Blockade of Ontario Highway in Protest of Line 9 Tar Sands Pipeline

Concerned citizens blocked a highway in Ontario on May 6th to raise the alarm about Enbridge's controversial plans to ship tar sands bitumen through the 37-year old Line 9 pipeline.

The “90-for-90” blockade caused a temporary traffic delay where Line 9 intersects Highway 6 between Guelph and Hamilton. Forty people held the space for ninety minutes to represent the “ninety significant spills” Enbridge pipelines had in both 2009 and 2010.

Participants gave out homemade muffins to drivers held up by the blockade to apologize for the inconvenience.

“The blockade was a necessary step because the Canadian government has gone to extreme lengths to ensure that there is no public debate on Line 9,” says Elysia Petrone, media liaison and participant of the 90-for-90 blockade.

The federal government drew scorn last month for limiting public participation in Line 9 and future decisions about oil and gas pipelines. This includes restricting what Canadians are allowed to say about these projects at public hearings.

“When people feel the federal government is not listening to their legitimate concerns about a pipeline project they will find other avenues to be heard, ” says Mark Calzavara, Ontario organizer for the Council of Canadians.

Last year's federal omnibus bill C-37 drastically changed key pieces of legislation such as the National Energy Board Act to speed up decisions on pipeline projects by putting them under less regulatory scrutiny. 

“As more Ontarians wake up to the risks associated with Line 9 we will see more actions like the 90-for-90 blockade.” Calzavara told DeSmog Canada. Another Line 9 protest is planned for May 21st in Ontario's oil refining capital – Sarnia.

“Enbridge is gambling with our water. We have everything to lose.”

Line 9 cuts across all waterways leading to Lake Ontario and comes within ten kilometres of the lake itself as it makes its way from Sarnia to Montreal. Millions of Canadians rely on Lake Ontario for their drinking water.

Enbridge's Line 9 will help move tar sands oil closer to the coast near export facilities. Map by Natural Resources Defense Council.

The 90-for-90 blockade held a mock oil spill on Highway 6 with stuffed animals painted black and seventy feet of black fabric to demonstrate the dangers of transporting bitumen through Line 9.

Enrbidge's is still cleaning up its 2010 pipeline spill in Michigan. That pipeline – Line 6B – was of a similar age and design to Line 9 and was transporting bitumen when it burst. Contamination of local waterways spread as far as fifty kilometres downstream.

“We got mixed reactions from drivers. Quite a few were supportive. We even got a few thumbs up,” says Petrone.

The blockade was also in solidarity with indigenous peoples in western Canada who are disproportionately effected by tar sands development. Indigenous peoples are inspiring Canadians to oppose the tar sands industry as well says the blockaders.

Recently the UK's Guardian referred to Canada's indigenous peoples as “the best defence against Canada's resource rush.”

 “Tar sands industry's desperate attempts to ship toxic tar sands north, south, east and west is uniting all sorts of movements across Canada and the US.” Petrone told DeSmog Canada.

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