OTTAWA – Aboriginal protesters involved in an Enbridge pipeline occupation are vowing more action this summer.
Clayton Thomas-Muller – who speaks on behalf of the Sovereignty Summer group, an extension of last winter’s Idle No More movement – said the group plans more protests in Ontario, including a proposed 4,400-kilometre pipeline that would carry between 500,000 and 850,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries in Eastern Canada.
“The Energy East TransCanada pipeline proposal is problematic. We’re very concerned about it. They should expect resistance to that proposal,” Thomas-Muller said in an interview. He also said they’re targeting a fracking project on a First Nations reserve in New Brunswick.
On Wednesday morning, 18 people were arrested and five charged criminally following a week-long occupation of an Enbridge pumping station outside Hamilton, Ont. Thomas-Mueller said the group opposed a plan to reverse the Line 9 pipeline from the Great Lakes to Portland, Me.
“We don’t want dirty tar sands crude flowing through southwestern Ontario,” he said.
Idle No More will launch a splashy new website Friday morning, which will include mapping technology and list-building to better organize themselves.
The Sovereignty Summer group is made up of Idle No More activists as well as an indigenous land-rights group called the Defenders of the Land. Thomas-Mueller said he’s sure some of the protesters involved in the Line 9 occupation, dubbed Swamp Line 9 in social media, were involved in 2011’s Occupy movement.
“Occupy had expressed and continues to express its ongoing support of indigenous struggle,” he said.
Thomas-Mueller said the group has six demands, including repealing sections of last year’s omnibus budget legislation to do with environmental protection and an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
He said the group plans on disrupting Canadian commerce through blockades, direct actions, banner drops, and letter-writing campaigns.
“The last best effort, for not just First Nations but all Canadians to protect their precious water, land and…national resources from big oil and other extractive industries is the use of a native-rights based strategic framework.”
A spokeswoman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said the government has made concrete progress on education, comprehensive claims and economic development with First Nations.
“While all of this progress is important and will have a positive impact on First Nations, we are committed to continue building on it and sustaining the momentum that is being created,” said spokeswoman Andrea Richer.
“While Canadians have a right to peaceful protest, much more can be accomplished by working together. We won’t always agree on how to achieve our objectives but the sign of a mature relationship is one where parties can disagree, and still find ways to work together, to find common ground and get things done.”
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo has expressed support for Sovereignty Summer, which preaches non-violent direct action. Atleo told Global News last week he expects more protest and demonstrations this summer.
Thomas-Mueller said the Hamilton occupation is the first of many.
“First Nations people aren’t just protesting for the heck of it,” he said. “We’re protesting because our lives are on the line.”