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copscourtToday marked the second court appearance by those arrested at the Swamp Line 9 blockade in Westover, and the first in which the majority of defendants (trespassing) had to show up. To celebrate the occasion, a rally and march were organized before-hand, bringing out a sizeable crowd to show support. Following the (tense) morning rally, a large number returned for the afternoon proceedings, and that’s where things got a bit…disorderly.

While I didn’t see any of what went on inside the courthouse, I did catch some of the assembly beforehand, and spoke with quite a few afterward. Immediately, the tension was clear, mainly due to the arrival of Sun Media’s Ezra Levant and his cameramen, aggressively attempting to interview demonstrators, most of whom clearly wanted nothing to do with him. As Ezra and his cameramen harassed and even assaulted protesters, they stood by and did nothing but chuckle and refuse to intervene. As marching got underway, I’m told, tensions with the police themselves began to mount, especially as the march paused at King and James and then later on the steps of the courthouse. As people disbursed from there, some were followed and approached, at least two received tickets for obstructing traffic, and others were issued thinly veiled threats.

This, along with the circumstances surrounding the arrests themselves, set the tone for the afternoon’s events. During the blockade, police had assured those present that they’d give a warning before moving in to make arrests (standard for civil disobedience actions of the type). When the time came, however, they gave no such announcement, and instead grabbed everybody they could, even those who’d already walked off the property. This seemed to confirm everybody’s worst suspicions about recent Enbridge donations to the police department, as well as leaving most feeling more than a little bit deceived.

When the proceedings themselves began, supporters and defendants crowded in to the courtroom, with police taking names as they entered (a rare practice). Inside, a young woman was scolded by the judge for snapping her fingers and escorted out of the room. When a few people followed to make sure she was ok and saw her taken into a small room behind a closed door, they began making something of a fuss, which led many more to follow out of the courtroom and begin chanting, while refusing to leave the hallway. Within minutes, it seemed that every cop downtown had been called in to deal with the disturbance (I’ve been told around 30-50), eventually managing to herd everybody onto the elevators and out of the building with the help of the infamous “Public Works Protection Act”, and apparently no small amount of brutality. Word is that six or seven others were arrested in the “scuffle”, and none have yet been released. A contingent of supporters stuck around on the steps for a few hours, and has now moved to the Central Police Station, anybody who wishes to support should head on down, especially for the rally which is planned for 7:30 tonight.

There’s been a lot of news lately about police which specifically references the need for de-escalation tactics. If those are, indeed, finally being implemented, they certainly weren’t present today. Everything I saw and heard indicated a textbook case of antagonistic crowd control. In an attempt to intimidate and bully demonstrators, they managed, instead, to provoke them. After months of escalated hostilities against protests in the city and nearby, as well as far too many officer-involved-deaths, people got fed up. And what better place for a protest against the justice system than the courthouse itself?

Swamp Line Nine – Official Updates
CBC Hamilton Coverage
Spec Coverage

PS: Ezra left early and missed all the fun. Ha!

Disclaimer: I wasn’t present for most of these events, so many of these reports are second or third-hand and I’m sure I’ve made an error or two. If so, let me know, and I’ll make a point to post a link to the official group statement when it comes out. As usual, I do not speak for this group, these groups, or any group other group – the above-stated opinions are mine alone, so take them with the usual grain of salt.

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This morning police swarmed the blockade site and arrested at least 20 individuals for violating an injunction, starting with when the three “police liaisons” after they’d left the property. Rumors that some managed to escape through the surrounding fields. Details still very sketchy and it has not yet hit the media. I’ll post more info as soon as it becomes available.

Official updates: http://swampline9.tumblr.com/ and #SwampLine9

Update: 11am
Official arrest count stands at 16, taken to Mountain Station. Charges include “trespass” and disobeying a court order, though there’s been no word yet about how many have been charged with each.

Official press release

CBC Coverage

Update 11:50am
Official arrest count now being reported at 17, with all but five now released from HPS’ Mountain Station sporting new trespassing tickets.

Update 3pm
Everybody arrested this morning has now been released!

Final Update
Final arrest count: 18 (sorry for the confusion, these numbers are always hard to pin down), mostly tresspass and mischief. Check out the official HPS press release.

At 8:15 this morning, the Westover blockade was served an injunction (court order) by Enbridge. They’ve been given two hours to clear the site or face arrest. Some have begun to pack up and leave, staging a rally across the road on public property, others opting to lock themselves to the gates of the pumping station. I’ll post updates through the day as they become available.

This comes on a day with solidarity demonstrations are planned in at least twelve communities across Canada. For those in Hamilton, plans are to meet up at Gore Park @ 3pm.

Update: 11:45am Things are still quiet at the site, in spite of the injunction there has been no move yet to evict protesters and only one police cruiser in view. Most are still on public lands across the street, while a few remain locked to the hated of the pumping station. A small press conference is scheduled for noon at the gates, and any supporters who can make it are strongly urged to come support for whatever time is left.

Update: 1:45pm Still going. A statement was read to the press, though some weren’t able to make it due to nearby police roadblocks. Most of the camp is now reportedly on site in defiance of the injunction, with four people locked down underneath a massive barricade built from skids and cable spools found around the site.

Update: 6:45pm Protesters remain on the site, vowing to “hold the space as long as we can” and rumors are now suggesting that Enbridge got their own address wrong on injunction papers, delaying any eviction until they can get them corrected. In Hamilton, a rally and small march up King street was held downtown to support the demonstrators, one of many across Canada. Others included Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver. Since the march and workday concluded, car-loads of supporters have been heading up to offer more support – at this point any presence is appreciated.

Update 10:15pm Things are quiet and spirits are high at the blockade, which, it appears, will last at least one more night. Car-loads of supporters are still arriving, and there’s been a call-out for food and water, if anybody reading this is still heading up.


The blockade in Westover, now enjoying its fifth day, has been a stunning success. The surprise appearance of dozens upon dozens of protesters at Enbridge’s construction site Thursday morning managed to take the company by surprise, and as of this moment, demonstrators control the site and have dug in for a prolonged stay. At least 30 tents now line the long driveway and people are continuing to arrive from as far away as Toronto and Ottawa.

Within moments of the successful seizure, a website and twitter account went live and press releases began flooding out to media outlets. Adam Carter of CBC Hamilton was on the scene shortly and tweeted live updates throughout the morning. By the afternoon, even Enbridge was tweeting to #SwampLine9. Soon others began to arrive, including more reporters and representatives of Six Nations. In terms of (official) confrontation, there’s been very little – demonstrators pledged to fight for the workers pay, if necessary, and promised not to touch the equipment, most of which is locked inside a fenced enclosure. Regular “safety inspections” and a small, full-time (rotating) presence of watchful employees have been allowed, though campers have now blocked further deliveries of fuel for the all-night floodlights. In return, campers have been allowed access to the on-site bathroom trailer, at least for the moment. If that fails, campers have brought along a composting toilet, built fresh for the occasion. Police have maintained a small presence nearby, but have so far refused to act without a court injunction. The little ‘trouble’ campers have experienced (all peaceful, thankfully), I’m told, has come from angry drivers and residents, which is pretty much par for the course in an action like this.

Since the occupation began, they’ve been joined by a steady stream of friends, activists and neighbours. Events have been held, such as the support demo last Friday on public lands across the street last and a “Swampfest” concert yesterday, featuring local acts such as Lee Reed and Mother Tareka. When I visited yesterday, spirits were still high, if a little more tired and heat-striken than when I left Thursday, with many more tents and plenty of new tarp-and-cable-spool construction.

This tiny strip of barren land, amidst the rolling hills, fields, swamp and forest of Westover, has now come to represent a national debate over energy infrastructure. Given similar opposition to proposals for new westward or southbound pipelines (Northern Gateway and Keystone XL), a tri-partisan consensus formed around an eastbound route which would quietly re-purpose existing pipelines to get Tar Sands oil to terminals in Maine. Harper’s government, so intent on turning Canada into a mid-east style petro-state, has exempted the plan from environmental assessments and taken a hard line on critics. Since even Hamilton’s council has proven powerless to intervene, many had assumed this was a ‘done deal’, but they hadn’t factored in the millions of people who live along its path.

The Westover Terminal was an obvious choice for occupation. Appearing on continental pipeline network maps, it’s the meeting point of Line 9a (Sarnia-Westover) and 9b (Westover-Montreal), the two stages of the overall reversal. It also lies amidst the Beverly Swamp, the most significant watershed in the western Hamilton, feeding both the Spencer Creek and Cootes Paradise. A spill here (the vast majority of pipelines spill at terminals) or anywhere along the nearby pipes would put the entire area at risk ecologically, as well as the many farms and residents who are dependent on wells for water.

The danger this poses to Hamilton shouldn’t be hard for most long-time residents to grasp. Not only have we long suffered with the stigma (and reality) of being a “dirty” and “polluted” city, but we’re already home to Canada’s worst freshwater tar contamination – Randle Reef. After decades of bickering and inaction, the cost of remediating this sixty-hectare patch of coal-tar near (former) Stelco’s docks now stands at around $140 million (taxpayer) dollars. Along the Spencer Creek itself, a July, 2007 fire at the Biedermann pesticide plant in Dundas spilled an estimated million litres of (still unknown) chemicals into the creek, which then flowed into Cootes Paradise. Along their route they killed an estimated 6000 fish in the creek and 5-15 million in and around Grindstone Marsh. In both of these cases, the corporations escaped any kind of prosecution, leaving us to suffer the consequences and shoulder the cost of cleanup.

Whatever Enbridge wants to claim, the oil industry’s recent record isn’t comforting. Just over a week ago a leak was discovered from Imperial Oil’s eqipment in Sarnia, not far from Enbridge’s facilities there. Around the same time, a Plains Midwestern pipeline ruptured near Manning, Alberta, spilling a few thousand barrels of natural gas condensate. A couple of weeks before that, Apache Canada spilled almost ten million litres of contaminated wastewater near Zama, Alberta. In the past few days, catastrophic floods have brought more ruptures, one in a Turner Valley gas pipeline, leaking deadly “sour gas” from a submerged section of pipe and a widespread shutdown of Enbridge’s own lines after another spill south of Fort McMurray.

Alberta’s floods illustrate the double-edged danger of these gigaprojects. Their infrastructure is not (and cannot be) built to withstand the unprecedented and cataclysmic weather which it creates. Only a few days ago much of Ft. McMurray was besieged by flood-waters – if they’d moved much further north into the oil patch and breached the massive “tailings ponds”, the resulting dump of industrial waste into the MacKenzie-Athabasca River Delta could easily have turned much of northern Canada into a dead zone. Even without such a disaster, though, there’s enough carbon buried in the sands of northern Alberta to bring about “catastrophic” global warming without any help from America or China. That means more droughts, floods and super-storms, with all the decimated crop yields and underwater cities that entails.

Line 9 is not just a symbol. This thirty-inch pipe and the export capacity it represents is crucial to Tar Sands expansion plans, and to the new Canada Haprper is busy creating. Aside from the potential disaster it represents to every community along its path, this pipeline will spur new toxic development from Alberta to Asia. In literal, physical terms, it will further entrench our economic dependence on petrochemicals, even as global efforts to break the addiction are finally underway.

If we want to stop this, now’s the time. Once a project like this goes online, it becomes infinitely harder to stop, and that’s scheduled to happen later this summer. There will soon be no more construction sites or NEB hearings, just a hundred million barrels flowing through our ground each year. This is our chance to say “no”, and we may not get another one like it for years or decades. Whether or not this blockade survives, these brave land defenders have raised the bar for everybody from Sarnia to Montreal. If it is evicted, others will try elsewhere, and only one needs to successfully stop construction, at any point in it’s 1000+ kilometres, to bring the entire project to a halt.

If you want to support Swamp Line 9, there’s many ways you can help. As with any blockade, they’re constantly in need of people to maintain a presence on the site. Whether you can stay for ten minutes or bring a tent and stick around for a while, it’ll be appreciated. There’s also a need for supplies (see official list), rides to and from the site (especially accessible vehicles) and help spreading the word on and off-line. For those elsewhere, there’s been a call-out for solidarity actions tomorrow (Tuesday June 25th), encouraging everybody to grab some signs and head to their nearest Enbridge facility. As for direct actions elsewhere along the line, such as blockades of roads and other construction sites, they’re more than welcome. This was never meant to be a ‘last stand’ – it’s only the beginning.

SwampLine9.tumblr.com – Official Homepage
#swampline9 on twitter
https://www.facebook.com/SwampLine9 – Official Facebook Page
Directions to the site

(6:56am)Early this morning a convoy of  activists from across Southern Ontario (as far as Kingston and Kitchener) converged on the sleepy town of Westover and appeared at the gates of the Enbridge pumping station. Catching workers as they changed shifts, we handed out flyers. With a message of “enjoy your day off” (and a promise to make sure they get paid), they packed up with a smile. Few remain, at this point, and we have yet to see any police.

This action, nicknamed #swampline9, was taken in response to the pending reversal of Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline, part of the proposed network bringing Tar Sands oil to the coasts.

Protesters now control the site, at least for the moment, and are beginning to set up tents. The intention is to stay as long as possible, and others are eagerly encouraged to show up to stay or support.

Much more news on the way when I can get to a real computer. In the meantime, check out swampline9.tumblr.com or follow #swampline9 on twitter.

(Update 10:30am) Police have arrived at the site, but so far have made no move toward protesters. Most workers have now left the area, though there’s still a few doing “safety checks”. Adam Carter from CBC Hamilton is now also on the scene and tweeting live updates.

(Update 4:30m) Things are mostly quiet at the site, the police visit has been largely uneventful and workers are now completely off the site excepting the occasional “sweep” to check on their equipment (so far none has been touched). Representatives of Six Nations have arrived and made statements to the media, underscoring the contested title to area lands. Tomorrow morning, supporters have called for a rally in the park across the street from the pumping station’s front gates – if you’d like to visit but don’t want to risk stepping off public property, this is a great opportunity. For those who do want to visit or join the blockade itself, newcomers are more than welcome, especially this evening and overnight tonight.

enbridgepo

It’s no secret that the Hamilton Police Department has been having some “money problems” lately. Budget discussions got so heated this year they threatened to take Council to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission if they didn’t get the increase they wanted. Hiring dozens of new officers while increasing pay and benefits can’t be cheap, I suppose, and so the HPD has found itself a corporate sponsor: Enbridge.

Last February the pipeline giant quietly handed over $34 910 to sponsor a new “ATV unit” for the Hamilton Police, as well as around $10 000 in 2010 . At the time it received little coverage (six lines) but since word started spreading on social media earlier this week it ignited a bit of a fury. A demonstration is planned for Central Station this morning to call attention to the deal and to present an official complaint in writing.

Enbridge, of course, is currently attempting the very controversial Line 9 pipeline reversal in an attempt to get Tar Sands oil east, a path which cuts right through Flamborough, which fell under the HPD’s domain with Amalgamation. As they attempt to finish repairs and get flows started through the ageing pipeline this summer, it seems only natural to expect the same kind of trouble seen with the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway plans reaching south and east from Alberta. Opposition to their plans has been stronger and started earlier here in Hamilton than most, with environmental activists, city councillors and nearby Six Nations all taking a critical stance. One (short) road blockade has already taken place, and it seems pretty likely that they’re expecting more – apparently of the off-road variety…

Hamilton’s not the only municipality along the route to see recent donations from Enbridge – the trend is now so blatant that the Montreal Gazette put together an interactive map. This follows a typical strategy of attempting to buy favour with gifts and sponsorships, to give the impression of generosity and “being a good corporate citizen”. In many smaller, more desperate jurisdictions, it can be quite effective at avoiding serious discussion or at least dividing communities. Most cheques, though, weren’t this large been this large and most have gone to Fire Departments or other services. Only in a few others have they directed their cheques to police. This suggests that Enbridge doesn’t have a lot of hope for winning over the public or council here, and have therefore decided to focus a little more directly on establishing a relationship with the (similarly unpopular) police.

It’s only natural to ask at this point, what Enbridge will expect in return, though the answer seems self-evident. The message is very clear. Should anything happen this summer along Hamilton’s chunk of the pipeline route, an aggressive police response isn’t likely to hurt their chances of getting more gas-guzzling toys in the future.

This sets a terrifying precedent. What other companies, I wonder, might be interested in this kind of “public-private partnership”? I’m sure US Steel, Porter Airlines, RBC, Marineland and many others would love to write similar cheques. Corporate sponsorship is an uncomfortable enough issue when cola companies sign deals with our schools or cigarette manufacturers buy naming rights to cultural events, but corporate donations to police forces raises the stakes in a frightening way. Police carry guns and hold the power to ruin people’s lives, we cannot afford to have them owe favours.

There is a long and ugly history associated with this kind of collusion, and it needs to be brought up. From police involvement with strikebreaking campaigns to the harassment of “undesirable elements” (homeless people, addicts, people of colour etc) from trendy business districts. In one particularly disturbing recent scandal which came to be known as “kids for cash“, an American judge was convicted of taking a million-dollar bribe from the builders of two nearby “juvenile detention centres” to fill them by awarding unusually harsh sentences to youths brought before him. Closer to home, the Toronto Police Association caused an uproar back in 2000 with a fundraising drive they named “Operation True Blue. With a telemarketing drive, they offered “windshield stickers” in exchange $100 “donations”, a move even the mayor couldn’t resist referring to as “paying protection”.

The real problem with donations of this kind really comes down to the size of the numbers involved. Much like donations to election campaigns, the amounts actually given are tiny, often a tiny fraction of what they’d spend on an advertisement or PR campaign for the same purpose. The windfalls, though, can be enormous, easily reaching into the millions or billions (especially for Enbridge) for government action in their favour, making it virtually irresistible. This is exactly why we (are supposed to) have such strong laws against this sort of thing. With this kind of money on the line, though, people are almost certainly going to try.

The real irony here is that Enbridge has probably accomplished the opposite of what they set out to do. A large public donation like this was unlikely to go unnoticed for long and it’s now going to put the police under extra scrutiny during any Enbridge-related enforcement. With any luck, it will set a precedent of a different sort, forbidding such nonsense in the future. Hamiltonians aren’t stupid, and its going to cost a lot more than that to buy our city.

pipelineLate this morning a group of protesters halted traffic on Highway Six to call attention to the pending reversal of Enbridge’s Line 9 oil pipeline. Choosing the spot where Line 9 passes under the road (around 7th Concession), they unfurled a fake oil, spill and backed up traffic “for miles”. At least six OPP cruisers were reported at the scene, though so far no arrests/tickets have been reported.

The brief blockade, intended to last 90 minutes for the 90+ “significant” spills Enbridge averages each year, came out of a collaborative effort of Hamilton, Guelph, K-W and Six Nations activists. Hwy 6 was chosen as one of the region’s busiest roads as well as for its proximity to the pipeline’s Westover terminal. Along with signs, a fake pipeline and mock oil spill, they brought muffins to pass out to drivers as an apology for the inconvenience. All reports (so far) suggest high spirits, great weather and no real trouble.

Line 9, a 38-year-old oil pipeline runs from Montreal to Windsor, following roughly parallel to highway 401. Envridge is currently seeking permission to reverse the flows as a part of wider plans to find new export routes for Tar Sands oil. In Hamilton it runs through the Beverly Swamp – the region’s largest watershed – before entering the densely populated Greater Toronto Area. Thanks to Harper’s campaign of environmental deregulation it’s overseen only by the National Energy Board. The NEB has now come under fire due to the new, long and convoluted application process for citizens participation, which few managed to finish by the deadline. Even Hamilton’s City Council voiced concerns, though their request for a full environmental assessment has since been rejected by Minister Kent (ironic, eh?).

Today’s action represents the beginning of a third front of direct actions against the Tar Sands and associated pipelines, joining the Unis’tot’en in British Columbia (Gateway) and Tar Sands Blockaders across multiple states (Keystone XL). Unlike those proposals, though, the “eastern route” re-purposes existing pipes, meaning there’s few if any construction sites to block. With only months left before hearings and “integrity digs” finish, time to prevent the pumping of bitumen through our region is rapidly running out, prompting opponents to ‘step up their game’ and start looking for other options. Line 9 crosses hundreds of other major roads along its route, all offering their own opportunities to draw attention and cause disruption. What’s so brilliant about this tactic, of course, isn’t that it creates chaos but that it doesn’t need to create much – every time any one of these crossings sees a blockade, it calls attention to every other one and the risk that soon enough people in real HAZMAT suits might be blocking traffic to clean up a real spill.

Postscript: Since Posting this, I’ve done a lot of driving, including going to Guelph and back along this very stretch of Highway 6. Heading out, I spent forty minutes in bumper-to-bumper traffic trying to find a detour after a garbage truck ended up on its side on the 401. Heading back much later I saw nary a car until running into a full-blown roadblock, this time for another truck crash (involving several cars and a fertilizer truck), prompting another adventure down sideroads. For all those angry about blocked roads, I hope this gives a little context regarding how often major traffic disruptions take place.


Within the past week, Canada witnessed an explosion of activism. While things have hardly been quiet for the past year or so, they’re now starting to snowball. Protests are now almost a daily occurrence in many parts of the country, and momentum on many issues is only continuing to grow.

Idle No More
Wednesday, indigenous protesters once again got the country’s attention with a national Day of Action held by Idle No More and others. Numerous roads and rail lines were shut down as a part of the growing protest movement. Actions took place at the Ambassador Bridge (Windsor-Detroit), Sault St. Marie border crossing, Westmoreland Bridge (Fredricton) Trans-Canada highway (Banff), Queen Elizabeth II highway (Calgary), Highway 400 (Barrie), Highway 117 (Quebec), rail blockades by Kingston, Portage la Prarie (by AIM!) and Gitwangak (BC), and rallies downtown in Toronto, Ottawa, Iqaluit and many others.

These actions mark a shift away from less disruptive spectacles like flash mobs and round dances which have characterized most of the Idle No More actions over the past month. They’ve evoked controversy both within and outside the movement. Finance Minister Flahrety, echoed by many editorials, has expressed concerns about possible threats to Canada’s economy. Meanwhile, Sylvia McAdam, one of the founding members of Idle No More, questions the use blockades for portraying “a message of aggressiveness”, which contradicts the movement’s peaceful character. Others, have responded that these actions have been, in fact, completely peaceful and that militancy has often played an incredibly important role in such social movements.

Enbridge
A busy week of demonstrations took place in Vancouver against Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. The largest event was a night march with thousands, which even featured a small (~20 people) black bloc, which got a lot of attention despite not smashing or disrupting anything. In contrast, six young demonstrators, clad in colourful tee-shirts from a moderate environmental group, were arrested yesterday after briefly managing to sneak inside and disrupt meetings, yet received surprisingly little criticism for “militance”.

Closer to Home
Locally, around 70 people gathered Wednesday morning in Cayuga to support Theresa Toad Jaimeson, facing a court date relating to one of Gary McHale’s last forays onto the Reclamation Site in Caledonia, where a former development has been occupied since 2006.

In Hamilton itself the same morning, a crowd of around 30 community members held a picket outside Sir John A MacDonald Secondary in support of teachers in their labour dispute with the province. Briefly delaying traffic outside the parking lot, they handed out fliers explaining that “we’re here because teachers can’t be”.

Last night a large crowd descended on City Hall to voice their opposition to a Casino downtown (also, a small handfull of “yes” demonstrators). After rallying in the snow (complete with racehorces!) and hearing speeches, the crowd headed inside for the meeting, where a number of representatives spoke to council. This latest hair-brained “revitalization” scheme has drawn an incredible amount of fire from the downtown community, particularly James North, fearing the social effects of gambling addictions, because of the dismissive attitude toward downtown from proponents and out of fear for the fate of Flamborough Downs and it’s horses (currently OLG’s only permitted slots in the area).

The New Canada
Our country, it seems, has lost some of our innocence. After the G20, after Occupy, and especially after the Quebec Student Strike, we’re no longer quite as shocked by protests. As turnouts grow and issues multiply, so does the number of people involved. Protesting becomes less alien, and more accessible to a wider number of people, who now have a lot less trouble imagine themselves marching with a sign. Protest is once again becoming part of our culture and political process, and it’s about damn time.

In recent years, the decisions made by the Canadian government have become increasingly distant and disturbing. Harper alone has targeted First Peoples, workers, the environment, refugees, prisoners, pilots, railroaders, postal workers, the internet, NGOs, scientists and most recently, Mali. Our international reputation is in shambles. He may even have stolen the election, but nobody seems to want to talk about that. Just like there’s very little mention that Ontario has now been operating without a parliament for three months. Quebec’s government, it now turns out, was corrupt to its core, and even here, Mayors just keep coming up on “conflict of interest” charges. Then there’s the austerity schemes, the development plans and the total disregard for treaty commitments and democracy.

If these problems – the colonialism, the corruption, the grandiose but toxic boondoggle projects – show one thing, it’s that we’ve all been idle for far too long. Without the watchful (and occasionally wrathful) eye of the public, power will inevitably corrupt, and it has. This system cannot function, though, without the daily cooperation of tens of millions of people, something which is no longer guaranteed. The legendary patience and politeness of this land’s inhabitants have worn thin, but not our determination.

This is what democracy looks like.

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.

HamiltonLine9.wordpress.com
StopLine9-Toronto.ca
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.).

Wednesday morning council received the staff report on Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline reversal, as well as hearing from citizens on the issue. A few dozen protesters rallied first along Main St in front of City Hall, then filed inside the gallery. No conclusions were reached, but a very interesting discussion ensued, with staff sent to research further about the pipeline and possibilities for opposing it.

Though Enbridge decided to cancel at the last minute, eight citizens stepped up to address council, all opposed to the project. John McGreal spoke about the legacy of Binbrook’s oil spill a decade ago, which burst from Line 10. Ken Stone floated legal ideas, such as banning pipelines over 30 years old, the transmission of tar sands oil or requring it to be upgraded and refined in Canada. Janet Chase floated the possibility of requiring a bond from Enbridge, an idea which seemed to gain a lot of traction with councillors. Maggie Hughes (The Other Side on CFMU) showed footage and talked about the legacy of the Kalamazoo dilbit spill. Elysia Petrone (Hamilton 350) spoke about Harper’s budget omnibus bill exempting this project from environmental assessments. Don McLean (CATCH, Hamilton 350) and Lynda Lukasik (Environment Hamilton) spoke about the connections to the Tar Sands and climate change, especially given the enormous cost we’re now suffering from the recent wave of severe storms and flooding. Wes Elliot, Ruby Montour (Six Nations) and Danielle Boisseau were unable to attend.

Reaction from councillors was mixed, but honestly better than I’d expected. Brenda Johnson asked if there were options to challenge the reversal at the Ontario Municipal Board or Federation of Canadian Municipalities, as well as asking about permits for current digs to check pipeline integrity. Maria Pearson suggested making a statement for the record, even if council’s hands were “tied”. Judi Partridge raised questions about the Emergency Plan and Brian McHattie raised again the issue of environmental assessments. Lloyd Ferguson suggested getting a professional engineer’s opinion, and stated that Enbridge had told him the pipeline’s oil wouldn’t be coming from Alberta. Mayor Bratina’s comments were perhaps most poignant, pointed a finger at Harper then brought the issue back to our own practices and suggesting that if we really wished to stop this kind of oil flow, we should look into an urban boundary freeze and end Aerotropolis plans (both good suggestions, even if they avoid the issue). Staff responded that so far, proposals haven’t mentioned “dilbit” or pressures capable of transporting it, and that there’s few options on the table to obstruct Enbridge, even if council should decide to. At the end, discussions broke for lunch, unresolved, with staff sent to research further.

Given the current climate in Federal politics, it isn’t surprising that municipalities are shut almost entirely out of these matters. Despite all the public and private lands this pipeline crosses in our city, there’s no meaningful consultation council or residents. In these matters, the National Energy Board seemingly holds all the power. This is the legacy of the “streamlined” approval processes Harper is implementing, and we’re now getting to see first-hand what that means for public input in the communities involved. Whoever makes these decisions, we’ll still be the ones to suffer if anything goes wrong.

While I still hold out a little hope for a sympathetic motion from council, it’s fairly clear at this point that municipal politicians are just as out-of-the-loop as the rest of us. Addressing council, though, was still was an important step. Not only did it bring some much-needed attention, but also showed that opponents are willing to engage with “the system” where possile. Most of all, it was an important demonstration of how much authority has been given to Enbridge and the NEB, effectively cutting entire municipalities out of the process. If opposition is going to continue (and it will), it must now look toward the grassroots. Ordinary people are not limited by the rules of intergovernmental hierarchies, and a motion from Council would mean little, anyway, without a much broader show of community support. This pipeline has seen very little public discussion so far, and most people still aren’t aware it cuts through our backyard. The tasks ahead are education, investigation, networking and ever-more demonstrations (like this Sunday’s protest ride) to raise the issue’s profile, both within Hamilton and beyond. Like the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines, this route can be stopped, and it will be, if cities like Hamilton decide to stand against it.

For more info, visit Hamiltonline9.wordpress.com

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