wrote, “Trying to understand what we are doing to the planet based solely upon facts and statistics fails to engage the heart, where all true commitment forms. Carrie Saxifrage knows that real change comes from the head and the heart working together and gently pulls us along on her journey to a deeper place of understanding."

Carrie will read from The Big Swim on April 4, 7 pm at McNally Robinson Bookstore. Her schedule for readings in other cities is at

First, let’s celebrate water. Nothing is more satisfying than a drink when you are dehydrated, how water spreads across the tongue and to the sides of the mouth, the way in which the sensation of wetness gives way to a satisfaction that in that thirsty moment is better than anything else you could imagine. Our bodies recognize water for what it is: a necessity, a birth right. Humans aren’t alone in this. Ecosystems lie at the heart of the world’s water systems, full of diverse and intricate lives. Water is everyone’s birthright, everyone’s life force, on this uniquely watery planet.

Some experts note, “Climate mitigation is about carbon and climate adaptation is about water.” We must mitigate carbon, which means substantially reducing fossil fuels, and fast. But the reality is that we will have a lot of adapting to do – managing water - no matter how strongly we mitigate.

In Canada, we are relatively lucky when it comes to water because there are enormous threats to this birthright worldwide: drought, the depletion of ancient aquifers, inequitable water distribution, the attempts of corporations to control access, pollution, and immense water withdrawals for industry, including agriculture. Many people already live with water scarcity: 1.6 billion, according to the World Bank. The number is expected to rise to 2.8 billion by 2025.

But despite being the second most water rich nation in the world, some people in Canada lack safe drinking water. The Shoal Lake 40 First Nation has lived with a boil water advisory for 17 years, the result of infrastructure to supply clean water to the City of Winnipeg. Such advisories are in effect for over 1,200 Canadian communities.

As climate change intensifies threats to water supplies, societies and ecosystems get destabilized. A recent study links Syria’s civil war, which spawned the Islamic State, to a four year drought. Civil unrest is erupting over water shortages in major cities in Brazil, such as Sao Paulo. Even Kenya, a relatively stable African government, is stretched by drought and could fail. People are only a part of the suffering. Many lineages from the magnificent and intricate diversity of life on Earth will go extinct. The 2014 report by the International Panel on Climate Change notes that major extinction events occurred in the past during slower rates of climate change then presently underway and additional stressors, such as habitat fragmentation, are now at play.

A necessary psychological change is underway as people come to grips with reality: climate change is irrefutable, caused by fossil fuels and we must stop using them to prevent suffering on an even more massive scale. Most experts see an effective price on carbon as the way to spur enough renewable energy development to save us, and this should be our top political priority. Consider this: all the technology we need for a stable future exists. It’s already being implemented and will be built at the pace we need as soon as we have an effective price on carbon. We must implement this tool on a global scale to mitigate carbon.

Adaptation and water, on the other hand, play out on the local level. Water management is in every community’s future. Fortunately, water can inspire us. We can find places where our engagement builds connections and feels meaningful. Part of adaptation is cultivating our relationship with water so that we will protect it, and protect ourselves from it, near our homes.

Lakes are an appealing place to do this. Many of us have a lake we love, and many of those lakes now host recurring algal blooms, the result of nutrient loading and changing weather. We can work to keep our lakes drinkable and swimmable. It feels good to take steps, even small steps, to protect water, especially bodies of water that we love. Annabel Slaight helped found Ladies of the Lake and the Ontario Water Center to look after Lake Simcoe. She put it this way: “If you don’t love something, and have the opportunities to love it, you won’t look after it and won’t demand that it be looked after.”

Canadian lakes were a revelation to me when I first moved here two decades ago: the clear greenish water shafted with light, the bubbles trailing from my fingertips and the water’s gentle hold. Two lakes on Cortes Island, BC are in the center of the community and I use them to get places. Friends tell stories about me stripping down to swim home from parties and meetings. After every swim, I’ve emerged cooler, more collected and happier person, grateful to my watery friend and therapist. Last spring the lakes at the center of our community on Cortes Island, BC had their first algae bloom. The water turned brown and smelly. The fish died. No one knew if it was safe to swim.

Nearly every province has many lakes that have had recent algal blooms. To name a very few: in BC, Elk Lake near Victoria and St. Mary’s Lake on Salt Spring Island; in New Brunswick, Irishtown Reservoir and Lake Utopia; in Manitoba, Lake Winnipeg and Dauphin Lake; in Nova Scotia, Lake Torment and Lake Ainslie; in Alberta, Lac Ste. Anne and Pigeon Lake; in Saskatchewan, Lac la Loche and Boundary Reservoir; in Ontario, Lake Ontario and Three Mile Lake.

No list is complete without poor Lake Erie, once the poster lake for successful clean up. The trend goes beyond Canada: A recent study in Europe and North America found a 60% increase in algal blooms in low elevation lakes over the last two hundred years.

According to David Trew of North Saskatchewan Watershed Society, each lake is unique in its particular combination of characteristics. Some, like the lakes in the Alberta and Saskatchewan prairies, have naturally high internal nutrient loads from the fertile soil surrounding them. Alpine lakes, and the ones on the Canadian Shield, do not. It’s natural for lakes to “age” – to gradually become eutrophic, with less oxygen and more plants, until they become meadows. The primary driver of premature eutrophication is nutrient flows, especially phosphorus, with nitrogen also playing a role. These nutrients come from farms, lawns, storm water, septic systems, golf courses, logging and development along the shoreline.

Each lake has its own unique community of algae and bacteria. This helps explain why a lake near Victoria BC bloomed in December, a New Brunswick lake bloomed in September, my Cortes Lake bloomed in May and many if not most lakes bloom in July.

The shape and depth of the lake, matters. Shallow lakes warm quickly and wind can easily suspend the nutrients at the bottom. Some lakes have strong in and outflows, so excess nutrients get flushed through. Others move slowly or not at all.

Climate change increases nutrient flows with floods and intense rainfall. Longer periods of no ice and warm waters favor algal blooms. So do wetter springs and longer, drier summers. Warmer temperatures make the algae more efficient at grabbing nitrogen out of the atmosphere. According to Alyre Chiasson, of University of Moncton, such conditions can put vulnerable lakes over the edge.

The lake conditions created by climate change favor cyanobacteria, or blue green algae. For the record, cyanobacteria spent billions of years as the only life form on Earth, making the oxygen that made us and other complex life forms possible. But in this story, they’re the villain. Some of them, some of the time, create toxins that damage the liver and nervous system, cause skin irritation, gastroenteritis and/or respiratory distress. Chronic, low dose exposures can cause liver tumors and endocrine disruption. Puppies mucking at lake edges are especially vulnerable.

With the right conditions, cyanobacteria reproduce explosively and create toxins. When this happened in Lake Erie in 2014, Toledo, Ohio’s water system for 500,000 residents was shut down. The toxins can only be removed by charcoal filtration and chlorination. Boiling can force the bacteria to release more toxins. Out of caution, municipalities close water bodies to drinking and recreation when any kind of cyanobacteria is present.

It’s hard to remedy algae blooms once they really take hold. According to Vicky Burns of the Save Lake Winnipeg project, phosphorus gets trapped in sediment where it remains until the lake conditions are suitable for a bloom. Lakes with strong flows through them have a better chance of recovery. But there are no big success stories out there. Annabel Slaight told me, “I used to think you could fix a lake. I don’t think so anymore. All you can do is create the conditions in which a lake can heal itself.

In some places (Australia, Western Europe), a substance called Phoslock has been used to permanently bind phosphorus in lakes. It has been tried in Lake Simcoe, ON and Irishtown Resevoir, NB. In Canada, there’s reluctance to treat the symptom and not the cause.

The increasingly widespread nature of algae blooms makes it a national matter. According to Vicky Burns of Lake Winnipeg, voluntary action is important but not enough. We need regulations and legislation that set standards for the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen in sewage effluent, agricultural run-off, industrial run-off and other sources. “We have a very long way to go before we achieve that,” she wrote. “One example is that that federal government is rolling out new sewage treatment regulations and there is no reference in them to phosphorus.” According to David Trew of North Lake Saskatchewan, nutrient sources to lakes arising from land management and septic systems have fallen through the legislative cracks.

The citizen stewards and scientists I spoke with all gave the same solution for individual lakes: stop loading the lake with phosphates. They recommend a team approach: scientists, local and provincial governments and citizens. According to David Trew, the task in its simplest terms is to: 1) understand the quantity and source of nutrient loads; 2) create a “phosphorus budget”; and 3) create and implement a watershed management plan to meet that budget.

The 2014 Sturgeon Lake Management Plan on the Kawartha Conservation web site provides a model in terms of process and content. The plan was funded by the local municipality. The first three years of its development were dedicated to science-based assessments of the lake and its watershed and capturing the key values of stakeholders. The plan was crafted in the fourth year, with input from both a science and a community panel. It links specific measures to its phosphorus targets, such as conducting 10 to 20 agricultural improvement projects each year (things like streamside vegetation buffers and improving manure storage and fertilizer application) to achieve a phosphorus loading target of 2,000 kg/year. It also focusses on the municipal Official Plan to strengthen land use planning through measures such as development setbacks and by-laws to enhance shore line vegetation and retain lake side forests.

For those who don’t love management plan meetings, here’s the best thing about lake stewardship: it requires lots of data, and collecting data means canoeing around in all kinds of weather with old and new friends, with plastic bottles and a secchi disc (picture a heavy record album divided in quarters that are painted black and white so when you drop it over the side of the canoe you can still see it for awhile). That’s my favorite kind of contribution, the one that takes me out there to the place I love, where I get to see which ducks are on the lake that week and maybe a muskrat or a beaver. The provinces have lake experts who can advise citizen samplers and there are province-wide lake stewardship groups to provide guidance as well.

Lake stewardship is a community builder, because communities rally for their beloved lakes. Last summer on Cortes Island, we held a fund raiser to help pay for testing the lake, the “First Ever Nine Lake Swim.” Four of us swam every lake on the island, about six miles altogether. We were greeted by the community at the end of it and had a feast at the restaurant up the hill. Children put on the puppet show they had worked on all day in which the spirit of the lakes arose from beneath a blue table cloth to rap to us about phosphates, and lake creatures pled for us to be more careful. We raised $13,000 for lake sampling and solutions. The Ontario Water Centre is a large scale model for a potent combination of fun, science, planning and action.

I’m one of those who avoid meetings, but I’ll be a part of the watershed planning ones for my lakes. Researching this article has brought me around: lakes are very specific beings with very specific needs and creating the conditions for ours to heal will require both evidence and planning. It’s also a good exercise to establish strong community-government working groups in preparation for the more difficult adaptation issues that may arise in the future. Annabel Sleight of Lake Simcoe assures me that even meetings can build comradery.

The Ontario Water Centre Website mentions “water thinking,” so I asked Annabel about this. She described water thinking as remembering water as you live, appreciating it, and learning to act like it, to flow through the cracks when there’s an obstacle. The Chippewas of Georgina Island have influenced her. “They see a different relationship to nature,” she told me. “It’s less like a responsibility to be stewards, as if that is some kind of obligation of life, and more like being in in tune with nature and part of the natural system. That way you draw strength from it. I draw strength from water all the time.

Contributor: Carrie Saxifrage, Author of The Big Swim

The Winnipeg Water Crisis? Not What You Expected

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on March 12, 2015 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (0)

I find myself thinking a lot about water these days. From boil advisories and chlorinated water to Idle No More’s “Water Wednesdays” and the UN’s “Right to Water.” How many people in our country go without clean drinking water or plumbing everyday? Approximately one-sixth of First Nations reserves water is not safe to drink according to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. In fact, even the residents of Shoal Lake #40 have not had access to their own water for over 18 years without compensation so Winnipeggers can have clean water. But yesterday I found myself looking at yet another important concern, especially for Manitobans – hydroelectricity and the actions of Manitoba Hydro.

I find myself considering the fact that as a Winnipegger what do I really know about where my electricity and water from my tap come from. Even me, a university student who has dedicated the last 12 years of my life to studying environmental issues and geography, find myself in the dark when it comes to Manitoba Hydro Dam development and the issues surrounding our drinking water and Shoal Lake. I was shocked to find such devastation in terms of human rights violations, especially since we have been deemed the authority on human rights with the new museum. How can we be so trusting of an entity whose sole purpose is money and revenue for its stakeholders? If this is such a public utility and company why do I feel we are kept in the dark? Where is water governance at in Manitoba? Who really is protecting, or at the very least monitoring, Lake Winnipeg and the regulation of it by Manitoba Hydro?

I was recently asked to represent the Winnipeg Chapter of Council of Canadians at meetings being held by the Consumer Association of Canada (CAC) and the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) in regards to Lake Winnipeg Regulation by Manitoba Hydro. I represented the chapter as a stakeholder with interests in the outcome of the Clean Environment Commission of Manitoba’s (CEC) review of Manitoba Hydro’s license. These two organizations are collecting information from ALL who are impacted by Manitoba Hydro and Lake Winnipeg. Which is pretty much ALL of us Manitobans.

Gloria Desorcy, Consumer Association of Canada (CAC) - Pam Godin, Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter - Joelle Pastora Sala, Public Interest Law Centre (PILC)

Did you know that Manitoba Hydro is applying for a license to regulate Lake Winnipeg? In fact they have been regulating the Lake since 1977 under an interim license under the Manitoba Water Power Act due to the fact they had established hydroelectric dams in Manitoba prior to the Environment Act of 1987 and have now been grandfathered from any environmental assessment obligations. If approved their next step is to renew their license in 2026. But what about doing what is right? How about “reconciling” with those who have been devastated by hydro development? Over 40 Indigenous communities are directly impacted by Lake Winnipeg Regulation not to mention the countless cottage owners around the Lake. What about the Northern Flood Agreement signed in 1977 by five affected First Nations, Manitoba Hydro and both governments? What about the ensuing ecological devastation of species and wetlands?

But what about us in Winnipeg? Where are our moral obligations when it comes to using electricity? Why do we think it is so “clean” and “green”? In fact, there are many concerns world wide regarding the environmental impacts on hydro dams, including their impact on climate change. Examples include damage to fisheries, mercury poisoning, forced relocation of First Nations, and habitat destruction to name a few. The World Commission on Dams Report in 2000 clearly states “…in the assessment process social and environmental aspects have the same significance as economic and financial factors.“

I strongly encourage all of us Winnipeggers, who sometimes blindly leave the lights on, without considering where that energy comes from, to start to think about our greatest resource as Manitobans – OUR WATER. We need to see our water as a precious resource and take pride in our province and our many lakes. They are not only a non-renewable resource but also a precious gift that we take for granted EVERYDAY. I highly recommend that we take a good look at Manitoba Hydro and make sure that we hold them accountable for being governors of the lake, whether we want them to be or not, they are here to stay for awhile. We ARE the stewards of the Lake, whether we like it or not, and we have a responsibility to ourselves and to our future generations to protect it. For in fact where would we be without it?

Contributor: Pam Godin - Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter

The Big Swim: a book to start climate conversations

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on March 9, 2015 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Author and Vancouver Observer reporter Carrie Saxifrage will share stories from her new book, The Big Swim, in Winnipeg on April 4 at 7 pm at McNally Robinson Bookstore.

A lot of people feel a growing unease, one that arises from the disconnection between our daily lives and the irrefutable evidence that it’s time to act on climate change. The Big Swim reconnects personal life with climate change through stories that are funny and touching. Saxifrage set out to write a book that people who aren’t interested in the issue would enjoy. As a result, some of her stories have less to do with climate change and more to do with life: the death of a parent, adventures in nature and a building project gone awry. Other stories face the predicament head on: how climate change affects identity, the benefits and losses of decarbonizing one’s life and perspectives that support resilience in the face of difficult knowledge. Every story invites awareness of our place in the magnificent and intricate biological world.

Psychology research gives numerous reasons why people are “wired” to ignore climate change. One reason is that climate change comes to us in facts and figures that don’t engage our emotional minds, the parts of our brains where we form the decision to act. Research also provides the solution: tell stories! They engage the emotional mind. The Big Swim is a story about integrating the facts of climate change with the quest for meaning and joy. This accessible book can be used to start the conversations we need to have, about how working toward climate stability brings meaning, shared purpose and a happier future.

"Serious adventure on a serious planet. This is the kind of thinking and living we need to engage in."

Bill McKibben

author of Oil and Honey, Eaarth, The End of Nature and other books.

"In a flash of inspiration, Carrie Saxifrage has invented the climate change memoir. Beautifully crafted, often touching and unexpectedly funny, here is your handbook to living deeply in perilous times."

J.B. MacKinnon

author of The 100-Mile Diet and The Once and Future World

“Wow. This moving book invites us to reconnect with own wildness, to submerge ourselves in creation and come out doused with the sweet nectar of being alive. Carrie Saxifrage speaks a beautiful language – precise, transformative, unafraid. Read this book. It will give you hope.”

Shaena Lambert

author of Oh, My Darling and Radiance

Find more praise for The Big Swim at

The Path of Glory

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on January 28, 2015 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (0)


Make Canada safe for people in danger of persecution for opposing unjust wars and war crimes.

Like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, Joshua Key could spend the rest of his natural life in a U.S. prison if he sets foot on U.S. soil. In recent weeks, the Conservative government has imposed negative decisions or removal orders on nearly all U.S. war veterans seeking refugee status.

The Conservatives are in contempt of Canada’s ratified obligations under international law.

  1. Joshua would face extreme consequences if he is deported to the U.S. The government is ignoring requests to stay based on spousal sponsorship and for humanitarian reasons.

  2. The federal government is acting like it is a crime to publish and translate a book into twelve languages and carry out about one thousand media interviews globally that expose U.S. war crimes in Iraq.

  3. The Conservative government is deporting U.S. war resisters precisely because it alleges they are guilty of desertion.
    However, desertion or insubordination are perfectly legal and recommended if a soldier is ordered to carry out war crimes. This is a fundamental principle of international law since the conviction of Nazi war criminals after World War Two, affirmed in treaties ratified by Canada.

  4. The Conservative government has made it impossible to argue this important point of law by means of Operational Bulletin 202, Instruction to Immigration Officers in Canada on processing cases involving military deserters.
    The alleged reason for deporting Joshua Key (desertion) is baseless and without merit. Canada needs to comply with its international legal obligations.

  5. Joshua’s deportation would devastate his Canadian family – his wife Alexina and three children, with another on the way.

  6. Opinion polls show that Canadians support refugee status for foreign soldiers who face persecution for opposing illegal wars or war crimes.
    The large majority of voters – more than 60% - support political parties with this position.

 At no time has the U.S. government requested the extradition of Joshua Key.

  8. The experience of previous resisters deported from Canada and the opinion of many legal authorities show that Joshua would not receive a fair court martial.

  9. Joshua has a legal opinion from the U.S. that he will definitely face serious charges if he steps foot on U.S. soil. One is related to writing a book with Lawrence Hill, The Deserter’s Tale. Technically, the charge for writing (espionage) and the charge of desertion include the death penalty, but the opinion is that he could get 35 years in a military prison.
    When the U.S. extradites a person from Canada to face similar charges, the federal government requires a guarantee there will be no death penalty, in support of Canadian values and capital punishment laws.
    We need to ask: Why is Canada deporting war resisters to face serious charges in the U.S. with no regard to obtain a guarantee that U.S. authorities will not pursue the death penalty?

  10. Because of Joshua’s book and media interviews from dozens of countries, abundant evidence exists to show that Joshua will be dealt with most harshly of all resisters deported to date from Canada, by far. The evidence includes legal opinions, U.S. military law, and statements by leading U.S. military justice officials.

  11. Friends and family of Joshua Key will continue to press for the federal government against deporting Joshua.

Urgent appeal for support and funds

How will Winnipeg or Canada respond? Joshua Key and a handful of other war resisters are unknown to most Canadians, but in the next few days or weeks the world will be watching Winnipeg.

Will Joshua and fellow resisters be deported to a U.S. prison or can we force the government to back down and comply with international law?

In 2003, hundreds of thousands of Canadians protested to keep Canada out of the illegal U.S. war against Iraq.

We need a massive wave of support to make our country safe for soldiers who face persecution for resisting war crimes and unjust wars.

Heavy campaign and legal costs are anticipated. We need your support urgently.

Send your cheques to:
Keep Resisters in Canada
269 Kitson St., Winnipeg MB R2H 0Z6
Payable to: “KRIC Campaign”.   

Thank you!

Deposit in-person in Winnipeg at:
Assiniboine Credit Union Account no. 110010205802

Info: (204) 792-3371- KRIC is Winnipeg-based campaign. If you can help out elsewhere, we’ll be glad to connect you with other campaigns!

Other ways to help

  1. Send us your email address for activities and appeals:

  2. Like and share the facebook page The Key family: Welcome in Canada

  3. Inform your area Conservative MPs that this is an important issue to you.

  4. Write to the media & mobilize the community.

  5. Write to the Conservative government:
        Hon. Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship & Immigration
        House of Commons,

        Ottawa, Ontario Canada K1A 0A6

Support refugee status for Joshua Key and other resisters
and Joshua’s spousal sponsorship

Oppose a devastating break-up of Joshua’s family

Support Joshua’s application for a work permit

Joshua Key & family • Pro-family • Anti-war crime

Support Canadian Sanctuary for War resister Joshua Key

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on January 19, 2015 at 1:00 AM Comments comments (0)


It was in 2004 that Joshua Key and his then American born wife and family arrived in Toronto after Joshua refused to return to combat duty in Iraq. In doing so Joshua joined a growing number of U.S war resisters who had come to Canada seeking refugee status because of their belief that the U.S. war in Iraq was unjust.

Not long after he arrived, Joshua and journalist Lawrence Hill, award winning author of The Book of Negroes, wrote the book The Deserter's Tale. In it he chronicled his experiences that led him to undertake the difficult decision to desert rather than fight in an illegal and immoral war.

Since then, Canadians have mobilized to ensure that US soldiers who refused to participate in the war in Iraq be allowed to stay in Canada. Despite two resolutions passed by the House of Commons in support of war resisters’ right to stay, numerous court rulings in their favour and the fact that almost two-thirds of Canadians support giving sanctuary to war resisters, successive Conservative governments under Steven Harper have not listened to the House of Commons, the courts or public opinion.

A Government which trumpets belief in Canadian democracy, values and human rights has been relentless in its persecution of these conscientious objectors. As a result many have faced deportations and harsh prison sentences handed down in U.S. military courts.

This fight is not over. It has entered a most difficult period as the Harper Government seeks to finish off the remaining war resisters in a new wave of deportations. It hopes that Canadians have resigned themselves to the fact that nothing can be done and lost interest in the plight of the principled individuals who said no to war.

But Canadians have not forgotten. In recent months and weeks new support has been forthcoming. The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association and the Winnipeg Labour Council have endorsed resolutions in support of Joshua Key and the right of war resisters to stay in Canada.

We have issued this appeal for Joshua because he is part of the community we live in. That is why an ad hoc committee of Winnipeg residents have come together to lend our support and efforts to the campaign. Joshua is our neighbour and our friend. He took a principled stand to walk away from war at great personal cost and risk to himself. For that reason we ask the community to rally around Joshua in his struggle for refugee status.

Take a moment to read further and to see what you can do. As events are organized we ask that you support them by coming out. Perhaps you are willing to organize an event in your community, school, workplace or place of worship.

My name is Joshua Key. I was born and raised, a proud American, on my grandfather’s 40 acre farm outside of Guthrie, Oklahoma. By the time I was 23 I was married with three young sons. I joined the U.S. army and shipped off to Iraq in 2003. Pleased with my choice and honoured by friends and family, I faced an unknown desert and unknown enemy.

My job was to raid homes and patrol streets, and while carrying out my duties I witnessed and participated in many senseless acts of violence and aggression against Iraqi civilians. One such incident included a night on the banks of the Euphrates River when my unit was called to the scene of a firefight. When we arrived and I approached I saw soldiers, my fellow American soldiers, kicking around decapitated heads like soccer balls. I never once in my time at war saw the face of the unknown enemies, just the faces of my brothers in arms change, for the worse.

While on leave in 2004, I along with my wife and four children, made my escape to Canada.

After over 10 years in yet another foreign land, I am still fighting a war. A war against my post-traumatic stress disorder, a conflict against my contract with the military, and a battle with the Canadian government. In the years since the now all too familiar desert, I lost the things that I held most dear. I lost my home; I will never again see an Oklahoma sunset or touch the red dirt. I lost my blinded belief in an all knowing and all powerful America. Worst of all, I lost my first wife and four beautiful children.

Through all the loss, I have gained. I have gained a re-birth and re-education. I have gained countless friends and an expanded family, including a Canadian wife and three, soon to be four, more fantastic children. I have also gained a new home. But, this cloud is not lined with silver, unless the Harper Government stops the deportations of American soldiers seeking sanctuary in Canada – a Canada that proudly declared that it should be “a haven from militarism”.

If I, or any of the other brave men who fought for their country, are deported from Canada we face a fate left in the hands of the U.S. military. An institution we learned, from cruel experience, that we should not trust. All I or any other of my new brothers in arms want is to stay in Canada. We want to live as Canadians. We want peace.

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Send a message to Chris Alexander, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. Let him know that you support refugee status for Joshua Key and all war resisters.


Hon. Chris Alexander
Minister of Citizenship & Immigration
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario Canada
K1A 0A6

Buy your own copy of Joshua's book, The Deserter's Tale, co-written with award-winning Book of Negroes author Lawrence Hill. All proceeds go directly to the Key family.
Contact Peace Alliance Winnipeg at to purchase a book.


Support Joshua Key on Facebook

Check out Peace Alliance Winnipeg for local news and events.

Join the Peace Alliance Winnipeg Facebook group

Visit the War Resisters Support Campaign to find out about all the War Resisters and Let Them Stay week (Jan 25-31)

Top 50 Stephen Harper Protest Songs

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on January 4, 2015 at 10:35 PM Comments comments (14)

Famous for butchering Beatles tunes and destroying Canada, Stephen Harper has also inspired many others to make music. From Prorogations to Omnibus bills, this Prime Minister’s list of wrongdoings have been a vast pit of inspiration for creative Canadians. As Harper’s popularity drops, his critics are ramping up the revolt leading to the next federal election.


#1 Stephen Harper Song: sung on Burnaby Mountain by Alishia Fox

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Alishia Fox is a Canadian song writer. Sitting by a camp fire with her ukulele at the 2014 #burnabymountain protest, she belts out this new activist anthem. Burnaby residents, First Nations and supporters gathered on the mountain for what became a ten day standoff with the R.C.M.P. The RCMP were directed in their actions by the National Energy Board, who were following directions from Kinder Morgan. The company plans to build a new pipeline to ship heavily toxic diluted tar sands, also known as dilbit. The activists oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.

Her original version of the song is posted here.


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Juno nominated Kinnie Starr with Ja$e El Nino perform Save Our Waters, in response to the federal government’s recommended approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway. A collaboration with Haida and non-Haida people, Haidawood makes stop motion animations that reflect the culture, language, and spirit of Haida Gwaii. The people of Haida Gwaii oppose both the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and the introduction of oil tanker traffic to the northwest coast of Canada. See what happens when Prime Minister Stephen Harper attempts to take the Bitumen Valdez Super Tanker around Haida Gwaii and up the Douglas Channel.

Haida Raid 3: Save Our Waters won Best Music Video at the 2014 ImagiNATIVE Film Festival.

#3 I don't like Stephen Harper - a song

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Cristita and her friend were walking through the Kensington Market in Downtown Toronto back in 2008, when they came across this band. Luckily she caught this super catchy song on video! A Youtube comment reveals that, “The lead is Juno Award Winner Richard Underhill, and this song was actually performed at the pro-coalition rally at Nathan Phillips Square on Dec 6th.”

On December 6, 2008 a series of political rallies were held across the country to protest Harper’s first prorogation, when he closed down parliament to duck a no-confidence vote.

#4 The Caravan - What Up Steve?

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Halifax rapper Kyle McKenna and his hip-hop group, the Caravan, call out Stephen Harper for everything from CBC cuts and contempt of parliament to the privatization of health care and all points in between.

#5 CANADIAN REVOLUTION - Gaiaisi feat. Mishaki Binese & Rosary Spence

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"Canadian Revolution," featuring Mishaki Binese and Rosary Spence, calls for unity among all progressives to defeat Stephen Harper.


#6 The Harper Song (Steve It's Time to Leave) by John Roby

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The Harper Song with words and music by John Roby and video recorded and edited by Scott Stephenson helped to promote the Project Democracy, showing voters the candidate with the best chance to beat the Conservative in key ridings for the last federal election. Much like Leadnow is doing for the next federal election.

#7 Hey Stephen (You can’t play in my band)
Written and performed by Dick Overdale

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Harper's cold-hearted rendition of John Lennon’s peace anthem, Imagine, sparked scorn from music lovers and peace activists across the land. His callous attempt to use young Youtube sensation, Maria Aragon, as a prop in order to try and appear to be diverse was transparent and disingenuous. Meanwhile Harper continues to systematically cut public funding to the arts. Dick Overdale’s refrain “You can’t play in my band” is a sentiment echoed by musicians across the land!


#8 Stop Harper . . . the musical

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On August 2, 2012 Stephen Harper was in Gimli to make political hay out of a pledge to commit $18 million to dealing with the environmental problems facing Lake Winnipeg. After gutting environmental protection laws in Canada to make way for dirty oil pipeline megaprojects and cancelling funding to the Experimental Lakes Area, we doubted his sincerity. A group of committed activists came out to find Harper. Despite their best efforts, they never got to see him close-up. But they did come up with this great song! (paraphrased from

#9 The Pro-Rogue of Parliament

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This song totally should have gone viral when it was released in February 2010!
In order to avoid ongoing investigations into the affair, Harper prorogued parliament for a second time on December 30, 2009. The affair concerns whether or not Canadian Forces and the Government of Canada had knowledge about alleged torture of Afghan detainees. If the allegations are true it would mean our country is guilty of war crimes according to the Third Geneva Convention.

#10 You have a choice Avaaz

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A 2008 song to expose the Harper Conservatives' neglect of the environment, created by the likes of K-OS, Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies, Ben Kowalewicz of Billy Talent, Adam Gontier of Three Days Grace, Sarah Harmer, Hawksley Workman, Jason Collett of Broken Social Scene, Darren Dumas of The Salads and the Arts Offstage Choir under the direction of David Reed.

#11 Stephen Harper Song - Bucket of Shrimp Ears

#12 Harper's G20

#13 Oil Painted Feathers (A Stephen Harper Protest Song)

#14 The Prorogue Song - An Ode to Stephen Harper,

#15 Imagine there's no Harper...

#16 Easy Mark Presents: The Stephen Harper Song

#17 Stephen Harper Song by Some Canadian Guy

#18 Seriously, Mr. Harper.

#19 Farewell Stephen Harper



Raging Grannies (Calgary) Scientists' Lament

Raging Grannies (Ottawa/Parliament Hill Mob) Harper's Agenda

Raging Grannies (Winnipeg) Harper, the Sneaky PM (CETA)

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Raging Grannies (Ottawa) Harper "Statesman of the Year"

Raging & Radical (Halifax) Raging Grannies & Radical Cheerleaders
  Stephen Harper's bringing us down

Raging Grannies (Courtenay, BC)
  Harper’s Hymn - Defend Our Coast Rally

Raging Grannies (Calgary) The Omnibus Song

Raging Grannies (Ottawa/Parliament Hill Mob) Under The Bus

Raging Grannies (Ottawa/Parliament Hill Mob)
  Raging Grannies Sing the CEAA Blues

Raging Grannies (Ottawa) Hit The Road, Steve


James Gordon - #LeaveSteve2015 Theme Song

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Ellevan - Pots & Pans (Stop Harper Rap)

Stephen Harper Like a PM! (Like a Boss Parody)

"Celine Dion" Hot for Harper & Conservatives


22 Minutes: "Tories" Song by Borde

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22 Minutes: Get Duffy - Song by Daft Tories

22 Minutes: "Like a Rolling Stone" - Song Parody

22 Minutes: F*#! You Song

Air Farce: Conservative Love Song


The Flaming Trolleys: Hey Harper! #StopHarper

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Bob Rae sings "Stephen Harper: He Prorogues"

Troubles / Idle No More (Stephen Harper Diss)
    2013 Digginz aka Truthdigga

We Will Survive (Stephen Harper)

"I'm on a break" parody of "on a boat" about proroguing parliament

The Stephen Harper Song "I couldn't care less"

A Stephen Harper Song

Stephen Harper Hates Gays

Harper Raps!

Stephen Harper's New Campaign Song

Go To The Polls! - Feisty Joy Taylor Rap

BONUS: Blue Rodeo “Fools Like You” 

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Blue Rodeo dedicates their song “Fools Like You” to Stephen Harper #Idlenomore

This was originally meant to be a top five list, but the overwhelming number of dedicated and heartfelt writers and performers made the catalogue grow effortlessly. Admittedly, the list isn’t really extensive as it only includes songs that can be found surfing Youtube. There are likely many other hidden gems out there.

Do you agree with the number one or the top twenty? What’s your favourite Harper protest song? Please let us know in the comments below.

WATCH all the videos on this Youtube PLAYLIST

Contributor: Ken Harasym - Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter member

Take Action Manitoba! Stop Energy East

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on November 30, 2014 at 9:50 PM Comments comments (0)

From our friends at NO ENERGY EAST MB

What you can do right now to help stop the Energy East pipeline.


TransCanada has submitted their application for Energy East to the National Energy Board (NEB). The clock is now ticking – once the NEB decides that the project application is complete, it has 15 months to make its final decision. We need to intervene now.

Full information and documentation for the Energy East Project can be found on the NEB website.

There are five things you can do right now (hyperlink to each):

(1) Sign these letters (below)

(2) Join our mailing list and Facebook page

(3) Join Energy East Action Network

(4) Apply to be an intervenor in the National Energy Board review process (See below)

(5) Get your business, organization, religious community, or professional association to sign on to our open Letter (below)

What is wrong with the NEB process?

The NEB hearing process is rigged. Even the former chair of Manitoba Hydro thinks so.

The NEB is leaving impacts of the tar sands on climate change out of the review process. The scope of the Board’s assessment will be limited to Physical Facilities Matters - Part III of the NEB Act and Commercial and Financial Matters - Part IV and V of the NEB Act.

On its website the NEB states that “The Board does not have regulatory authority over upstream or downstream activities associated with the development of oilsands, or the end use of the oil to be transported by the Project. Therefore, the Board will not consider these issues.”

Without assessing the pipeline project in the context of wider tar sands development we cannot actually understand the effects of this project on our atmosphere. We need to demand the NEB assess the cumulative effects of fossil fuel developments, not just the greenhouse emissions from construction and operation phases of the project.

It is also likely that many of the people affected by this pipeline will be shut out of participation in the NEB hearing. The Board will only hear from the people “who stand to be directly impacted” by the project, or from those who have “information and expertise” that could help the panel gain a greater understanding of the project.

We know that everyone is directly impacted by this project, because everyone is directly impacted by climate change and by the many other impacts on our waterways. Still, it is widely believed that the Board will take a very narrow definition of “directly impacted” to reject hundreds if not thousands of applications by individuals and groups to participate in the hearings.

We need to apply to participate in this process to put political pressure on the government and on the NEB to recognize that we are all affected by this project. We need to demand the NEB consider the climatic effects of the development of the tar sands. If the NEB does not allow us to talk about the tar sands we will join in a campaign to oppose the NEB.

How can I participate in the NEB process?

Step One

To participate in the NEB process is to fill out this subscription form to receive news and up-dates related to the hearing process.

Step Two

You must also participate in an NEB information session.

These "NEB 101" sessions are between 30 and 40 minutes and are followed by a question period. The sessions will give you a general background to the NEB and the hearing process and will include information specific to the Energy East project.

The sessions are offered on line, or you can participate by phone and follow along with an English or French pdf of the presentation that can be found on the NEB website. You can call 1-877-413-4781, and use the access code 7592393.

By signing up for up-dates from the NEB you will have immediate access to news and developments regarding TransCanada’s application.

You can familiarize yourself with the hearing process by reviewing the NEB Hearing Process Handbook.

Where do I find the letters to sign?

There are many letters you can sign to the NEB., the Council of Canadians, and Lead Now are all asking people to sign letters in support of a better NEB process. is encouraging people to join them, and they have a letter campaign encouraging NEB Chair Paul Watson to include climate impacts in the review. Send your letter here: Give Energy East a People's Intervention.

The Council of Canadians has launched Our Risk: Their Reward, and has a similar letter campaign that you can find here: We need a fair pipeline review. Lead Now’s No Legitimacy campaign is here.

No Energy East Manitoba Open Letter (directly below)

We will be launching an open letter from Manitobans to the National Energy Board on December 8th. Please sign on to this letter pushing NEB Chair Paul Watson to include upstream and downstream effects of the tar sands in the review.

If you have any questions or want more information please check out our website or email us at


To Peter Watson, Chair of the National Energy Board of Canada

Re: An Open Letter to the National Energy Board on TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline

Dear Mr. Watson,

We, the under signed, are writing to urge the National Energy Board to amend its review of TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline. We believe that the review process must consider the full scope of the proposed project’s environmental and human impacts, including upstream and downstream effects. Any regulatory review should include not only the impact of the pipeline itself, but also the cumulative impacts of producing, refining, and burning the oil that would flow through it, if the project were approved.

If the NEB continues to refuse to assess upstream and downstream impacts you are leaving essential questions unanswered:

  • What are the global climate impacts of burning the oil this pipeline carries?

  • Understanding that this project would enable tar sands expansion, what consequences would Energy East have on the world’s ability to keep global average temperatures below a 2 degree Celsius temperature rise?

  • What would be the economic and health effects of increased tar sands production on communities, including First Nations communities, near the tar sands and along the pipeline?

  • What are the projected economic costs of the national and global climate impacts associated with any project which increases tar sand production? Who would be most likely to bear these costs?

  • What kinds of climate adaptation plans would be required based on the climate impacts of this proposed project? Who would develop them? Who would pay for them, and how?

Without a full and transparent accounting of the global climate impacts and associated economic and health costs of this project, we cannot in good conscience consider the National Energy Board to be acting in the best interest of Canadian families. Without including these critical questions, how can we believe the NEB to be undertaking a legitimate review of the proposal?

It is in your power to add these areas of concern to the “list of issues” for consideration. If it is currently outside the scope of the regulatory powers of the NEB to address these questions, we urge you to exercise exemplary moral leadership and refuse to review this pipeline and petition parliament to grant you the legal authority to do so.

For a resilient and stable future,

No Energy East Manitoba – Energy Justice Coalition

Idle No More Winnipeg

The University of Winnipeg Students Association

The Council of Canadians – Winnipeg Chapter

Winnipeg Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement

Boreal Action

Hazards of Transportation of Manitoba Crude Oil

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on October 9, 2014 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (4)

Hazards of Transportation of Manitoba Crude Oil


D.M. LeNeveu


Almost all of the oil produced now in Manitoba is from horizontal wells using hydraulic fracturing (1,2).



Much of Manitoba crude oil is transported by pipeline and rail cars from the distribution centre at Cromer, Manitoba (28,38 ).  Three major pipelines pass through Cromer: the Enbridge main line, the Enbridge Bakken line and the TransCanada Keystone line (40,41,42). The Enbridge main line consists of seven parallel pipelines running in a single corridor entering Manitoba west of Virden and exiting near Gretna (43). In addition to crude oil from Manitoba, these pipelines carry oil from Saskatchewan, Alberta including diluted bitumen from the tar sands and from the Bakken in the US. The remainder of Manitoba crude is shipped primarily by rail car. The terminal at Cromer Manitoba is rated as having a rail capacity of 60 thousand barrels a day. The volume shipped by rail is predicted to increase from 200 thousand barrels a day in Western Canada in 2014 to almost 800 thousand by 2016 (28 ).


The total oil production in Manitoba in 2012 was 18.5 million barrels (1). This is small by global standards but the burning of this fuel contributes to global warming.


Manitoba crude oil is normally transported as a light sour crude blend (LSB) containing typically one per cent sulphur by weight, four percent gas by volume (mostly butane), two percent benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene (BTEX),  and an undisclosed amount of H2S (3). BTEX is one of the most dangerous, persistent and mobile environmental contaminants (4).  The maximum acceptable concentration of benzene in Canadian drinking water is five micrograms per litre (5).  H2S is a deadly toxic gas (66). There is no prescribed limit for H2S in crude oil (67).


The National Energy Board (NEB) is responsible for regulation of interprovincial and international pipelines in Canada. A spill from a pipeline under NEB jurisdiction must be reported immediately and an emergency response plan filed, an environmental site assessment and a remedial action plan must be submitted. The NEB must approve a closure report demonstrating all standards have been met (6). Between 2006 and 2012 there were five pipeline accidents under NEB jurisdiction within Manitoba (7). Last winter an explosion of a TransCanada gas pipeline occurred in Otterburne Manitoba (8 ).  Enbridge was found to be negligent in a pipeline spill in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan of nearly three million litres of diluted bitumen (dilbit) from Alberta that took more than four years to cleanup at a cost of more than one billion dollars (9).  The Enbridge pipeline that carries the dilbit crosses Manitoba.


Intra-provincial pipe lines are under the jurisdiction of the Manitoba government (6).

In 2012 there were ninety recorded oil spills under Manitoba jurisdiction comprising 795 thousand litres (10). Wellhead leaks accounted for 40% of the spilled volume, pipeline and flowline breaks, 14% , oil batteries failure, 11%,  tank leakage, 18%, and trucking, 14%.  Rail oil spill data for Manitoba is unavailable. Rail has a thirty three times higher spill rate than pipelines according to US statistics but, based on spill volume, the rate is only 2.7 times higher (14). The oil companies at fault are responsible for the cost of spill cleanup in Manitoba. In a typical spill, a vacuum truck collects the freestanding fluid and washes the soil. The fluids are transported to an approved disposal facility. Gypsum and calcium nitrate are used for remediation of brines from oil spills.  Where remediation is not feasible, the contaminated soil is recovered and disposed of at an approved facility (1).  The effectiveness of these measures can be questioned. Removal of surface contaminated soil will not necessarily remove all of mobile BTEX contamination (15). In 2013, an oil spill from an underground flow line near the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border of more than 100 thousand litres was not detected for more than 10 days, more than enough time for soluble BTEX contaminants to seep deep into the ground (11). Under aerobic conditions benzene will be degraded after about one year, however under anaerobic conditions BTEX contamination can persist much longer (16).


There are guidelines from Manitoba Environment requiring soil testing of petroleum contaminated soil from storage tanks however no regulations could be found pertaining to soil testing to ensure effectiveness of the remediation and cleanup of oil spills (17). There is criticism that many oil spills in Manitoba go unreported, inspection and enforcement of regulations is inadequate, enforcement should be independent of the Petroleum Branch that promotes the oil industry, and the petroleum industry in Manitoba is largely self regulated (12, 13).  


In addition to surface spills there is evidence that drill mud sprayed onto agricultural land can contain BTEX contaminants (18 ). The contaminants can come from fracking fluids, drilling fluids and from oil and gas released into formations during fracking operations. Fugitive releases of oil and gas can be expected to be particularly large in shut-in periods in open-hole completion commonly used with horizontal wells where rock is exposed and hydraulic fracturing has opened fractures penetrating deep into the formations (19). At least 10% of wells can be shut-in in Manitoba for periods up to three years or more. (20,68 ). Oil and gas fluids that are less dense than the surrounding brine will leak into the horizontal wells during shut-in. Buoyancy pressure will act on the fugitive oil and gas driving it upwards through induced and natural fractures and permeable pathways and into aquifers (20). Upward movement of these less dense fluids will lower the pressure in the horizontal wells causing further and ongoing release essentially creating a gas and oil siphon. Also vertical well sections are known to leak gas and oil into the formations through cement defects around steel casings (70,71,72). Subsequent drilling operations will encounter such fugitive gas and oil that will contaminate the drill mud that is eventually sprayed onto the land (74).  In Manitoba there are regulations pertaining to hydrocarbon (<0.1% dry weight), salts, heavy metal and concentrations in land spray (73). There is no requirement to measure or restrict BTEX contamination. No independent testing and recording of soil concentrations and spray area is done and violations are investigated only upon a complaint basis.  


The explosive content of Manitoba crude oil is similar to the Bakken crude that exploded and destroyed Megantic (3,22), killing 47 people on July 6, 2013. (23,24). The estimated 400 million clean up reconstruction cost for Lac Megantic is being born by government (27). An explosion and fire of crude oil is accompanied by a large toxic black smoke plume such as occurred in the train derailment and crude oil fire near Casselton, North Dakota in 2013 (25). Such a plume could necessitate the evacuation of an entire city such as Winnipeg (26). After the Lac Megantic incident several emergency rulings were issued in the US and Canada regarding rail safety and rail car specifications (28 ). Older railcars with less stringent safety features are to be phased out in Canada over a period of three years (29). Concerns remain that these measures are insufficient to prevent further disasters especially considering the forecasted increase in oil shipments by rail (30). Rail lines carrying LSB run right through the heart of Winnipeg and oil pipelines run near many southwest Manitoba towns. The planned Energy East pipeline for carrying dilbit will follow the Trans-Canada highway in Manitoba and pass through the southern boundary of Winnipeg (79).


Fugitive emissions from pipelines are known to occur through leaking seals and through pressure relief valves that occur at intervals along the line. Pressure relief valves are required to relieve pressure from line pressure surges that could breach the pipe (31). The NEB has recently issued warning regarding the danger of pipeline breaks from inadequate pressure relief measures in pipelines (32). Enbridge and other pipeline companies have been cited in improper pipeline design to account for pressure relief (33,34). Fugitive pipeline releases such from pressure relief valves and leaking seals are known to contribute to greenhouse gas burden and can be toxic especially in lines carrying hydrogen sulphide gas (35, 36, 37).


For every litre of oil produced in Manitoba there is from 5 to 65 litres of sour gas. The hydrogen sulphide content of the gas ranges from less than 0.01% to 13.5% (44). The oil in Manitoba is sent through heat treaters to remove residual water content. In this process much of the sour solution gas is driven off and flared. Some is captured to use as fuel in the heat treater (44). The organic sulphur in oil can decompose upon heating in the heat treater to form H2S (49,50). The gas remaining in the oil after heat treatment (primarily butane (3)) will contain hydrogen sulphide. There is no available measurement of hydrogen sulphide content of oil transported in Manitoba. However, based on gas content of LSB from Manitoba and Saskatchewan (4%) and the range of H2S in sour gas content in Manitoba (0.01 to 13.5% (44)), the content H2S content of oil can be estimated to be between 4 and 5400 ppm. It could be argued most of the H2S would be driven off in the heat treater. However given that H2S has a higher boiling point (-60˚ C)  than methane (-258.7˚ C), and ethane (-127.5˚ C) the major constituents of Manitoba sour gas (47, 48 ) and thermal decomposition of organic sulphur to H2S is likely to occur in the heat treater, the H2S percentage in the reaming gas is likely to be greater after heat treatment. The H2S content of one heat treater oil sample near Virden from 1974 archived on a Manitoba government website was 100 ppm by volume (80) which is consistent with the predicted range. Further production of H2S from the sulphur in oil (1% in LSB) is likely to occur in tanks, railcars and pipelines from sulphate reducing bacteria (51,52). Thus the final H2S concentration in transported oil would likely be higher than the estimated range of 4 to 5400 ppm.

The bacterial production of hydrogen sulphide in pipelines can lead to corrosion and failure as has occurred in the Prudhoe Bay oil spill and the Trans Alaska pipeline (57,58,59, 60). In Lac Megantic it is suspected that exposure to H2S from the crude oil in the rail cars contributed to the death toll (61).


In the US, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved requests from oil pipeline companies to restrict H2S content in oil to 5 ppm to protect workers (53).  There is no restriction or reporting of hydrogen sulphide content in oil from Manitoba. Transport of sour oil and gas in Manitoba exposes both the public and workers to risk from deadly hydrogen sulphide gas (66).


To ensure that H2S in pipelines and rail cars is less than 5 ppm, sulphur would have to be removed at source requiring expensive desulphurization plants (54, 75). In the tar sands and elsewhere in Alberta and B.C. huge stockpiles of elemental sulphur are accumulating at an unacceptable and alarming rate from such plants (55). These stockpiles present an unfunded environmentally toxic liability.  In Alberta and B.C., injection of hydrogen sulphide gas into depleted or operational oil and gas fields is being used as the preferred method of sulphur disposal (56). These oil and gas fields contain numerous wells that will eventually leak with potentially severe environmental consequences (76, 77). As sweet oil and gas reserves are depleted the extraction of sour oil and gas will increase as will the environmental sulphur liability. Sulphur and H2S in oil and gas is an insoluble problem for the petroleum industry (55,78 ).  In Canada for instance the sulphur liability of the tar sands alone is a massive 14 billion metric tonnes (62,63).     


In Manitoba all hydrogen sulphide from sour gas is flared. Flaring of H2S from desulphurization plants used to remove sulphur from the oil to allow safer transportation would exacerbate environmentally damaging and toxic emissions of H2S and sulphur dioxide. Measurements of exceedences of guidelines for hydrogen sulphide exposure have occurred in the Tilston area in Manitoba (48 ). It has been reported that in a ranch in the Tilston area where exceedences were measured, over forty head of cattle died. The owner of the ranch found his one-year old grandson overcome by flaring fumes inside his own home. Fortunately he managed to revive the boy. The rancher is now in a long term care facility and four of his neighbours have abandoned their homes (65).

Why are we continuing on this destructive pathway of fossil fuel extraction? Manitoba has plenty of hydro, wind and solar potential. How close is your family to a pipeline, railway or flare stack? Is it not time we stood up and put an end to this madness?

Contributor: Dennis LeNeveu - Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter


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2.    Welch, M.A. Fracking on the Rise in Manitoba, Winnipeg Free Press, July 2, 2013.

3.    Crude Oil Quality Incorporated, Crude Oil Monitor , #201, 17850 105 Avenue 
Edmonton, Alberta Canada T5S 2H5, 2014

4.    U.S Depatrment of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Interaction Profile for: Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, and Xylenes (BTEX), May 2004

5.    Health Canada, Benzene Guideline Technical Document, Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, June 2009

6.    Natural Resources Canada, Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Federally-Regulated Pipelines in Canada, )

7.    Transportation Safety Board of Canada, Statistical Summary – Pipeline Occurrences, 2012,

8.    Kives, B., Pipeline Failures Relatively Rare Here, The Winnipeg Free Press, September 8, 2014

9.    Linnitt, C., Official Price of the Enbridge Kalamazoo Spill a Whopping $1,039,000,000, DesMogCanada, Aug. 26, 2013,

10.    Manitoba Mineral Resources, Spill Statistics, 2012 Petroleum Industry Spill Statistics

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20.    Manitoba Energy and Mines, Informational Notice No.94-5, Well Suspension Guidelines, Oct. 27, 1994,

21.    Byrnes, A.P., R.M. Webb, J.C.  and Cluff, R.M. 2009, “Analysis of Critical Permeablity, Capillary Pressure and Electrical Properties for Mesaverde Tight Gas Sandstones from Western U.S. Basins”, Final Report, U.S. Department of Energy contract #DE-FC26-05NT42660, Submitted by: University of Kansas Center for Research, Inc., 2385 Irving Hill Road Lawrence, KS 66044,Prepared for: United States Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory June 30, 2009,

22.    Dangerous Goods Transport Consulting Inc., A Survey of Bakken Crude Oil Characteristics Assembled For the U.S. Department of Transportation, May 14 2014.file:///C://Users/Owner/Downloads/Survey%20of%20Crude%20Oil%20Characteristics_FINAL%20(4).PDF2

23.    The Common Sense Canadian, More oil spilled at Lac-Mégantic than by Enbridge into Kalamazoo River, July 22, 2013

24.    Mackrael, K. and Robertson, G., Lax safety practices blamed for Lac-Mégantic tragedy, The Globe and Mail, Aug 19, 2014 )

25.    Walsh,M. North Dakota Town Evacuated after Fiery Train Derailment, New York Daily News, Dec. 30, 2013,

26.    Nikiforuk, A., The Enbridge Dirty Dozen, The Tyee, July 31, 2010,

27.    Palmer, R., Ottawa may Spread Oil by Rail Insurance Burden, Mulls Special Fund, The Globe and Mail, Sept. 22, 2014,

28.    Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Transporting Crude Oil by Rail In Canada, Mach 2014

29.    Dawid, I., Oil and Rail Industries Agree to Phase Old Oldest Rail Oil Tank Cars, Planetizen, July 23, 2013,

30.    CBC News, Montreal, Lac Megantic: More Must be Done to Avoid another Disaster Critics say, The Canadian Press, July 3, 2014,

31.    Baker, M. Jr. Inc., Comparison of US and  Canadian Transmission Pipeline Consensus Standards, Final Report, prepared for US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration Office of Pipeline Safety, May 2008,

32.    National Energy Board (the Board) Safety Advisory 2012-01
Overpressure Protection, April 2, 2002,

33.     Accufacts Inc. Report on Pipeline Safety for Enbridge’s Line 9B Application to NEB, August 5, 2013,

34.    Daily Oil Bulletin, TransCanada Integrity Management Program Needs Some Work, NEB Audit Finds, Feb 25, 2014,

35.    Kirchgessner, D. A., Lott, R.A.,  Cowgill, R.M.,  Harrison,M.R., Shires, T. M., Estimate of Methane Emissions from the U.S. Natural Gas Industry, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Air Pollution Prevention and Control Division Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 277112 Gas Research Institute 8600 Bryn Mawr Ave. Chicago, Illinois 606313 Radian Corporation 8501 N. Mopac Blvd. Austin, Texas 78720-1088,1996

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Energy East Pipeline Spill, Explosion and Toxic Smoke plume

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on October 7, 2014 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (1)

Energy East Pipeline Spill, Explosion and Toxic Smoke Plume


D.M. LeNeveu

On July 6, 2013 the fireball from a spill of 5.7 million litres of Bakken crude oil from a train derailment destroyed the town centre, in Megantic Quebec killing 47 people (1,2). Could the same thing happen from a spill of dilbit along the Energy East pipeline? The simple answer is yes. A spill and fire could occur anywhere from Alberta to St. John New Brunswick including in heavily populated centres such as Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal.


Dilbit has a lower concentration of volatile hydrocarbons than Bakken crude but contains thirty percent volatile diluent that is responsible for its low flash point of -35˚C (3). After about 24 hours of weathering dilbit is no longer flammable without an accelerant or other fuel source (4). The sulphur content of dilbit is 3.37% while conventional crude has only 0.34-0.57 % sulphur (5). Most of the sulphur in bitumen extracted by steam assisted gravity drainage is converted by thermal decomposition to the explosive and deadly gas H2S (6,7). Dilbit from cold Lake Alberta is reported to have 300 ppm H2S (8 ).  The high temperature of dilbit in the line of 70˚C can lead to further thermal decomposition potentially increasing the H2S concentration to more than 1000 ppm. (5,8,24). Naturally occurring bacteria can also convert sulphur to H2S in the pipeline (25).

Based on worker safety, the Federal Energy Regulator Commission in the US has allowed pipeline companies to reject oil with more than 5 ppm H2S (23, 26). The H2S produced from microbial action and thermal decomposition can lead to the weakening, corrosion and embrittlement of pipelines (5, 8,33) as occurred in the TransAlaska pipeline and the Prudhoe Bay oil spill (31,32).

The pipeline pressure for dilbit is 1440 psi compared to 600 psi for conventional crude and about 1000 psi for natural gas (5,9). At 927 kg/m3 (3) dilbit is a little less dense than water and has an energy content similar to Bakken crude with one thousand times the energy content of natural gas per cubic meter (9,10,11).  Dilbit contains fifteen to twenty times higher acid concentrations than conventional crudes and high concentrations of chloride salts which can lead to chloride stress corrosion particularly for the higher temperature of a dilbit pipeline (5). The 125 pounds of quartz sand and alumino-silicates per minute pumped in the dilbit line will erode the forty year old pipeline (5,12,13). This abrasive sand is not in conventional crude or natural gas lines (5). The sand and scale from corrosion could interfere with and render ineffective the line inspection by "smart pigs (14, 27, 28, 36)."The sixteen fold higher pipeline spill rate in Alberta compared to the US is likely due to the corrosive and abrasive properties of dilbit (5).


It would take up to 10 minutes to shut down the Energy East Pipeline after a leak. In this time, about one million litres of dilbit could spill (14). The pipeline is 1.067 metres in diameter, the distance between shut off valves is 30 kilometres (14) and the pipeline volume between shut off valves is 23 million litres. A substantial portion of this 23 million litre volume could drain out after valve closure likely spilling more than in Megantic. Large pipeline leaks of dilbit have already occurred such as the 3 million litre spill in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010 (15). A 5.2 million litre pipeline spill of crude oil occurred in Manitoba in 1967 (16). In 2012, ninety oil spills occurred in Manitoba with a total volume of 795 thousand litres (17).  Dilbit is toxic. The heavy portion of the dilbit sinks in water and is very difficult to clean up (15). The toxins are known to enter the food chain (28 ).


Between Alberta and Winnipeg five natural gas lines run parallel (18 ). One is slated to be converted to carry dilbit (19). Three lines parallel run from Winnipeg to North Bay and two from North Bay to Toronto (18 ). Four natural gas pipelines explosions have occurred in Manitoba since 1995, the most recent in Otterburne in the winter of 2014 (20). The explosion of one line in Rapid City of July 19, 1995 ignited a second line (20). The combination of a dilbit line and parallel natural gas lines magnifies the risk of dilbit fire and explosion.


The smoke plume from a dilbit fire is likely to be extensive due to the large amounts of heavier hydrocarbons and would require the evacuation of a large area. For example, on July 4, 2002, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources set a controlled burn of 950 thousand litre crude oil spill from an Enbridge pipeline break near Cohasset Minnesota that created a smoke plume about 1.6 kilometres high and 8.0 kilometres long (21,22). Under certain conditions the evacuation of an entire city such as Winnipeg could be required (27).


It is not a matter of if, but when and where spills, deadly explosions and massive toxic plumes will occur along the Energy East pipeline.

Contributor: Dennis LeNeveu - Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter


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T6E 5R7

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