Hundreds of rain-soaked Winnipeggers gathered at the legislative building Saturday for a march criticizing government inaction on climate change.
The march was schedules as part of the international Rise for Climate initiative, which saw hundreds of thousands of people in over 90 countries demand for a move away from fossil fuels toward clean energy.
In Winnipeg, many protesters focused their efforts on the Line 3 pipeline expansion. Some carried signs with slogans reading ‘Keep it in the Ground’ and ‘Stop Line 3.’
The Enbridge-owned project, which will cost $5.3 billion, will replace and expand upon an existing pipeline that runs through Manitoba and into North Dakota and Minnesota. The expansion will nearly double the capacity of crude oil transported daily to about 760,000 barrels.
Work on the pipeline has already begun in Manitoba, and protest groups have responded by setting up camps near the construction. The Canadian portion of the project is expected to be completed by December.
Former Canadian Football League offensive lineman T-Dre Player acted as the master of ceremonies for the speeches prior to the march. Player encouraged protesters to work in any way they could, saying “small things all matter.”
“We have to come together and have a conversation with our leaders, who we’ve appointed, who we’ve voted [in], in which they’ve made a promise to us to divest and to make that transition,” Player said.
“Understand this — we’re not asking for something to happen overnight. We understand it’s a process. But we’re willing to make that process.”
Geraldine McManus, founder of the Spirit of the Buffalo prayer camp near Gretna, Man., has been camping near where the pipeline crosses the border since mid-July.
“I still sit there and wait for my people,” McManus told the crowd.
“I’m Dakota. And my Dakota people are out there, helping this line. And you have no idea how much that bothers me as I sit out there.”
Enbridge has a long history of oil spills — the company itself estimates it has dealt with over 800 spills in the last 15 years, including the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history in 2010, when 3.18 million litres of crude oil was spilled into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. Enbridge faced criticism when it was revealed they had ignored repeated leak warnings for 17 hours beforehand.
“We know how much [pipelines] leak — we know the destruction it has caused into our environment, to the animals,” McManus said.
“We understand this. Our people have been trying for hundreds of years to tell everyone ‘Watch what you do to this land.’ We need this land. We kept saying it’s not for sale. But everyone sold it anyway on us. Where I sit is traditional Dakota territory. Right here is traditional Dakota territory. My territory.
“So will I stand and defend it? You’re darn rights I will. And to hell with Enbridge.”
The crowd cheered as McManus continued their call to arms, and the crowd yelled “shame!”
After the speeches, the crowd marched through ManyFest and the Sherbrook Street Festival. Several carried a large black snake prop representing the effects of oil on water, and protesters sang and clapped.
Player spoke to the value of solidarity within protest groups and the importance of continuing to demand transparency from the country’s leaders.
“Oftentimes, we are distracted with things that happen in our own lives, and that’s okay,” he said.
“But we must hold each other accountable. And most of all, hold these leaders accountable. Stop Line 3.”