Oilsands main topic at environment gathering

Speeches, boat parade part of national push

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IT was hot, humid and a little smoky, but that didn't stop dozens of Winnipeggers from coming together Saturday to fight for climate issues, taking to the streets -- and even the river -- to make their voices heard.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/07/2015 (2706 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

IT was hot, humid and a little smoky, but that didn’t stop dozens of Winnipeggers from coming together Saturday to fight for climate issues, taking to the streets — and even the river — to make their voices heard.

Led by the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition, Manitobans gathered at Assiniboine Park Saturday morning to take part in a bike and boat parade, wrapping up at The Forks for a concert interspersed with speeches from climate advocates and experts in the province.

The event called We > (are greater than) Tar Sands: Winnipeg Paddle and Pedal, was part of a three-day, nationwide push for action against TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, culminating in a march in Toronto today with representatives from more than 100 organizations. The effort is being led by 350.org, an online-based global movement aiming to create organized, united action on environmental issues.

Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press Clayton Thomas-Muller, climate activist with 350.org was the Keynote speaker at a Canada-Wide Protest of the Tar Sands Expansion event, with a local group gathering in the Oodena Circle at the Forks Saturday to raise awareness about saving the Tar Sands Expansion in Alberta.

Clayton Thomas-Muller, a Winnipeg climate activist involved with 350.org, spoke at the event. He said the event was “more celebrations” than protest, and said he hoped to nurture a more productive conversation about climate protection in Canada.

“Our message of today, our message tomorrow is really about launching a new kind of climate movement and talking about what we want as a social movement instead of just the things that we’re against,” Thomas-Muller said at Saturday’s event.

“It’s really about moving the goalposts forward, shifting the dialogue, and really having a debate about having a difference of vision for the future.”

That vision, he said, is of a Canadian economy “that doesn’t force us to choose between jobs and the environment.”

Issues raised with the pipeline included concern over the possibility of leaks that could affect Winnipeg’s drinking water — which many protesters viewed as “inevitable” — and skepticism that economic benefits would reach Manitobans instead going to a select few individuals and corporations.

SSLqOur message of today, our message tomorrow is really about launching a new kind of climate movement and talking about what we want as a social movement instead of just the things that we’re against’

“It really is a high risk for the reward of a very few people,” said Jobb Arnold, one of the protesters at the event. Arnold paddled one of more than a dozen boats in the parade, a canoe with 40 oil cans dragging on a rope behind it.

Janice Graham, an organizer with the MEJC, said she was worried about the pipeline and Canada’s environmental commitments in general — but not for her own sake.

“I’m a grandmother, I have six grandchildren,” she said. “I’m very concerned about my children’s future, my grandchildren’s future.”

Graham said she was a little disappointed by the turnout at the event, hoping to see more protesters turn up. She said she thought the heat, and the lure of a weekend at the cottage or beach, kept the numbers down.

Thomas-Muller, for his part, said he was feeling positive about the event, even if the numbers weren’t what he hoped for.

Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press Children sign a banner stating 'Keep it in the ground,' in the Oodena Circle at The Forks Saturday, part of events held across the country urging a halting of oilsands expansion.

“There’s a phenomenal energy here today of community, celebratory tone, and some real talk about economy (and) about Canada’s lack of climate and energy policy, and a lot of demonstrating commitment by community members here in the city of Winnipeg,” he said.

aidan.geary@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Sunday, July 5, 2015 7:11 AM CDT: Photo updated.

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