– Stephen Harper met by large crowd of protesters from 30 environmental and human rights groups
– Five activists arrested after blocking the entrance to Harper’s speech and scaling the roof of Parliament
– 6 MPs table an Early Day Motion to keep tar sands out of Europe
– Harper criticised for using trip to lobby against EU climate legislation and spread misinformation
– Brigette DePape’s iconic ‘Stop Harper’ page protest recreated outside Houses of Parliament
Today, Canada’s controversial leader Stephen Harper was met by three separate protests as he attempted to deliver a prestigious speech to both Houses of the UK Parliament. He arrived in the UK on Tuesday, and has been using the trip to lobby against the Fuel Quality Directive. This key piece of EU climate legislation would – rightly – label tar sands oil as more polluting than conventional oil. 50 campaigners representing 30 environmental groups gathered outside Parliament to greet Harper’s car with anti-tar sands banners, placards and chants. One protester was dressed as Senate Page Brigette DePape who was fired after holding a “Stop Harper” sign on the Canadian Senate floor in 2011.
Meanwhile, in a separate protest two activists from a group calling themselves “Love Canada, Hate Tar Sands” (LCHTS) attempted to block the Sovereign’s Entrance Gate to the room where Harper was speaking. They poured “oil” on themselves and the ground, and their anti-tar sands shouts were heard inside the room as Harper stood up to begin his address. They were then arrested by police.
At the same time, three more activists from LCHTS entered the Parliament building and scaled the roof, in an attempt to get to where Harper was speaking. Wearing “No Tar Sands” and “Stop Harper” T-shirts they livestreamed their protest for some time until being removed by security and later arrested.
According to the Love Canada, Hate Tar Sands’ website, “Prime Minister Harper has shown time and again that nothing will stand between him and developing dirty tar sands, even though tar sands will create unprecedented global warming… Instead of honoured, Harper should be shamed internationally but he is instead invited to address both Houses of Parliament. Harper has taken Canada down a dangerous climate path, destroyed whole ecosystems and overriding centuries-old treaty rights… We will not let this go unchallenged.”
Also today, 6 MPs from four different political parties tabled an Early Day Motion calling on the UK government to resist Canada’s lobbying campaign, support the Fuel Quality Directive and discourage future tar sands imports. All other MPs will now be encouraged to sign, in the run-up to an EU Member States’ vote later this year.
The protest outside Parliament had transatlantic support from 30 organisations, including Greenpeace UK, Friends of the Earth – England, Wales and Northern Ireland and World Development Movement in the UK, the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign in Canada, and 350.org and the Gulf Coast Fund in the US.
Jess Worth, from UK Tar Sands Network, said: ‘Today’s multiple protests demonstrate just how strongly people in the UK feel about the Harper government’s attempts to force their dirty tar sands oil onto Europe. This is part of an unstoppable global movement of resistance to tar sands extraction, expansion and pipelines. The science is clear: to have a chance of avoiding runaway climate change, we need to leave unconventional fossil fuels in the ground. It’s time the Harper government accepted this fact and stopped putting the interests of Big Oil above all our collective futures.’
The tar sands have been called ‘game over for the climate’ by top climate scientist James Hansen, due to the vast potential reserves of this unconventional fuel, and its carbon-intensive extraction process. Locally, new extraction projects are being opposed by First Nations suffering their ill-effects, such as the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Beaver Lake Cree. There are strong opposition movements to opening up the tar sands to new markets via pipelines such as the Keystone XL in the States and the Enbridge Northern Gateway in British Columbia. For peer-reviewed facts and figures on the true impact of the tar sands, see tarsandsrealitycheck.com.
Stephen Harper is the latest in a string of top Canadian politicians to come to Europe, partly with the aim of lobbying against the EU Fuel Quality Directive which could label the tar sands as more polluting than conventional oil and discourage its future import, closing off Europe as a desperately-needed potential market. The Canadian government has continued to spread misinformation about the Directive during Harper’s trip. Harper is also hoping to seal the deal on the controversial Canada-EU free trade agreement (CETA), which could also provide a boost to the tar sands industry, giving oil and gas companies more rights than communities and making it much more difficult for the UK and EU to seriously address climate change in the future.
Media coverage so far:
Vancouver Observer – Harper met by multiple tar sands protests in London
The Guardian – Tar sands activists in Commons protest against Canadian PM