APTN National News
Indigenous environmentalists are celebrating after U.S. President Barack Obama turned down TransCanada’s application to build the Keystone XL pipeline Friday.
“It’s so inspiring,” said Melina Laboucan Massimo, climate and energy campaigner with Green Peace Canada and a member of the Lubicon Lake Cree Nation in Alberta.
“This shows that people power does matter and that the voice of the people is important.”
Laboucan Massimo has traveled back and forth to Washington over the last several years to protest the building of Keystone that she said would’ve had devastating effects on the environment.
“There would be more tar sands extraction happening in our homelands, and that means more destruction to the boreal forest, to the habitat of the wetland caribou and all animals that live and dwell in our homelands,” Laboucan Massimo told APTN. “Which would also mean more climate change.”
In 2012 she spoke to the U.S. Congress about the infringements to Indigenous rights on the matter and to try to detour their votes from being in Keystones favour.
“It was quite daunting at the time, I was skeptical of what the potential outcome would be. But, now I’m so happy with the outcome,” she said.
South of the border people at the Rosebud Sioux reservation in South Dakota are also praising the president’s decision. The pipeline was proposed to be built through their territory, and through one of their river systems.
“I’m really proud,” said Grey Grey Cloud a member of the nearby Crow Creek Sioux Tribe who lives at Rosebud. “I’m going to walk with pride. I feel thankful that we’ve defeated this pipeline.”
Last November Grey Cloud along with other protesters were arrested outside the senate chambers after Cloud broke out in song following the voting down of the Keystone approval.
The honour song was heard in the senate chamber and was a moment that Cloud said has now come full circle.
He said he correlates violence against Indigenous women with industrial development and believes Keystone would’ve perpetuated further violence.
“Violence against women is just like violence against our earth. Distractive industries is the same. Because our mother earth is a woman, she gives us life,” said Grey Cloud. “The pipeline, TransCanada, Enbridge and the tar sands development infrastructure are raping our mother earth. It’s sexual assault and it goes one in the same with our women.”
Grey Cloud said now that the fight at their front door is abolished they will dedicate more time and energy to helping their relatives north of the border in Alberta to stop tar sands expansion efforts.
“We are their allies. The borders don’t mean anything to us, they’re still our relatives up there.”
Activist Clayton Thomas-Muller, of the Mathais Colomb Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba, weighed in on the decision in what he called a historic opportunity for Canada’s new Prime Minister to take action at the upcoming COP21 world environmental and climate change gathering.
“Our message is a firm and serious, yet gentle message to the newly elected prime minister,” said Thomas-Muller.
“We have immense hope that he and his cabinet can do the right thing,” said Thomas-Muller. “He’s certainly making some steps forward, but his position on the expansion of the tar sands with no plan of action to deal with climate change going to Paris, these are all things they need to clarify before the big international summit in Paris.”
In a statement following the announcement of Obama’s rejection of Keystone, Trudeau expressed his disappointment but said he is looking forward to continuing to build relationships with the U.S.
“The Canada-U.S. relationship is much bigger than any one project and I look forward to a fresh start with President Obama to strengthen our remarkable ties in a spirit of friendship and co-operation.
During a news conference Friday afternoon in Edmonton, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said she spoke with Trudeau earlier in the day about collaborating to build infrastructure to get Alberta bitumen to tide water.
She also acknowledged the importance of doing a better job to address climate change and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
“Canada can be and is a global source of environmentally responsible energy and it can be more so through better environmental policies,” said Notley. “And Alberta will act to help to make that happen in partnership with Canada’s new federal government.”