Laura Cameron, Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition, speaks at the town hall meeting called "Read Between The Pipelines" held at St. Paul's United Church in Morden, March 7. (GREG VANDERMEULEN/Morden Times)
Billed as a town hall meeting, “Read Between the Pipelines” featured speakers concerned about Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project which runs through the region.
Line 3 runs from Hardisty, Alberta to the Manitoba/U.S. border near Gretna and into North Dakota Minnesota and Wyoming.
Construction has already begun in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The meeting was held March 7 in Morden, and speakers shared a range of views on the proposed project, ranging from outright opposing it, to suggesting more regulation and consultation is needed.
Morden area journalist and farmer Will Braun organized the event that featured himself, Laura Cameron of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition and David Scott of Swan Lake First Nation as speakers.
He shared his experience of living in the oil patch on an Alberta reserve called Little Buffalo and talked about the damage caused by the industry.
His message was directed at the way people live their lives, calling for a world where we aren’t so reliant on fossil fuels.
“It’s important to try to imagine a different way of living,” he said.
Braun said his goal for the evening was for people to come out and talk about it.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he admitted. “I’m glad to see people in this area get together and have the conversation about a contentious political issue.”
Braun said he doesn’t expect everyone to share his views.
“I think we have to much oil in this world. I think Line 3 replacement and expansion is a big step in the wrong direction and I also think that people who don’t share my view deserve to be heard,” he said. “While I have a strong view on that particular issue I also have a strong view that we have to be able to discuss (this) in a healthy way.”
Braun said government should stop subsidizing the fossil fuel sector, something he said they do the tune of $1.6 billion annually.
“That’s investing in the past,” he said. “Those incentives should go to things that lead us in a different direction.”
Laura Cameron of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition agreed, but took a stronger stance, saying there’s no reason for the new pipeline.
“We can’t keep going this way,” she said.
Cameron said the existing Line 3 will remain in the ground, alleging the reason is it would be too expensive to reclaim contaminated soil around it. Enbridge has stated it will be flushed and will pose no risk to ground water or the soil.
She also pointed to climate change as a reason to deny this project.
“We’re at a critical moment right now when it comes to climate change,” she said. “It’s our responsibility to raise our voices collectively.”
Cameron said after the meeting that she was pleasantly surprised to see so many people out. But she repeated her assertion that the line is “an unnecessary expansion project”.
“I recognize that the Line 3 pipeline is there and that it is deteriorating and that there are many other pipelines in that corridor,” she said. “But I think that creating a new much larger piece of infrastructure... is a huge step in the wrong direction.”
The final speaker was David Scott of Swan Lake First Nation.
His message was different, saying he knows the replacement will happen, but called for greater transparency and awareness of the dangers.
“I hope communities like this will join us in questioning government representatives including my own at the reserve... and find out what they’re doing to protect us,” he said.
Scott pointed out it is mostly rural people that carry the risks of having pipelines, and dealing with an industry he said is mostly self regulating.
He called for unity on this topic.
“Just because we’re aboriginal doesn’t mean we have different concerns about the environment than you,” he said.
He also called for punitive damages to be assessed when there is a spill, which would then benefit the community or landowners affected.
“It is about opening our eyes to what’s happening and that we should do more work together,” he said.