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Quebec vs. the Tar Sands: Round One

Since the May 10, a group of concerned citizens have been following -- on foot -- the trajectory of prospective Tar Sands pipelines in Quebec. The march follows the route of two connected projects: TransCanada's Energy East (not yet approved) and Enbridge's Line 9 (already approved). The journey in its entirety will be 700 kilometers of walking, over a period of 34 days.

The march, called Peoples for Mother Earth, has stated its goals as follows: 

 

  • Demonstrate opposition to the two above-mentioned pipeline projects which would carry Tar Sands fuel through Quebec.
  • Demonstrate opposition to the Tar Sands exploitation as a whole.
  • Demonstrate support for an economy based on long-term sustainability and renewable energy.
  • Unify the voice of Quebec's environmental movement with that of First Nations.

 

The march began in Cacouna, where TransCanada is currently attempting to purchase an already-existing public port and convert it into an export station for the Tar Sands. From that point until Montreal, it will cover the route of Energy East; and after Montreal it will follow  Line 9. It will end in Kanehsata:ke, an indigenous reserve known for its long history of activism

The march seeks to mobilize opposition to the pipelines which are currently being rubber-stamped by the National Energy Board (NEB), which no longer has any regulatory teeth due to the Conservative Party's Bill C-38. Because the internal mechanisms of regulation and reform have been gutted, the marchers have decided to voice their dissent in the streets.

Each town visited during the march is mobilized with door-to-door pamphleting, and the majority of citizens who are visited are sympathetic to the march's ideas and are opposed to the pipelines. Often, though, individuals feel powerless when faced with the leviathan of the Tar Sands industry. For this reason, the march seeks to show that if people work together in the struggle against the pipelines, the power does exist for citizens to stop them. The march has been attempting, with the help of many local STOP Oleoduc organizations and the Coule Pas Chez Nous campaign, to create networks of resistance to Tar Sands infrastructure in Quebec.

The march has also tapped into the already existing networks which emerged during Quebec's successful struggle against incoming shale gas exploitation, which took place in 2011. At that time, it was said that hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") was inevitable, that it was a sign of progress, and that the benefits would be large and far-reaching. Yet, the citizens of Quebec did not believe those industry talking points. At that time, another long march emerged -- from Rimouski to Montreal -- which attempted to, like Peoples for Mother Earth, foster alliances between disparate groups against fracking. Farmers worked with indigenous groups, local business and average citizens. These alliances became strong enough that fracking in Quebec was abandoned. 

Time will tell whether this resistance to the Tar Sands will have the same effect. The marchers have little doubt that, with much struggle and effort, it will. 

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