Moments in the Resistance to Energy East (Part 1)

The largest tar sands pipeline ever is dead. Let that sink in for a second. That’s 4,600 km of pipe carrying 1.1 million barrels of tar sands oil per day that will officially never see the light of day.

Yesterday, TransCanada, the company which is also behind the Keystone XL pipeline, pulled the plug on its proposal for the Energy East pipeline, vaguely citing “changed circumstances” as its rationale. Notably, this decision from TransCanada fell fascinatingly close to an announcement from the Trudeau government that the pipeline would need to pass a climate test.

The death of Energy East is a huge victory for the Indigenous-led and people-powered movement opposing this pipeline.

With out a doubt, there was a long fought fight leading up to this moment. First Nations and communities all along the route of Energy East have been rising up against this project since it was first proposed four years ago. Two years ago, thousands of people intervened in the review process for the project calling for climate to be considered in its assessment. Today, two things are clear. Firstly, climate action and pipelines don’t mix. Secondly, people powered organizing and resistance works.

As we celebrate this powerful victory, we also want to take a couple of moments to recognize and appreciate the personal stories of people who have risen up in resistance to Energy East. Here are the first two stories in a multi-part series.

Story 1: A lesson on true climate leadership.

“It was September 2014 when I participated in my first direct action against the Energy East pipeline. In fact, it was my first direct action ever, and I can still conjure the special combination of nerves, adrenaline and determination. I had responded to a call-out from a group in my hometown, partly because I recognized someone from my high school days, partly because of the target: the new leader of the Liberal party, Justin Trudeau, who would soon be campaigning for Prime Minister.

It’s almost hard to remember now, but at the time, pipelines were not commonplace in political parlance, and climate-concerned citizens were attempting to change that.

Mr. Trudeau had already been confronted in Nova Scotia on his support for Energy East, and we knew that his strategy was to be friendly to activists — while repeating his now-tired line of “getting our resources to market”. Our goal was to keep up the pressure.

It was a high profile Liberal fundraiser at the swanky Horseshoe Valley resort near Barrie. We were a rag-tag group who barely knew each other, hatching a plan in the bar across the way. We had a photographer, we had signs, we had a petition asking that a climate test be added to the review of Energy East, and we had someone on the inside to tell us when our target had arrived, who, to my surprise, happened to be my grade 9 English teacher. But mostly, we had guts. The guts to push our way in, past the ticket-takers trying to stop us, and straight up to the man of the hour. True to form, he talked to us (I can still remember the smell of his hair) and we got an audience with the crowd of high profile Liberals for our message: Climate leaders don’t build pipelines. We left repeating that we would continue looking for a climate leader.

The exhilaration of that action spurred me on to do more, and over the last 3 years, I have helped organized ‘block parties to block Energy East’ on the streets of Toronto, application parties to help people apply as climate intervenors to the National Energy Board, marches, demonstrations and sit-ins, and more confrontations with politicians — I even got a surprise one-one-one meeting with the CEO of the NEB, Peter Watson, in which I urged him to ask the federal government for governance on climate assessments. I have gained confidence in grassroots action, seen fellow activists from across the country and Indigenous Nations form new alliances and develop ever more creative strategies, and have made a slew of friends, acquaintances and everyday heroes who have had the guts to fight for the future we want and never give up.

Now that Transcanada has cancelled its Energy East application due to the addition of a well-fought for climate test to the NEB review, I know that, despite what the mainstream media and oil-industry critics say, Justin Trudeau did not stop Energy East. I know that the real climate leaders are us.

— Story from Katie Krelove (Toronto)

Story 2: A win for all fossil fuel fighters.

The moment I heard that Energy East was cancelled, my phone blew up with texts and messages from friends near and far, some who I hadn’t heard from in a long time. Congratulations were flying in every direction. I don’t know if I’ve ever used the word ‘jubilant’ before but it definitely applies here.

In the early days of Energy East I was part of an organizing crew here in Halifax that was super active. We were organizers with a range of experience, a range of ages, and we came together to stop this fossil fuel nightmare.

We bird dogged Justin Trudeau through his entire rise through the Liberal party, we applied to be intervenors at the NEB, we had information sessions, we went to trainings and gatherings to build our organizing skills. Through the successes and failures of this crew, we learned a lot about how to organize for justice.

Since then we’ve been involved in local fights — stopping the Alton Natural Gas storage project, boosting renewable energy production, protecting forests from clearcutting.

Yesterday, the crew finally got to celebrate together. We didn’t invite only our little crew, but brought along people fighting all kinds of fights — against other fossil fuel projects, against the destruction of Indigenous lands, for the respect of treaties and our collective right to a healthy environment.

By celebrating together, I hope we can hold the energy of this win and the things we learned along the way, and carry them into our other critical fights.

— Story from Robin Tress (Halifax)

Pushing Canada to take real #climate leadership by freezing #tarsands and keeping fossil fuels in the ground. We're part of a global climate justice movement.