Some drivers trying to buy gas in Regina on the long weekend found themselves in the middle of a pipeline protest.
A small group calling itself Defenders of the Land, blocked entrances to a northwest Regina Husky gas station on Thanksgiving Monday afternoon.
Wendy Lerat speaks for the group. She said it includes Indigenous land and water protectors, along with environmentalists and labour organizers.
They were protesting Husky’s pipeline spill in the North Saskatchewan River, as well as recent federal approval of a liquid natural gas pipeline and plant in British Columbia. They also want Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Several protesters, some hiding their faces behind bandanas, waved placards and attempted to block drivers like Dale Ruder from entering the gas station.
“I was just trying to come in, just stopping for gas. They stood in front of the vehicle and wouldn’t move out of the way,” he said.
Ruder nudged his way forward and managed to get through. He didn’t feel the protesters should be allowed to block his access, but also had a question.
“There’s a lot of cars parked here I’m wondering if they drove here to protest.”
Lerat said they did.
“Oh yes yes, I know that’s always the big argument you know what, but if we’re ever going to adjust, personally I came here in a smart car and I have been taking steps to reduce my own carbon footprint for quite a while,” she said.
“Can we say realistically that everyone has to shut down their vehicles and can’t drive? That’s not realistic.”
In a news release, the group’s goal is “to cease fossil fuel expansion, and to immediately transition to green energy, transit and homes.” Lerat insists we have to start moving toward that. One protester suggested electric cars as an option.
Lerat contends the group was justified in blocking access to a business because the gas station’s parent company, Husky Oil, is to blame for a pipeline spill in July. That spill led to over 200 thousand litres of oil leaking into the North Saskatchewan River near Maidstone. Drinking water intakes were blocked for months, the environmental damage is still being calculated, and the cleanup continues.
“So today, it may upset some people and I don’t apologize for that. I would say just take a deep breath and continue on your way. There are many gas stations, but today we are making a statement by blocking the access to this company.”
Lerat said the people of the James Bay Cree Nation haven’t been able to fish or hunt since the spill and it’s affecting their livelihood.
When asked about the impact on the independent operator of the gas station, Lerat said, “we have to do what we have to do. When it comes down to it, and I’m telling you if we don’t begin to do more action as a collective on being able to see some meaningful changes on these companies and their responsibilities to the environment and to future generations then it’s not going to get easier. It’s going to get more difficult.”