Harper’s Speech To British Parliament Draws Multiple Tar Sands Protests

As promised, multiple protests against the tar sands greeted Prime Minister Stephen Harper Thursday in London, where he became the first Canadian prime minister to address British Parliament since 1944. Harper has been using his UK trip to lobby against the proposed European Union (EU) fuel quality directive, which would label oil from the Albertan tar sands as 'highly polluting' to deter imports into Europe.

Linda Solomon writes for the Vancouver Observer, that "50 campaigners representing 30 environmental groups gathered outside the UK Parliament [to] greet Prime Minister Stephen Harper's car with anti-tar sands banners, placards and chants." One of them, Suzanne Dhaliwal, was dressed as Bridgette DePape, the Senate Page who was fired in 2011 for holding up a "Stop Harper" sign on the Canadian Senate floor.

The group protest outside Parliament was organized by the UK Tar Sands Network (TSN). Jess Worth of the TSN is quoted as saying that Thursday's protests "demonstrate just how strongly people in the UK feel about the Harper government's attempts to force their dirty tar sands oil onto Europe."

Worth added that science is on the side of the protestors: "to have a chance of avoiding runaway climate change, we need to leave unconventional fossil fuels in the ground. It's time the Harper government accepted this fact and stopped putting the interests of Big Oil above all our collective futures."

The TSN posted a YouTube video of the protest.

In a separate protest, members of an activist group calling themselves "Love Canada, Hate Tar Sands" (LCHTS) attempted to "block the Sovereign's Entrance Gate to the room where Harper was speaking," and scaled the roof of the Parliament building to try and interrupt Harper during his speech.

According to the BBC, "shouting was heard" inside, but the "speech went ahead." They also report that two women were arrested outside "on suspicion of criminal damage," and three others "detained" by Parliamentary security for trying to get into "non-public rooms."

On their tumblr blog, LCHTS posted videos of their protest on the rooftop of Parliament. They also posted a statement, saying:

"From further marginalising historically shunted Indigenous people, to muzzling world class climate scientists, Prime Minister Harper has shown time and again that nothing will stand between him and developing dirty tar sands, even though tar sands will create unprecedented global warming. Now Harper brings his circus of oil peddlers to Europe to interfere in EU climate legislation, to push his monstrous industry onto Europeans."

They add that by staging Thursday's protest they "have acted, in solidarity with those resisting Harper everywhere, to STOP CLIMATE CRIMINAL HARPER."

British Prime Minister David Cameron's government has proven a staunch supporter of Harper's tar sands push. But some in the UK government are pushing back.

The TSN reports on their site that British MPs have tabled an Early Day Motion to recognize the damaging effects of tar sands exploitation, resist Canadian lobbying against the EU fuel quality directive, and keep tar sands oil imports out of Europe. 7 MPs from 4 different parties have signed. Solomon notes that "other MPs will now be encouraged to sign, in the run-up to an EU Member States' vote later this year."

Harper's final destination in Europe is the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland this week. At G8, Harper is expected to continue lobbying against the EU fuel quality directive. He's also likely to advocate for the Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) which, according to citizens' organization the Council of Canadians, could support tar sands expansion by "[empowering] European corporations to attack environmental and health measures" and "[restricting] our Internet freedom [by criminalizing] certain online behaviour."

Image Credit: Rajan Zaveri / No Tar Sands Facebook Page

Indrapramit Das is a freelance writer, critic and artist. His work has appeared in Slant Magazine, Vancouver Weekly, Strange Horizons…

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