Pro-pipeline protest convoy approaches Ottawa after rolling across country

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A convoy of angry Albertans and other westerners rolls into Ottawa Tuesday for a mass protest against federal energy and environmental policies that has also become a magnet for extremist, anti-immigrant elements.

A couple of hundred vehicles are expected on Parliament Hill as part of the United We Roll convoy, which began in Red Deer, Alta., on Valentine’s Day and made its way east over four days with stops for rallies along the way.

« The core message is we need immediate action for our pipelines to get in the ground, to get to tidewater and to the rest of Canada, » said lead organizer Glen Carritt, the owner of an oilfield fire and safety company in Innisfail, Alta.

The protesters want the Liberal government to scrap the carbon tax and two bills that overhaul environmental assessments of energy projects and ban oil tankers from the northern coast of British Columbia. Carritt said participants also are unhappy about the government’s recently signing a non-binding United Nations compact on global migration.

Carritt said Canada’s borders « need to be controlled » by Canada and its citizens, not the United Nations.

Another convoy was originally created by a group that called itself Canada Action, which cancelled the plan and refunded thousands of dollars in donations after that effort became associated with extremist elements in the Yellow Vests Canada movement.

Organizers change name

Carritt originally referred to his convoy as a « yellow vest convoy » but renamed it United We Roll after it too was linked to people spewing hateful rhetoric against Muslims and immigrants.

« After much consideration, we have decided to make this convoy about being inclusive and supporting Canadians first and foremost, » Carritt wrote on the protest’s GoFundMe page in late January. « Our new name is United We Roll! Convoy For Canada! »

Some trucks in the convoy display the signature yellow vest garment on their front grilles, but Carritt stresses the rally is open to anyone fed up with the federal government — as long as they aren’t violent.

« Everybody’s involved, » said Carritt. « It doesn’t matter — you can wear a yellow vest or blue coveralls or black hardhat or suit and tie. Everybody that’s peaceful is welcome. »

Jason Corbeil, another organizer, renounced any association with a Sault. Ste. Marie, Ont., yellow vest group that had claimed online to be part of the convoy. The blog of one of those organizers includes calls for specific politicians to be executed, refers to immigrants as « sub-human » and argues women don’t belong in politics.

The ‘United We Roll’ convoy of semi-trucks set out from Red Deer, Alta., on Feb. 14, headed to Ottawa to draw attention to the energy sector and the need for pipelines. (Jeff McIntos/Canadian Press)

Corbeil said the convoy does not condone hate and is about uniting people.

Evan Balgord, the executive director the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, however, is warning that the convoy is giving a platform for hate.

« This convoy is a Yellow Vests Canada convoy, and any well-meaning pro-pipeline individuals involved are in fact legitimizing and breathing oxygen into the broader Yellow Vests Canada movement, which spreads hate, conspiracy theories and death threats targeting Muslims, politicians and other Canadians, » he said.

Counter-protests expected

Indigenous Solidarity Ottawa is planning a demonstration near Parliament Hill Tuesday to counter the convoy’s protest, condemning what it calls « pro-pipeline, far right and outright racist » rhetoric.

Saskatchewan Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall is planning to speak at the convoy’s Parliament Hill event Tuesday. She said she is pleased to participate and that the organizers have made clear the protest is about pipelines and energy policy, not hate.

« I see everyday Canadians who are out speaking out strongly in support of Canadian pipelines and their jobs, and I want to be there to say I appreciate what they’re doing, » she said.

The rally could bring much of downtown Ottawa to a standstill over the next two days, with street closures planned around Parliament Hill to make room for the 200 or more semi-trailers, pickup trucks, cars and buses expected. While the United We Roll group is largely made up of people from Western Canada, a group of like-minded protesters from Eastern Canada is to join up with them in Ottawa.

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Time to ‘push back’ against federal government, Conservative leaders say at Sask. pro-pipeline rally

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The battleground for pipelines and the oil and gas industry was set in Moosomin, Sask., on Saturday, as the federal  Conservative Leader blasted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his handling of the energy file.

« His attack on Canada’s energy sector is by design. It’s on purpose, » Andrew Scheer told the audience gathered for the pro-pipeline rally, also attended by Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and Conservative Senator Denise Batters.

« This is the one area where he’s doing exactly what he said would do. »

Trudeau has spoken about transitioning Canada away from fossil fuels. Scheer says, if he becomes prime minister, he would  promote Canadian oil and gas. 

« I will travel around the world promoting Canadians’ energy sector, as a source of ethical and responsible and sustainable energy around the world, » he promised, to cheers from the audience.

The federal government had bought the Trans Mountain pipeline in order to make progress on a stalled project, but a Supreme Court blocked further progress, ruling that Canada’s efforts to meaningfully consult with Indigenous people, as required by law, fell short.

Scheer criticized Trudeau for overpaying for the pipeline by $1 billion.  

« Justin Trudeau paid more than the sticker price for a pipeline that he can’t even build, » he charged.

Crowds gathered in Moosomin, Sask. to hear from various politicians and other pipeline advocates. (Trevor Botherel / CBC)

Scheer had set the stage for Saturday’s pro-pipeline appearance with an appearance in Saskatoon on Friday night, talking about the need to build pipelines.  

« We know that the best way to transport that energy, the most environmentally friendly way, taking oil and gas off of rail cars, is to build pipelines, » Scheer said, while speaking in Saskatoon on Friday, one day before news of a derailment of a train carrying crude oil in Manitoba.

« We need a government that has a plan to get them built through the private sector by providing certainty and clarity in approvals process and that’s what my plan will do. »

Scheer said his plan, if he is to become prime minister in this year’s election, would be to repeal a carbon tax and repeal Bill C-69, which he argues muddies the approval process for pipelines. Bill C-69 provides a process for assessing the environmental, health, social and economic effects of pipeline and other projects.

Instead, these pipelines need to be declared in the national interest, because of the benefits they confer to every single region, said Scheer.

« And come October, after forming government, we will start to clean up the mess that [Trudeau’s] left us, » he promised the crowd.

Moe also took to the stage, saying the strength of the audience on a frigid February day spoke volumes about their frustration with the downtrodden oil and gas sector.  

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe walks through the crowd before speaking at a pro-pipeline rally. He said ‘It’s time for us to begin to push back and we need to push back pretty hard’ against the federal government. (MIchael Bell/Canadian Press)

« For far too long, this conversation has been dominated by those who disapprove of how you and myself and and our neighbours in this province make a living in our communities, » he said, adding the federal government was simply not listening to people whose livelihoods depended on sectors like oil and gas and mining.  

« The moment has come in the nation of Canada. It’s time for us to begin to push back and we need to push back pretty hard. »

Speakers were scheduled to address the crowd on issues affecting the oil and gas sector. (Trevor Botherel / CBC)

Moosomin economy driven by energy 

The rally was organized by Moosomin Economic Development, with Moe saying that the southern Saskatchewan town of about 2,500 people was among the communities that depended on a thriving oil and gas industry. 

A news release indicates « Moosomin would have played a part in the cancelled Energy East project with a 1,050,000 barrel tank farm planned for the Moosomin Compressor Station and a feeder pipeline from Cromer, Man.,  to the Moosomin Compressor Station, both part of the Energy East plan. »

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Indigenous-led truck convoy rolls through northern Alberta to support pro-pipeline movement

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Indigenous truck drivers staged a pro-pipeline rally in the tiny community of Lac La Biche, Alta, Sunday as laid-off oil and gas workers struggle to make ends meet.

Sunday’s rally, about 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, was billed as the first Indigenous rally in support of pipelines.    

Organized by the local Region One Aboriginal Business Association, more than 30 trucks made their way around Lac La Biche and through a couple of neighbouring communities, such as Plamondon, Alta.

Family and friends gathered in the Bold Center community hall, many holding signs reading: « I love Canada oil and gas. »

ROABA held the rally to highlight what it considers Alberta’s northern Indigenous communities’ support for pipelines and opposition to Bill C-69, federal legislation that aims to change the way energy projects are approved. 

Shawn McDonald, president of ROABA, believes the legislation will delay projects and add to the unemployment. 

He said the association is trying to « show support for Alberta families that are really hurting right now. »

« That’s our main objective, is just to show our support. »

Robert White, from the Kikino Metis Settlement south of Lac la Biche, was one of dozens participating in the convoy. He drives a truck for a company that supplies heavy equipment to the oil patch.

« At times, we can have up to 600 employees, » he said. « And right now, we probably got about 60, which is not fair. »

He wakes up at 4:30 a.m. every morning to go to work.

And he’s one of the lucky ones. As a supervisor, he’s had to lay off workers in recent weeks. 

Dozens of pipeline supporters joined a rally at the Lac La Biche community centre Sunday. (Hugo Levesque/CBC)

« It really affects our community as a whole, like our local businesses. »

White didn’t want to speculate as to why some First Nations communities, especially in B.C., tend to oppose pipelines.

« We have to get to work, that’s the bottom line. »

The federal government paid $4.5 billion dollars in taxpayer money to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline.

But the pipeline expansion project is stalled after a federal court order cancelled its approval, ruling that the government hadn’t consulted enough with Indigenous groups.

Another protest convoy is planned for this week, starting from Red Deer, Alt., and heading to Ottawa with a projected arrival date of Feb. 19.

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Pro-pipeline rally draws 1,000 attendees in Alberta town of about 6,600

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Speakers at another pro-pipeline rally in Alberta continued their attacks on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday, saying if leaders in Ottawa don’t hear their message now, they will when a planned convoy arrives there in 2019.

Chad Miller with the group Oilfield Dads told the crowd of about 1,000 gathered in Rocky Mountain House that the province is suffering its « worst recession turned depression » in a generation due weakened oil prices, exacerbated by lack of pipeline capacity.

« Even those that put away for the rainy days and then some have had to use their savings, and more, to try to weather this never-ending hard times scenario, » Miller said.

Chad Miller with the group Oilfield Dads said Alberta is in a « never-ending hart times scenario. » (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Numerous rallies and truck convoys have been held across Alberta and Saskatchewan in recent weeks to protest against federal actions that critics say will make building pipelines more difficult. Those include Bill C-69 to revamp the National Energy Board and Bill C-48, which would ban oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s northern coast.

A convoy in Medicine Hat, Alta., last weekend attracted 650 vehicles, according to police, and groups are planning one in February that will travel from Western Canada to Ottawa.

« Today, I say to Ottawa, can you hear us yet? » Miller asked the crowd during Saturday’s rally.

« Don’t worry, you’ll see us in February when we convoy to Ottawa! »

A truck convoy was also held Saturday in Lloydminster, which straddles the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary.

Earlier this month the federal government announced it would spend $1.6 billion to help energy companies struggling due to plunging oil prices.

But Jason Nixon, who represents Rocky Mountain House in the provincial legislature, said what Alberta really wants is pipelines.

« Trudeau, we don’t want your money. We want you to get out of the way, » Nixon said to the crowd in Rocky Mountain House.

The groups Rally 4 Resources and Canada Action say in a Facebook event post that the convoy to Ottawa is intended to end Feb. 20 on Parliament Hill. The post says letters voicing support for the industry, as well as individual and family photos, will be delivered to the Senate.

The page stresses that the event is not connected to the so-called yellow vest campaign, which also advocates for pipelines but is associated with opposition to Canada signing the United Nations migration pact.

« To be clear, we take issue with bad policies put forward by Justin Trudeau’s government, but we do not favour any political party. This movement is about supporting our families, » the Facebook post states.

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