The Council of Canadians - Winnipeg Chapter


Winnipeg: Energy East: Our Risk - Their Reward

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on March 20, 2016 at 1:10 PM

On Wednesday March 16 over 150 people gathered at a town hall sponsored by the Council of Canadians and the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition to hear about the Energy East pipeline and what it means for Winnipeg.

Chickadee Richard welcomed everyone to Treaty One territory, and offered a prayer to open the gathering. Michael Matczuk spoke for the coalition, describing specific local issues and the ongoing campaigning of MEJC volunteers. He outlined the potential for slow, undetectable leaks spreading from the pipeline to seep into the aqueduct where the two follow a parallel route for 100 kilometres between Shoal Lake and Winnipeg. Matczuk explained the city’s legal obligation to provide and protect drinking water for the citizens of Winnipeg, and spelled out the reality that if the original pipeline had been for oil instead of gas, the route through the boggy area near the aqueduct would not have been approved. It would not even have been proposed.

Daryl Redsky shared his perspective as an indigenous man and a member of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, pointing out that his community was never consulted, and never informed about the original, 40-year-old pipeline. “Now this pipeline...I’ve never had any conversation with anyone about it, It’s 10-12 kilometres from my house,” he said. “I’ve waited for someone to talk to me, waited for my phone to ring. I always tell industry, it’s my job to protect my people and my resources. Nobody has contacted me. I’m strongly opposed to having a pipeline in my backyard and I told the chief what my feelings are.” Redsky spoke movingly of his connection to the earth and the water that we all share, and referenced the unique connection that Winnipeg has to Shoal Lake 40. Winnipeg’s drinking water comes entirely from Shoal Lake through the aqueduct, but the First Nation itself has no access to safe drinking water. “Everyone in this room is 60-70% Shoal Lake,” he said wryly. “So you’re fighting for yourself.”

Andrea Harden-Donahue moderated the evening, sharing information throughout to clarify and give national context. She described the phenomenal effect that citizens’ action can have on seemingly unwinnable battles, showing slides of action at Cacouna Quebec, where people put an end to Transcanada’s plans to put a dilbit port in the middle of a Beluga habitat; and of the grassroots resistance at the eastern end of the pipeline where indigenous and non-indigenous communities are rising up in solid opposition to Energy East.

Maude Barlow, national chairperson of Council of Canadians, spoke on the many, many dangers of the proposed pipeline, dangers that affect local ecosystems, communities along the 4200 kms, the increasingly fragile environment we all share, and the global climate.

Barlow directly addressed the myth of the pipeline as a nation builder, and identified that myth as the false manipulation that it is. Maude drew applause with her reminder that the water belongs to us not to any corporation and we must protect it for our children; that we must not leave a legacy of poisoned water for our children.

“This notion that this is a great national project - that’s a lie. One spill, just one spill, it doesn’t matter where -- that will be the place that divide us. The great project that will bring us together is the protection of water as a public trust. That’s our job. You cannot have that and Energy East.”

A question and answer session at the end brought up some interesting and challenging questions, including one about the exact process that TransCanada will follow to convert the gas pipeline. The answer was not reassuring. They don’t pull it up and rebuild the decades old gas pipeline that was never intended to cope with the very different demands of tar sands bitumen. They do monitor for signs of corrosion and other problems. There are of course many proprietary aspects to TransCanada’s plans, and that means the information is not publicly available, Again, not reassuring.

The Winnipeg chapter is a member of the MEJC, and together, these grassroots organizations have been working hard to educate and inform citizens and government. Michael’s talk is on the MEJC blog, and video of the entire evening is included below.

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Contributor: Mary Robinson - Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter Chair

Categories: No Energy East Pipeline

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