Chanting "No tar sands on stolen native lands," First Nations women disrupted and shut down a Montreal public hearing on the controversial Energy East pipeline on Wednesday night, the latest in a resistance campaign against the massive project proposed by the Alberta-based TransCanada Corporation.
"What we want TransCanada to understand is that no means no. This is Kanien’ke, this is Mohawk Land, and we are tired of occupation, we are tired of environmental disaster," declared Amanda Lickers, who hails from the Seneca-Haudenosaunee community, at Wednesday's hearing. "This is our land and we are going to protect it."
Four Indigenous women took the stage and hoisted a banner reading, "No consent, no pipelines" as dozens of protesters cheered them on. The action successfully shut down the hearing, and while police were called, no arrests were made.
If approved, Energy East would transport over one million barrels of crude every day from Alberta to Quebec and New Brunswick. Indigenous communities, students, workers, and climate campaigners across Canada have waged sustained resistance to Energy East and other pipelines over concerns that any increase to Canada's already booming tar sands extraction and shipping industries will bring further harm to waterways, ecosystems, communities, and the climate.
Energy East has already been delayed by concerns over its environmental impact, and on Thursday, environmental group Équiterre handed a petition bearing nearly 90,000 signatures to five federal election campaign managers calling for the future national government to prevent TransCanada from building Energy East.
The organizers of Wednesday's protest, who describe themselves as unaffiliated grassroots Indigenous campaigners, hope that the pipeline can ultimately be stopped through direct actions. But, they argue, the public input process regarding the proposed conduit is not an avenue for real change.
Wednesday's hearing was organized by the National Energy Board (NEB), which is allegedly tasked with regulating pipelines. The agency has framed a series of hearings as a chance for the public to weigh in on the venture, but many charge the process is deeply flawed, given that at least half of the NEB's board members formerly worked in the energy industry.
What's more, Lickers told Common Dreams, the hearings violate precolonial law encapsulated in the Haudenosaunee constitution. "The NEB doesn't even make the call. All they do is put a recommendation to the federal government," said Lickers. "We wanted to push home that this is a process of futility, and if we are going to stop pipelines, we need to move forward with direct action."
She added, "We have a responsibility to future generations to assert our sovereignty."