The International Stop the Tar Sands Day (ISTSDay) network has inspired people around the world to organize, educate and mobilize civil society to stop Alberta’s destructive Tar Sands industry, every year on June 18th. Tar Sands Day events took place this past weekend, in 11 Canadian cities, the United States, Europe, Nigera and countries as far away as New Zealand!
In Toronto, Greenpeace volunteers and Environmental Justice Toronto organized a “demo-fest” in Trinity Bellwoods park, speaking with hundreds of people about the real impacts of Alberta’s Tar Sands: deforestation, climate change, poisoning communities downstream and the violation of Indigenous peoples rights. With the help of a Toronto-based activist drumming collective, Rhythms of Resistance Toronto, people around the busy park heard loud and clear that we need to “Stop the Tar Sands”! A cheerleading squad also toured, making sure everyone heard about the Tar Sands’ environmental and human rights crimes.
As people joined our activities, children were invited to fish in our Toxic Tailings Pond or have their face painted. While others chose to try our tasty “Alberta Lemonade”, which was falsely advertised as coming from the contaminated Athabasica River, part of Canada’s largest river system. People were asked how they would feel about drinking the water downstream communities are faced with in Alberta, water laced with heavy metals, pollutants and toxins. In addition, we had a roaming trivia game, testing the public’s knowledge about the Tar Sands, Canada’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Droves of people also contributed to our banner making activities. First by dipping their hands in black paint, symbolic of dirty Tar Sands oil, and leaving their handprints on our giant banner that read “Joining Hands to Stop the Tar Sands”. Afterwards, they read about Alberta’s largest and most recent oil spill, which has affected the community of Little Buffalo, Alberta and the Lubicon Cree First Nation. They then signed our banner “Dear Little Buffalo”, with their own personal messages of support and solidarity as people in the community are still experiencing ill-effects and ongoing threats, like health problems and dangerous forest fires.
Two Environmental Justice popular education workshops were also held, bringing participants together to talk and reflect on Alberta’s Tar Sands. As one community organizer declared: “Our government must stop providing subsidies and expanding this dirty industry. Instead, we implore Canada and Alberta to make substantial investments into the renewable energy sector, to respect aboriginal treaty rights, and to provide a just transition for workers and frontline communities in the Tar Sands. This is what a healthy and just Canada looks like” said Kimia Ghomeshi, organizer with Environmental Justice Toronto.
Community organizers and activists work everyday of the year in the struggle to stop the Tar Sands, as one organizer reminds us: “Enbridge has proposed to build its Northern Gateway Pipelines from the tar sands, through our territories, and through many of our critical salmon-bearing rivers,” says Jasmine Thomas, a Saik’uz woman speaking on behalf of the Yinka Dene Alliance, an alliance between 5 First Nations of a total of 80 First Nations in British Columbia that oppose the pipeline developments. “These waters, the fish and the wildlife that they sustain, are the lifeblood of our people. Therefore, after long consideration, we have said NO to these projects that are against our laws and could destroy our people’s futures.”
Big thank you to other groups and organizers who came out to support our Stop the Tar Sands Day: Rhythms of Resistance Toronto, People’s Assembly on Climate Justice, Environmental Defense, Bells on Bloor, Protest Barrick, EcoSanity, No One Is Illegal and Council of Canadians.
Check out these links, photos and videos:
Photos from Stop the Tar Sands Day Toronto
Video - Stop the Tar Sands Day Toronto
International Stop the Tar Sands Day Video
Stay in Touch: Stop the Tar Sands Day Toronto Facebook Group
International Stop the Tar Sands Day Facebook Group
Oil On Lubicon Land: A Photo Essay