MONTREAL – On Thursday, April 1, 2010, a group of over 70 left Dominion Square in the heart of Montreal to make the 15 km journey to the city’s east end to shine a light on the largest urban oil refining center in Canada. Drawing contingents of activists from various student, social and environmental justice groups, the Bike Bloc organized by Climate Justice Montreal made its way down Rene Levesque to Berri and up to Sherbrooke Street, heading on a collision course with the Enbridge Trailbreaker Tar Sands expansion pipeline.
“The east end of Montreal is a seldom seen and discussed region, but it is the largest urban oil refining center in Canada,” said Pierre-Olivier Parent, an organizer with Climate Justice Montreal. ”It is a vast wasteland of oil, gas and chemical storage tanks, threatening the health of local residents and all Montrealers. If completed the Trailbreaker would bring the direct effects of the Tar Sands right here.”’
The bikes entered the post-apocalyptic petroleum wasteland just beyond the last metro station, passing first by Shell Canada’s Montreal Development. The massive refinery has recently been put up for sale, announced by “A Vendre” signs lining the road, proudly offering up “800 skilled employees” as part of the package deal for any eager buyer.
“Rather than expanding the petroleum infrastructure that is destroying ecosystems and communities, we need to build a clean energy economy, creating meaningful jobs for thousands of people including those working at the Shell Refinery. Our society needs jobs that are not dependent on unstable, destructive resources that soar and crash, creating environmental and economic catastrophes,” says Cameron Stiff, a local sustainability organizer and activist.
As the bloc moved further east they crossed paths with an imposing concrete slab home to the Trailbreaker, set to send 40,000 barrels – of a daily 200,000 that will pass through the city – of dirty bitumen sludge for refining in Montreal. The bikers set up a circular road blockade, as two climbers unfurled a 10 meter banner declaring “Changeons le System! Pas Le Climat!” (system change not climate change!) pointing to the Trailbreaker as the physical manifestation of the Tar Sands in Montreal. A number of speakers pointed to the Tar Sands impacts on the Boreal forest, the Athabasca and Mackenzie watershed and the danger they pose for pushing Canada and the world towards a climate tipping point. Special emphasis was given to the danger they pose for downstream communities, such as Fort Chipewyan, who face poisoned water and toxic air each day.
“As we speak, Enbridge, one of the major tar sands pipeline companies, is pushing through a pumping station in the community of Dunham, QC,” said Kawina Robichaud, an organizer with Climate Justice Montreal, as she dangled above the crowd. “This project is going forward without a BAPE report, and without consultation of the local people, in order to facilitate the expansion of the Tar Sands, placing Quebec downstream of the destruction.”