- Author Naomi Klein, Gitz Deranger of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and dozens more arrested
- Pipeline's opponents include Al Gore
- More than 1,000 taken away by police during 2-week-long rally outside White House
Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein was among dozens of people, including a Canadian aboriginal protester, arrested on Friday outside the White House at a demonstration against a contentious Alberta-to-Texas oil pipeline.
Klein was arrested alongside fellow Canadian Gitz Deranger, from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, as well as several U.S. indigenous leaders.
They were part of a two-week-old civil disobedience campaign aimed at pressuring U.S. President Barack Obama to block Calgary-based TransCanada Corp.'s proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Klein later told CBC's Power & Politics she wasn't planning on getting arrested — for the first time in her life — because of the possible difficulties it could cause for future travel to the United States.
"But when I arrived at the White House today, there was this incredibly strong delegation of indigenous leaders, from across North America but particularly from Canada, and the speeches they were making were so moving," she said. "We heard from the people living downstream, who are dealing with having their land spoiled, who are dealing with outbreaks of disease and cancer, and it was just so moving that I really felt the need to stand with them in solidarity."
'It turns out, actually, that there's absolutely no guarantee that the oil that will be carried by the Keystone pipeline will enter U.S. markets.'—Author Naomi Klein
Keystone XL, an extension of TransCanada's existing pipeline from Alberta to Illinois, would carry oilsands crude through six U.S. states to refineries in Texas. Environmentalists say the pipeline is a disaster waiting to happen, pointing to several recent oil spills along pipelines in the past few months and the fact that Keystone XL will run through sensitive lands in the U.S. Midwest.
Friday's protest against the project saw dozens of people who were rallying peacefully taken to D.C. police headquarters in armoured vans in the dying hours of a two-week demonstration that has resulted in the arrests of more than 1,000 people.
Bill Erasmus, chief of the Dene First Nation and the Assembly of First Nations regional chief for the Northwest Territories, was in the U.S. capital to lend support to the campaign and meet with the U.S. Department of the Interior about his people's concerns.
"We talked about our concerns about the oil coming to the States when it's really not needed. The Americans are not short on oil; this oil is going to go to the Gulf Coast and then be shipped to the highest bidder, and that doesn't really make sense in the national interest," Erasmus said. "They were very receptive."
Klein said that the companies that have signed up to buy the oil delivered by Keystone XL are talking about exporting it to Latin America and Europe.
"It turns out, actually, that there's absolutely no guarantee that the oil that will be carried by the Keystone pipeline will enter U.S. markets," she said. "This starts to make a lot of sense for why the Canadian government has engaged in this frenetic lobbying campaign in Europe and in Britain to keep Europe from implementing emissions standards that would effectively bar tarsands oil.… The tarsands pipeline has nothing to do with U.S. energy security."
Escorted to jail 1-by-1
Friday's arrests came a week after the U.S. State Department released its final environmental assessment of the $7-billion pipeline, determining the project would cause minimal risk. Energy Secretary Steven Chu also suggested this week that the pipeline was likely to get approved due to Canada's close ties to the United States.
As they have been every day for almost two weeks, the protesters were arrested one-by-one by U.S. Park Police and escorted to police vans after sitting peacefully on a White House sidewalk holding anti-pipeline banners. As they were helped into police vans, their fellow activists shouted "thank you" on the other side of the police barricades.
"I have seen the devastation of our environment and people's health with increased cancer deaths," Deranger said before his arrest. "If Obama approves this pipeline, it would only lead to more of our people needlessly dying."
"We're downstream from the tarsands development. I live about 800 miles north, and we're already feeling the effects," said Erasmus, who said water levels are dropping due to the mass amounts of water required to process the oilsands.
"Water is also being polluted.... We can no longer drink the water or eat the fish. We want the Obama administration to know this is not in the national interest of Canada, this is not in the national interest of the United States."
While actors Daryl Hannah and Margot Kidder, both arrested during the two-week campaign, aren't at the height of their celebrity, former vice-president Al Gore, now a leading U.S. environmentalist, has also weighed in.
In a plea to Obama earlier this week, Gore urged the president to block the pipeline, calling the oilsands "the dirtiest fuel on the planet."
"The answer to our climate, energy and economic challenges does not lie in burning more dirty fossil fuels — instead, we must continue to press for much more rapid development of renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies and cuts in the pollution that causes global warming," Gore wrote on his blog.
The Obama administration says it will make a final decision on the pipeline by the end of the year, after it determines whether the project is in the U.S. national interest.