A group protesting against the Energy East pipeline conversion will strap on skis and snowshoes this weekend to "walk the line,” as they attempt to travel at 20 km stretch of the gas pipeline northeast of Thunder Bay.
The two-day trek includes representatives of First Nations, Citizens United for a Sustainable Planet, the local chapter of the Council of Canadians, Lakehead University, and members of the public.
Organizer Paul Berger said the TransCanada pipeline conversion project is out of sight and out of mind for many Canadians, and this trek is meant to raise an awareness of the group’s concerns.
“To actually go to the pipeline and walk on — above — the pipeline, it sort of embodies, or gives us a sense of where it is and makes things more concrete,” he said.
“It shows a little bit more commitment than showing up on a street corner for an hour with a sign. We want to have fun out there, we want to see the area, we want to talk to people about our concerns.”
TransCanada wants to convert the line to carry oil east from Alberta. Berger said the pipe crosses all major rivers that flow into Lake Superior.
“Pipelines leak, and they leak very frequently,” Berger continued. “This is an older pipeline [that] was made for natural gas. It's currently transporting natural gas, and they're planning on putting a substance in it that's kind of like peanut butter.”
'We have to look at the positive'
Greenstone mayor Renald Beaulieu says there are too many potential benefits to stall the project.
“If we want to eventually see employment, we have to look at the positive,” he said.
“I know there's always some negative to certain things, but we're seeing this as a positive and we want to see the project move along.
Beaulieu said he's looking for the pipeline to bring jobs and increased tax revenue, along with advances in technology to keep the environment safe.
Beaulieu added TransCanada has told him there will be a lot more monitoring happening with today's advances in technology.
"We're putting confidence in the fact that, yes, it's there, and it's going to be a safe environment for us to live in, naturally,” he said.
“We live here, we're Northerners. We truly believe in keeping the beauty we have in our region, but we also want to look at what is required, what is needed, [and] why it's needed. Somebody has to put trust in our system, and have things move on."
The protestors will make the 20 km trek from the Black Sturgeon River to Nipigon.