(Nearly a thousand people gathered for an anti-Trans Mountain pipeline rally in Montreal. Photo: Tom Fennario/APTN)
The grey clouds hanging heavy over Montreal had been threatening rain all day. But it wasn’t until the Red Tail Spirit Singers played the Lakota song Mni Wiconi (“Water is Life” in English) did it begin to shower.
“Well yeah, it’s a water song so of course they brought the rain,” said Mohawk Elder Sedalia Kawennotas Fazio.
Despite the conditions, Fazio delivered the Ohén:ton Karihwatéhkwen (traditional Mohawk thanksgiving address) to nearly a thousand people gathered downtown to rally against Kinder Morgan’s 1,150 km Trans Mountain pipeline project.
The Ohén:ton Karihwatéhkwen, known colloquially as “the words that come before all else” gives thanks to the creator for all life forms, from plants to animals to insects. Life that Fazio strongly believes is endangered by fossil fuel driven climate change.
“Let’s hope that this black snake that they’re threatening to pass through our lands to kill our mother, to kill our waters, is stopped,” Fazio concluded at the end of her speech.
The Trans Mountain pipeline is an expansion of an existing pipeline running from Edmonton to Burnaby, BC.
The pipeline will see its capacity increase nearly threefold to 890,000 barrels a day and will run through the territory of dozens of First Nations.
“We know this pipeline can’t be built if we want to respect the Paris [2016 climate] agreement, this pipeline can’t be built if we want to respect reconciliation with First Nations, and Quebeckers are saying today ‘we’re standing with you, in B.C., we’re standing with you First Nations and we’ll do whatever needed to block this pipeline,” said Patrick Bonin of Greenpeace, a co-organizer of the rally.
Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon of nearby Kanesatake Mohawk territory echoed that sentiment.
“We’re possibly going to start a movement to block all products and services from Alberta, we could get a lot of people involved in this, hopefully it doesn’t have to go that way,” said Simon.
Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Chief Ghislain Picard is a signee of the Treaty Alliance, a group of 150 Indigenous Nations that states they will “collectively challenge” Alberta tar sands expansion.
Picard said many here have their eyes on May 31, the deadline Kinder Morgan has given to abandon the Trans Mountain project unless B.C. agrees to stop obstructing the section of pipeline running through the province.
“We’re keeping tabs on whatever is being said, we’ll be following the direction of our sister nations out on the west coast,” said Picard.
For Sedalia Fazio, the solidarity of Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies against tar sands expansion is encouraging, no matter what the May deadline brings.
“It gives us hope,” said Fazio “but whether the powers that be will listen…I don’t know.”