After a long wait and multiple cancellations, an Enbridge representative finally appeared before city council at the General Issues Committee Wednesday. Speaking on their proposed reversal of the Line 9 pipeline along with opponents, the company attempted to defend and clarify their plans amidst further questions and criticism from councillors and area residents.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of councillors, the committee was unable to meet quorum. This prevented a motion from Councillor McHattie from being introduced which would ask staff to look into emergency plans, NEB hearings and request a full environmental assessment. Presentations were still made, though, from Scott Ironside of Enbridge and opponents such as Matt Nash, Richard Reble, Don McLean and representatives of the traditional Six Nations Confederacy.

Livestream recordings of the GIC meeting – Joey Coleman

Ironside stated that there would be no change in operating pressures (usually required for diluted bitumen) and that emergency procedures had come a long way since the 2010 spill into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.

Of the opponents, the speech by Wes Elliot and Ruby Montour of the traditional Haudenosaunee Confederacy was particularly stunning. They voiced a very solid opposition to Enbridge’s plans and condemned the company for their lack of consultation. In response, they threatened protests but also voiced a strong desire for peace. Discussing the effects of this pipeline on other reserves, such as those near Sarnia’s refineries, they pledged to act with other indigenous nations to opposed it, and offered to work with Hamilton’s council on this issue and others, such as toxic cleanup around the airport. There is some precedent for this, after agreements made over the Red Hill Expressway, and Councillor Collins made some promising statements supporting a meeting between both councils, which would certainly be a historic occasion.

The Confederacy, for those unfamiliar, represents the traditional governance of the Six Nations, which was (officially) deposed in 1924 after embarrassing Canada at the League of Nations, through an RCMP siege of the Council House in Ohsweken (which still stands and is again used). Like other reserves, they had an “elected” Band Council imposed through the Indian Act, though only about 5% vote. In recent years the Confederacy has been taking an increasingly active role in affairs, particularly in regards to treaty rights and regional development through the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) and other initiatives.

Since the last time this issue came up at council, a number of questions have been answered, though they don’t exactly inspire confidence. Councillor Ferguson had claimed he had been assured by Enbridge that the pipeline would be used only for “light oil”, and not diluted bitumen from the Tar Sands. The previous week, however, Enbridge had already stated otherwise in a submission to the National Energy Board (NEB). Also, Councillor Pasuta had stated that no residents had contacted him with any complaints about Enbridge. Two residents have since come forward to the Flamborough Review stating that they’d repeatedly tried with no response.

In national news, The Unis’tot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, British Columbia evicted survey crews discovered on their lands. The Unis’tot’en have been opposing all pipeline development on the land since earlier this year by establishing a blockade camp in the proposed pathway and obstructing work in their territory.

Last weekend activists met in Toronto to discuss province-wide plans to oppose Line 9, with activists from Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto and elsewhere now joining Hamilton and Six Nations in actively resisting these plans. Though the issue still hasn’t reached the profile of the Northern Gateway or Keystone XL pipelines, the Line 9 reversal no longer has any hopes of passing quietly or unopposed.
Line 9 – Environmental Defence

And don’t forget next Wednesday’s Spirit of Red Hill Lecture with author Andrew Nikiforuk on the subject of Bitumen and Pipelines – November 28th, 7:30 at the First Unitarian Church (170 Dundurn St. S.).