Archive for the 'Canada' Category

Energy East Open House – SansTransCanada and SaveCanada steal the show.

Crossposted from

This evening TransCanada held their one and only open house in the vast city of Montreal. The open house was situated in the middle of nowhere in the east industrial area and almost everyone visiting got lost. Surprisingly, for a massive infrastructure project there were few ‘regular’ citizens to be seen. In fact there were more blue shirts in the room all night than ‘regular’ citizens.

But that statement doesn’t tell the whole story. It was clear that the majority of those blue shirts and regular citizens were actually concerned citizens.  has been attending these events, dressed in almost exactly the same fatigue as the TransCanada representatives and handing out more information about how this pipeline will impact Canadians and the world.  It seems that the TransCanada people don’t know what to do with them. Throughout the evening Save Canada, and SansTransCanada, their Quebec counterpart, engaged with citizens and even played a little game of ‘pin the spill on the pipeline’.

From my perspective it looks like TransCanada has a long uphill battle ahead. There are a lot of concerned citizens, few actual jobs and they are building an export pipeline. If you are looking for some more information here is one source and click here for more visuals

Enbridge Greeted With Vocal Opposition at BC Hearings

This week, the Joint Review Panel has been holding hearings in Victoria about the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Just today, the Dogwood Initiative tweeted:

Final speaker of the day makes it official! 141 OPPOSED – in favour, ZERO at the #yyj #Enbridge #JRP hearings #bcpoli

Earlier in the week, several news outlets (written coverage here and TV coverage here) reported heavy police presence and “armed guards” at the hearings, where the public is supposed to be able to express their opinions on the pipeline which is planned to carry over 500,000 barrels of tar sands per day from Alberta to the Pacific Coast where it will be exported. Organizers with Social Coast organized events outside of the hearings and criticized the undemocratic nature of the hearings. “They are public hearings, are they not?” asked Eric Nordal of Social Coast. The format of the hearings taking place this month and next in Victoria, Vancouver, and Kelowna are having a different format than previous hearings on the same pipeline. People who have registered to speak are asked to speak to the panel one at a time, while others wait in a separate observation room. A few months ago, there were also updates as to what people were allowed to speak about, prohibiting people to address issues such as climate change.

The following is a release sent out by Rising Tide-Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. A long list of endorsers indicates the broad-based opposition to Enbridge, and other pipelines that would bring fossil fuels to the coast and across unceded Inidgenous territories.

Media Release-January 7th, 2013

Enbridge Panel to be Greeted with Loud Demonstration
Diverse list of grassroots groups demand consent not consultation

When the Enbridge pipeline joint Environmental Assessment and Energy Board hearings open in Vancouver on January 14th they will be greeted by community members determined to make their opposition heard on the streets and inside the hearing room. A large, noise demonstration will march through downtown Vancouver in full support of the self-determination of Indigenous communities, and their rights to say no to oil and gas pipelines across their territories.

The Harper government has gutted Canada’s already weak environmental laws, giving cabinet the final say on pipeline projects and making the Joint Review Panel hearings merely a public relations (consultation) exercise. This undemocratic change attempts to remove the rights of communities to say no to big oil corporations. Continue reading ‘Enbridge Greeted With Vocal Opposition at BC Hearings’

ACTION ALERT: Stop the tar sands at their source, Say NO to Shell

ImageUntil October 1st you can make a written submission or sign up to make a presentation submission to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency about the Shell Jackpine Mine Expansion. Visit to find out more or visit this page directly to make your submission. It is easy. It won’t take you long. You can do it now!

On October 23rd, for the first time ever, two First Nations—the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Mikisew Cree–will be filing a constitutional challenge against a tar sands mining project. Shell wants to expand the Jackpine Mine, adding 100,000 barrels of bitumen production per day to the existing 200,000 barrels per day. That would be enough to fuel both the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline (525,000bpd) and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline (currently 300,000 and proposed to expand to over 700,000bpd), with plenty to spare. To learn more about these tar sands pipelines, visit

Pipelines are a recipe for disaster and mean fear of fractures and spills that would impact sensitive ecosystems, wildlife, and water systems and rivers that provide communities with water and food. With spills may also come the forced evacuation of communities, but also negligence of community health. People have reported burning eyes and headaches when there have been leaks. But when opposing these pipelines, it is crucial that we not only think about the destruction that happens along the pipeline route, but also the destruction that is happening at the point of extraction and downstream from these mines. Downstream communities have been plagued with rare cancers, increased autoimmune diseases and cardiovascular disease. There has also been increasing diabetes as people can no longer eat and live off traditional foods because water, fish, and moose have been poisoned by tar sands contamination.

Last Friday, several women from tar sands impacted communities shared their personal stories at the event She Speaks: Indigenous Women Speak Up Against the Tar Sands. One of the speakers, Melina Laboucon-Massimo of the Lubicon Cree First Nation spoke about the community impacts of last year’s Rainbow pipeline rupture and the company’s negligent response and has also produced a photo essay.

This fall, the Council of Canadians will be holding a No Pipelines, No Tankers Speaking Tour in which we talk about the pipelines proposed to bring fossil fuels to BC’s coast for export and corporate profit. We will be talking about the fights against three pipelines in BC—the Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain, and the Pacific Trails Pipeline—and the much needed solidarity in fighting all of the pipelines. For more information about the pipelines tour, visit

This blog was also posted on

Over 54 Groups Call For Independnt Inquiry into Pipeline Safety in Alberta

For Immediate Release

July 12, 2012

Redford faces mounting pressure for independent inquiry into pipeline safety

(Edmonton) Representatives of more than 50 provincial organizations today released an open letter calling on Premier Alison Redford to establish an independent inquiry into pipeline safety in Alberta. The organizations represent a broad cross-section of Alberta’s population, including farmer, landowner, labour, health, First Nations and environmental groups.

“The recent spate of pipeline spills has been a wake-up call for all Albertans,” said Don Bester, President of the Alberta Surface Rights Group. “We know that we have a problem with pipeline safety in this province, and we can’t afford to wait another year before starting to look at solutions or diagnosing the problem.”

The text of the open letter sent to the premier and opposition leaders reads:

Dear Premier Redford,

The recent series of major pipeline spills in the province has raised serious concerns for all Albertans about the integrity and oversight of the more than 300,000 kilometres of oil and gas pipelines that crisscross the province. These spills have brought attention to an issue that affects the entire province. Albertans deserve assurances that our pipeline infrastructure is safe, and that appropriate regulations and oversight are in place.

For this reason, we are calling on you to initiate an immediate independent province-wide review of pipeline safety in Alberta, similar to the one which was recently conducted for the Auditor General of Saskatchewan’s 2012 report.

We are encouraged that you have indicated you are “not opposed” to such a review, but we believe that such a critical issue simply cannot wait, as you have indicated, for the conclusion of the ERCB investigation into the recent spills. The average ERCB investigation takes nine months to complete, with some investigations taking years, and broader concerns related to regulation and enforcement are unlikely to be addressed by these investigations. An independent review of regulations and enforcement can and must be conducted in a parallel time frame to any ERCB investigation into individual spills.

Albertans need to know that their families, communities and drinking water are safe from pipeline spills. The time for leadership on pipeline safety is now, and the first step must be an independent pipeline safety review.

Continue reading ‘Over 54 Groups Call For Independnt Inquiry into Pipeline Safety in Alberta’

Burnaby Doesn’t Want This To Happen Again. Would You?

On Wednesday, a community forum to discuss the Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion showed that residents of Burnaby are opposed to this project. Not surprising, since Burnaby has seen first-hand what can happen. In 2007, a Burnaby oil spill caused 15 million dollars in clean-up costs and forced evacuations. For the cbc coverage, click here.

There were speakers from Kinder Morgan, the Burnaby Chevron refinery, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, federal NDP Kennedy Stewart, and Carleen Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation followed by time for Q & A and comments.

Several hundred people attended the forum, packing the church and requiring people to stand in the aisles. The pipeline expansion is clearly a concern to residents and people said that they came “well informed” but were not getting the information they needed from the company.

While the facilitator asked that people refrain from responding to peoples questions, answers, or comments (whether agreeing or disagreeing) so as to ensure the timeliness of the forum, anytime someone voiced opposition (from the audience or the panel) to the proposal there were cheers and applause from the audience.

The questions began with residents concerned that expanding this pipeline would undermine a collective need to transition off of fossil fuels, mitigate climate change, and protect Burnaby and Burrard Inlet from oil spills. Kinder Morgan hopes to more than double the capacity of the pipeline so that oil can be exported. Burnaby was concerned that they were being put at great risk–repeating that it was not a matter of “if” a spill happens, but “when”–at the expense of corporate profit.

Mayor Corrigan accused the lack of federal foresight into transitioning Canada to renewable and more sustainable energy sources, and for allowing energy purchasing to be at the whim of the market and trans-national corporations. He says that the company is expecting people to live in constant fear.

His particular fear was around oil pollution entering the Inlet, as it is much more difficult to manage oil once it reaches water than if it remains on land. If the expansion goes through, the Westridge terminal would expand from 2 berths to 3 berths, and increasing the risk of a spill by increasing the number of tankers that go in and out of the inlet. “It only takes one act of negligence, one accident, and once mistake to destroy one of the most beautiful places on Earth,” he stated.

Burnaby city council has been adamently opposed to the project, and Mayor Corrigen continued to say that he was “appalled” at Kinder Morgan’s response to the 2007 spill. A clean-up crew took 17 hours to arrive on sight, and the city and Tsleil-Waututh Nation were the first on sight. Corrigan further highlighted the company’s negligence by exposing that Kinder Morgan turned off pipeline flow at the wrong end, causing overall damage to be “twice as bad as it could have been.” Members of the audience responded with “Shame.”

Carleen Thomas, an elected band council from the Tsleil-Waututh, was the last on the panel to speak and made sure that it was public record that the forum did not serve as a consultation with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. Thomas echoed the concern that federal and provincial governments are not planning to decrease dependence on fossil fuels, explaining that her Nation is looking at alternative energies and remaining stewards of the land and the Inlet.

“The Tsleil-Waututh Nation opposes the expansion.” This statement at the end of the evening invited cheers and applause from the vast majority of attendees…except for the ones from Kinder Morgan.

Kinder Morgan will be applying for a tolling permit in the next few days with public consultation beginning in the fall. While this is typically not the process for pipeline approvals, many are going to be keeping their eye on Kinder Morgan and repsonding to this pipeline expansion proposal in order to protect their communities.

This article was originally posted on the Council of Canadians website.

Celebrate Earth Day with the 4 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Resist

Dear Diary,

Today I went to Dundas Square, one of the busiest intersections in Toronto to join Rhytms of Resistance-Toronto,“a political samba-inspired band that plays for environmental and social justice.” The band was raising awareness about some of the tar sands pipelines that will threaten forests, waterways, fish habitat, and communities along and near the pipelines. What a way to spend Earth Day, eh?

ImageThey were also letting people know how to plug into the resistance against the pipelines! The band’s groupies, who I gladly joined, were letting people know about a rally happening at the Enbridge Annual General Meeting in Toronto on May 9th. I learned about the Yinka Dene Alliance, one of the leading groups of First Nations opposing the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipeline, who will be in Toronto on May 8th and 9th to say “No” to the proposed pipeline.

Members of the YDA are traveling from BC to Toronto for the Enbridge AGM and they will be stopping in Edmonton, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg along the way. Once I am done writing this diary entry, I am going to invite all my friends in those cities. It is Earth Day after all—great excuse to spread the word on how to resist environmentally destructive projects.

I am so glad that so many people are piping up (pun intended) about these pipelines. These pipelines would contaminate water, fish sources, and human health. Communities would be put at risk for the profit of a few greedy oil and gas corporations. Diary, that just isn’t fair!

I mentioned the Northern Gateway Pipeline, which would bring dirty tar sands to the west coast of British Columbia for export; but I still haven’t mentioned the tankers that would come to collect that oil. They would have to travel through ecologically sensitive areas and through waters which are known to be rough because of the high winds and waves. Do we really want to repeat some of the horrible oil spills which have destroyed fishing communities and continue to impact human health and livelihoods? This sounds just too risky!

There is also another pipeline which would bring liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Kitimat as well: the Pacific Trails Pipeline. This LNG would be primarily from shale gas development in northeastern BC. This type of gas development involves injecting water and unidentified chemicals into underground shale rock formations at very high pressures in order to extract natural gas below the surface. This process uses up tons of water, while also contaminating groundwater and local drinking water.

But those aren’t the only pipelines blazing through British Columbia. Kinder Morgan is trying to increase the amount of tar sands crude that would be transported through the Trans Mountain Pipeline, a pipeline which brings tar sands to southwestern BC.  There has been local opposition to the pipeline expansion which would require twinning the pipeline and putting communities at significant risk.

Looking east, there is the Trailbreaker project which would bring tar sands across the Prairies, Great Lakes, Ontario, Quebec, and finally to the coast of Maine, USA. The pipeline has faced growing opposition from communities across the route. And rightfully so. In 2010, an Enbridge pipeline leak put over a million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River which flows into the Great Lakes. Enbridge may be okay with polluting the largest group of freshwater lakes on the planet, but I won’t sit by and just watch it happen.

And I am not the only one!

This Earth Day, there were over 10 communities that took action specifically against pipelines, tankers, and tar sands expansion. In Montreal, Quebec there was a march so huge that “more than two hours after it began, a large crowd was still waiting to begin at the starting point.” Right on!

Diary, I am so inspired that I am going to explore more ways to take collective action against environmentally destructive operations.

Happy Earth Day, -maryam

Natural Gas and Oil Frontlines: First Nations Lead the Way

This post originally appeared on the blog of the Population and Development Program, based in Amherst, MA, which works at the intersection of reproductive freedom, environmental justice and peace.

American environmentalists are declaring victory over the announcement that the United States will research alternate routes for the Keystone XL pipeline.  While Obama’s announcement was an encouraging gesture, U.S.-based activists are in danger of missing the forest for the trees.  We must look north, the source of tar sands oil, where First Nations people in Canada are directly confronting the accelerating fossil fuel expansion on their land, as we plan the next steps in our movement.

Indigenous Assembly Against Mining & Pipelines, November 2011

The Keystone XL pipeline is just one in a massive network of pipelines branching out from the oil fields of Alberta, illustrated by this map.  The trade magazine Pipelines International reports on this extensive infrastructure of, as they call them, “energy lifelines.”  While the tar sands (or oil sands) have received international attention since the protests against Keystone XL lit off this summer, pipeline expansion is occurring on many fronts in Canada: tar sands oil, conventional oil and natural gas which is being pumped out of Canadian soil. American activists have shown their mettle in facing down the importation of tar sands oil into the U.S., but where do they stand on the dozens of other pipelines that make up this spiderweb?

Traditional environmental leaders, Indigenous environmentalists and youth came together in unprecedented ways during the Keystone fight; now we must move forward with our eyes on the frontline. The untold story of fossil fuel expansion in Canada is its toll on Indigenous communities, or First Nations.  First Nations in Canada in active resistance show paths forward, as fossil fuel companies only intensify their development efforts.
On the same weekend that 12,000 protesters encircled the White House, the 2nd Indigenous Assembly on Pipelines and Mining took place in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories The Indigenous Assembly over the weekend of November 5th, issued this call to action:

Indigenous communities from across the province are gathering in Vancouver Unceded Coast Salish Territories to oppose this conference and those corporations who profit off the destruction of the land. No mining, no pipelines, no resource extraction on unceded native lands! Defend the people, protect the land!

The Assembly hosted No Mining on Native Land!, a march through downtown Vancouver on November 6th. The pipelines, notably the Enbridge oil pipeline and the Kimimat Summit Lake gas pipeline (or Pacific Trails), endanger the lands of Indigenous people who are dependent on trapping and hunting for survival.

Tribe members block PTP from entering unceded land.

The Pacific Trails pipeline would lead to a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) port at Bish Cove, an ecologically pristine beach, on the Western cost. The Enbridge and Pacific Trails pipelines would run alongside each other near the Morice River.  The proximity of gas and oil pipelines to each other is particularly dangerous, though the companies have made no statement on this risk.  Many tribal councils and governments have approved one or both pipelines, in large part due to promises of jobs, but among Indigenous residents on the land, resistance is fierce.

The same week, Likhts’amisyu and Unist’ot’en clans of the Wet’swet’en nation confronted officials from Pacific Trails pipeline (PTP), who were attempting to illegally enter their territory to move drilling equipment.  This nation is one of many in Canada on land unceded to the Canadian government.  The nation owns the land and PTP was not authorized to enter.   Tribe members blockaded the access road, and formed an encampment until the company removed all equipment and vehicles several days later.

The Unist’hot’en clan has also built a cabin on Wet’suwet’en territory in the path of the Enbridge pipeline, PTP and one other pipeline, to prevent construction.  They intend to defend the cabin and halt illegal construction on their land.  Mel Bazil of the Lhe Lin Liyin (The Guardians), which support the Unist’hot’en Wet’suwet’en writes,

A delay could benefit their [Transcanada and other companies’] plans to assist in what we consider the systemic scope of the Tar Sands expansion activity. Tar sands may require offsets to operate, and proposed pipelines that acquire tenure through band chiefs and councils, and through treaty agencies … could make deals without the input or involvement of grassroots and indigenous peoples, who experience the environmental damage and pollution.

American activists must link to the struggle of First Nations people resisting Enbridge, PTP and other pipelines.  The Keystone XL pipeline, once considered a no-brainer for approval by industry and legislators, now stands in limbo.  That is a success for American activists.   However, fossil fuels are an international industry, and NAFTA and other treaties have deeply linked the American and Canadian economies.  The frontlines of fossil fuel in the U.S. are inherently connected to the struggle unfolding in Canada as part of a global supply chain.

As collaboration between major environmental NGOs and Indigenous environmental leaders deepens and expands, we must not allow Washington insiders to define the terms of victory.  There is no victory until Indigenous communities, and all frontline communities, are safe from the indignities of fossil fuels.

Read Martha’s previous coverage of Tar Sands oil extraction, activism to stop the Keystone pipeline, and Indigenous organizing in the US and Canada in Resisting the Tar Sands: Bridging Communities & Struggles, published in October, 2011.

Why Ethical Oil’s Deceptive ‘Women’s Rights’ Defense of Tar Sands is Insulting and Wrong

Cross posted from written by Emma Pullman’s new spokesperson, Kathryn Marshall, authored an insulting piece this week on the Huffington Post titled “Care About Women’s Rights? Support Ethical Oil”. Marshall’s piece is a response to the October 11 article by Maryam Adrangi at It’s Getting Hot In Here.  Adrangi argues that the underlying motive of the “ethical oil” campaign is to deflect negative attention from the tar sands, not to actually engage in a conversation about women’s liberation.

“If women’s rights were of genuine concern to” writes Adrangi, “then there would be a conversation about the impacts that tar sands extraction has on women”.

You’ll notice that Marshall’s attempted rebuttal fails to actually address the substantive criticisms made in Adrangi’s piece – Marshall never mentions the impacts of Alberta’s tar sands development on women, but instead repeats the same arguments and general hand-waving that sparked Adrangi’s criticism of’s conservative pundits in the first place.

Marshall’s promotion of tar sands oil is framed around a central argument that if we care about women’s rights then we must support tar sands expansion, and by extension the Keystone XL pipeline, because Canadian women fare far better than women in petrocracies, such as Saudi Arabia.  But Marshall’s argument doesn’t hold up to scrutiny for three major reasons.

The first is that increasing tar sands output will not hurt the Saudi sheiks’ coffers. TransCanada’s own research proves that the Keystone XL pipeline was never meant to decrease our reliance on foreign oil, just to keep Gulf Coast refineries at capacity. As global demand for oil keeps going up, a marginal shift in Canadian and US consumption will be offset by growing demand from other countries, keeping prices high and continuing to enrich the oppressive Saudi regime. Expanding the tar sands just buys Saudi Arabia a bit more time to profit before we are compelled to shift away from oil addiction towards a clean energy future – the real ‘ethical’ choice.

This leads to the second major flaw in’s argument: it presents the reader with a false choice. Marshall’s bait-and-switch suggests that we must make a choice between “conflict oil” and “ethical oil”. On the contrary, you can simultaneously support women’s rights and oppose Alberta’s tar sands. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, to say the least. If we really want to hurt the regimes of oppressive petrocracies, then the wise choice is to end our addiction to fossil fuels and move rapidly towards a clean energy economy, setting a model that the rest of the world can follow.’s entire line of reasoning is a diversionary tactic designed to obscure this hard reality. It’s a red herring, and a dangerous one at that.

Third, Marshall’s emotional appeal tells readers that because women’s rights are worse in petrocracries, then we needn’t concern ourselves with what’s happening in Canada. In Canada, we have female mayors and premiers. We are a liberal democratic nation that respects human rights. I agree that the plight of women in many petrocracies is grave, but that does not mean that the plight of many women in Canada deserves less consideration from Canadians.

We can and should engage in critical discussions on women’s rights in Canada. And tar sands expansion forces us to explore some of these issues head-on.

In Alberta’s tar sands region in particular, rates of sexual violence towards women have increased and women working in the industry have reported sexual harassment and gender discrimination. With expansion of the tar sands industry, instances of domestic violence in Fort McMurray have spiralled upwards, and few women have safe places to go, forcing many to return home to their abusers.

Instead of pretending that expanding the tar sands will somehow help women in Saudi Arabia, let’s talk about how we can help Canadian women impacted right here at home by tar sands expansion.

Marshall boldly demands to know where Canadian women’s groups have been in speaking out against Saudi women’s oppression. Did she ever think to ask these groups? I did. For one, Jan Slakov, the National Secretary for Canadian Voices of Women for Peace, the organization that Marshall attacks in her piece, told me,

“The Canadian Voice of Women for Peace has worked to support women’s rights and well-being, not just in Canada, but around the world. Groups have raised funds to support programs in countires where women face systematic human rights abuses. We also work at the international level to support women’s rights through the UN.”

As a Women’s Studies graduate, Marshall should know that Canadian women’s rights groups are engaged in this fight directly. Instead, Marshall, while claiming to be an advocate of women’s rights, erases the history of the women’s rights movement in Canada and its work in global solidarity with women living under oppressive regimes. I can’t speak for women’s groups, but I think it’s telling that we haven’t heard any credible organizations supporting’s message. I suspect they see right through’s insincere issue hijacking.

Slakov notes that women’s organizations are engaged in promoting a clean energy future while advocating women’s rights. She told DeSmogBlog:

“We recognize that extreme weather events associated with climate change disproportionately affect women, especially in the world’s poorest countries.  This is one of the many reasons why we feel it is essential that Canada do its part to cut GHG emissions to the earth’s atmosphere.”

Marshall’s attempts to disparage Canadian women’s rights groups proves Maryam Adrangi’s point: “When we get attention, they get defensive and they look silly.”

And what else frankly looks silly is Kathryn Marshall’s connections to the oil lobby. Marshall learned her pro-oil talking points as an intern with the fossil fuel-funded Fraser Institute. Their internship program is funded in part by oil and gas money, including Gwyn Morgan of Encana and R.J. Pirie of Sabre Energy. Until July 2009, Marshall worked as Fraser’s Development Manager and raised over $125,000 to promote pro-oil, free market thinking.

Given this, it’s clear whose interests she’s chiefly representing, and it isn’t women’s rights. It’s the oil industry and its status quo profiteering without regard to the impacts of pollution on our planet, our familes and especially our women.,  if you really care about women’s rights, how about engaging in a real discussion of the impacts of the tar sands on First Nations communities and women? Prove you’re engaged in the advancement of women’s rights by joining the conversation about how to actually challenge oppressive Saudi sheiks —through a transition to a clean energy future.

Emma Pullman is a Vancouver-based researcher, writer and campaigner. She holds a Master’s degree in Political Science, and spent three years working within the provincial and federal governments in research and policy development. In addition to her DeSmogBlog work, Emma sits on the board of TEDxVancouver, and is a Communications Advisor with Leadnow.



(Un)Ethical Oil’s Alleged Concern For Women…

Given recent major actions opposing the tar sands in Washington, D.C. and Ottawa, it seems that increased pressure on the Alberta Tar Sands has held oil lobbyists’ feet to the fire., a site devoted to advancing the ideas of right-wing pundits such as Ezra Levant who has popularized the term ‘ethical oil’ to refer to tar sands bitumen (aka “dirty oil”), has begun using women’s liberation struggles to justify continued extraction and expansion of tar sands oil.

The premise is that supporting “conflict oil” from Saudi Arabia would prop up a regime that is oppressive to women. The underlying motive, however, is not to talk about women’s liberation, but rather to deflect negative attention from the tar sands.

If women’s rights were of genuine concern to (and all the individuals that make it possible such as Ezra Levant, Alykhan Velshi, Kathryn Marshall, and their corporate oil buddies) then there would be conversation about the impacts that tar sands extraction has on women.

The tar sands boom has created dangerous jobs with long hours, fostering a culture of alcohol and substance abuse in the off hours. As a result, rates of sexual violence towards women have increased and women working in the industry have reported sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and unequal pay. Gender-based discrimination have also resulted in unequal access to higher paying jobs in communities in the region, and with skyrocketing housing prices and costs of living, there is also unequal access to housing.  Increases in female homelessness exacerbate the challenges faced by women in the area.

But ignores the problems that women in tar sands impacted communities face. In fact, the site’s main idea of “ethics” is based on a sense of Canadian superiority as a country which demands women’s rights.  This idea hides some of the blatant facts:

“Since 2006, Harper has cut funding for women’s advocacy by 43 per cent, shut 12 out of 16 Status of Women offices in Canada, and eliminated funding of legal voices for women and minority groups, including the National Association of Women and the Law and the Courts Challenges Program,” writes Emma Pullman, campaigner with Pullman continues to describe the parts of Harper’s agenda that specifically ignore the systemic violence faced by Indigenous women.

Tar Sands mining operations, pipelines, and refineries disproportionately impact Indigenous peoples by violating Treaty Rights, their right to say no  (free, prior, and informed consent or FPIC, which is outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) to industrial activity taking place on their lands. Tar sands projects have affected Indigenous peoples ability to hunt, trap, and continue traditional practices.

Furthermore, while environmental pollution and contamination associated with tar sands projects affects all people, the health impacts on women’s bodies are destructive to the future wellbeing of entire communities as women bear children. Given that the vast majority of communities living downstream from tar sands and most impacted by the pollution are First Nations communities, the tar sands have been called an “environmental genocide” by indigenous peoples.

So if these facts about “Ethical” oil’s impacts on women are so clear, why is implicitly calling for a boycott of Saudi oil?

Maybe they are trying to distract us; so, instead of planning how to make housing in Northern Alberta more affordable to women, I am writing a blog to counter’s insincere interest in advancing Saudi women’s struggles. Or maybe they are trying to dictate the conversation; so, instead of talking about alternative forms of energy that do not centralize power in large multinational oil companies, I am reacting to’s insincere interest in advancing Saudi women’s struggles. Or maybe they have just run out of good ideas, and are now pretending to care about Saudi women’s struggles.

Maybe tar sands opponents have simply done a good job at making right-wing pundits find any ludicrous argument to convince the general public that tar sands oil is “ethical.”

With two mass actions against the tar sands in September alone and another planned for November, all of which have garnered celebrity support and numerous headlines, it is no surprise that is trying anything to promote an industry so widely recognized as destructive.

The lesson? When we get attention, they get defensive. And they look silly.

This means that we do not need to waste our time countering their arguments (I am aware of the irony of this comment, given that I just wrote this blog). We can spend our time doing other, more fruitful things. We can organize creative ways to stop large oil corporations from destroying people and the planet. We can come together to demand that oil companies stop exploiting women through the workplace, their communities, and their bodies.

Oil companies and lobbyists may continue attempts to co-opt women’s movements (or others) as excuses for resource exploitation, but regardless, we  can still come together to build a broad base of people demanding climate and gender justice. Once we are united, we watch them expose their own contradictions and develop more poor attempts to justify their actions.

Irene Came Because Its Getting Hot In Here. We Must Take Action Because Its Getting Hot In Here!

Was there ever a better opportunity to talk about how climate change can impact us urban residents of North America rather than now?

The densely populated cities of the Atlantic coast of North Americahave been preparing for Hurricane Irene. As someone who just decided that this was the perfect weekend to visit New York City, I find myself helping my brother and NYC resident tape up his windows, search for flashlights and candles, and fill the bathtub with water. We are checking the hurricane watch and evacuation advisories to see if it is necessary that we peace out of the city.

For someone who is typically living in Toronto, an urban setting which hasn’t faced a hurricane since I have lived there, this rapid response to extreme weather events is new. But, I don’t want to act like ALL people in North America are void of dealing with the impacts of climate change. I want to recognize the reality of communities in the Arctic, where unpredictable cracks in the ice can cost people their lives; farmers are faced with unpredictable weather, resulting in poor growing seasons; and we can never forget all the communities (mostly communities of colour and low-income communities) that live merely a few kilometers from logging sites, coal-fired power plants, fracking sites, tar sands projects, and mountain-top removal sites.

But this blog post isn’t for all of y’all. I am writing to those who have chosen not to take action on climate change because they think it does not directly impact them. I write to many of the other Torontonians, New Yorkers, or others who can talk about climate change as if it is something that impacts others.

Climate action advocates often face the difficulty of dealing on somewhat of an invisible issue, in that carbon emitted in the atmosphere is rendered invisible to cause floods and storms in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and small island nation states kilometres away. Floods and monsoons, pfft…I don’t have to deal with that (And sometimes it is pfft…I dont have to deal with that…yet)! The challenge then becomes compelling people to act on issues of climate change because they are acting in solidarity, which may be difficult given the pervasive aura of NIMBY-ism. Continue reading ‘Irene Came Because Its Getting Hot In Here. We Must Take Action Because Its Getting Hot In Here!’