Demonstrations Prompt Cancellation of Energy East Pipeline Hearing

Both Pro And Anti-Pipeline Demonstrators Gathered To Express Their Views On The Contentious Pipeline Project

About 150 pro and anti-pipeline demonstrators gathered in downtown Montreal. Photo Gus Minter

The National Energy Board’s hearing on TransCanada’s proposed Energy East Pipeline was cancelled on Monday after protesters disrupted the meeting and both pro and anti-pipeline demonstrations rumbled outside.

Inside the meeting room, one protester rushed the table where the commissioners of the hearing were seated, chanting slogans while security massed around him. He was joined by a few others, prompting a collective chant of “TransCanada, we don’t want it!” in French. The police arrived soon after to remove the protesters, putting the man who originally stormed the meeting into a headlock.

Following the demonstration inside the meeting room, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre cancelled his scheduled appearance, calling the event a “circus.”

Three arrests were reported.

The crowd of demonstrators and counter-demonstrators outside consisted of about 150 people. They gathered outside the Centre Mont-Royal where the NEB panel was scheduled to review the controversial energy project.

The activists’ action prompted the NEB to postpone a second meeting which was scheduled to take place the next day, Tuesday, August 30.

The pipeline’s review process had recently come under fire from Mayor Denis Coderre after the revelation that two out of the three commissioners on the panel had met with former premier Jean Charest—employed at the time of the meeting as a lobbyist for TransCanada—last December. The NEB—whose members are not allowed to privately discuss projects under review—denied the allegations at first, though they later admitted that the meeting had indeed taken place.

Protesters also expressed doubts about the NEB’s review process, claiming it as a reason for demonstrating.

“[The NEB’s review processes] were created under the Harper government essentially, and it’s still Harper’s process which we’re seeing today,” said McGill graduate Kristen Perry. “The Liberal government has talked on a few of these things, looking at climate for example, and trying to be more conversational about these things, but they’re kind of afterthoughts it seems.”

Countering the anti-pipeline demonstrators was the Canadian Piping Trades Union Local 144, a construction union which had recently adopted a mandate supporting Energy East. The sentiment expressed among union workers was that the pipeline would bring jobs and money to the province.

The event unfolded with students, Greenpeace, and the Confederation des Syndicats Nationaux protesting against the pipeline on one side, and Local 144 union members protesting in favour on the other.

The confrontation remained peaceful, with both groups hurling only chants and counter chants towards eachother.

In late 2014, Greenpeace leaked TransCanada’s confidential public relations strategy documents for Energy East. The company’s strategy includes creating an “astroturf” campaign—using and funding third-party organizations to manufacture an image of grassroots support for Energy East.

According to a 2014 UdeM poll, only 33 per cent of Quebecers support the pipeline project.