Montreal activists march against Bay du Nord Project

The group called to stop oil drilling in Newfoundland and Labrador

Montreal activists march against Bay du Nord Project, calling to end oil drilling in Newfoundland and Labrador. Photo Eric Pahmer
Photo Aude Simon
Photo Aude Simon
Photo Aude Simon

The environmental organization Pour le futur Mtl met in front of Montreal’s City Hall on Friday Feb. 25 to protest the Bay du Nord oil development project in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The province is currently waiting on a federal decision that will decide if it will be opening a fifth oilfield on its grounds. The drilling would take place about 500 km east of St. John's and would go against the International Energy Agency’s declaration from last May. Many countries, Canada included, pledged to stop investments in new oil projects for them to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

“We heard about this project, Bay du Nord, which is basically a huge oil development project that’s being planned off the coast of Newfoundland, and we just thought, ‘Well we have to do something about this’,” said Shirley Barnea, one of the organizers and co-spokespersons for Pour le futur Mtl.

Pour le futur Mtl is a coalition of teenagers from multiple schools mobilizing together for climate change.Founded in 2019, the organization was inspired by Greta Thunberg’s 2021 schoolstrikes. The group is not affiliated with any high school. 

The group decided on a three-week long protest schedule for this project, which corresponds with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault’s March 6 deadline to approve or reject the project. This protest was the second out of the three Friday protests, which began on Feb. 18 and will end on March 4, the day before the federal cabinet makes a decision on the matter.

“[It] gives me a huge amount of hope for the future [because we’re] seeing this [new] generation bringing attention to this issue in a way that many people in my generation always hoped would happen,” said Conor Curtis, The Sierra Club Canada Foundation’s digital communications coordinator.

The SCCF is a non-profit Canadian charity that seeks to encourage people to get involved in climate change activism and the restoration of ecosystems, while protecting and enjoying them. After attending the first protest, Curtis, a Newfoundland and Labrador native, was invited to speak at the protest.

Around 1:30 p.m, the group amassed over 15 protesters and began to march. After 45 minutes, Pour le futur Montréal assembled in front of Guilbeault’s office, near Berri-UQAM metro.

Demonstrators could be seen holding banners and chanting. Eventually, Curtis presented his speech. 

“For years the provincial economy has also been dependent upon the cause of climate change: the fossil fuel industry,” Curtis stated. “While this might be Newfoundland and Labrador’s present, it does not have to be the province’s future.”

Curtis explained how there have been many calls within the province asking for a just transition towards renewable energy. Instead of devoting resources to oil and gas, “the time, money, and effort being put into the Bay du Nord project should instead be focused on a transition to green energy. There is no future in this project,” said Curtis.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s population has been pushing for more sustainable energy for over ten years now, Curtis added.

“Steven Guilbeault actually responded to our first protest in the article by La Presse, so that was really cool. He said that he knows it’s an important decision and he’s going to make the best choice, which is basically an empty answer.” — Shirley Barnea

“We had [strikes with] thousands of people in St-Johns a couple of years ago, [showing] a huge amount of support for a green transition,” said Curtis. “ That’s been a huge change in the conversation there, but it’s one that the federal government really needs to understand here.”

On Feb. 18, the day of the first protest, the group had a following of thirty people, and garnered attention from other media outlets such as Montreal francophone newspapers Métro and La Presse.

“Steven Guilbeault actually responded to our first protest in the article by La Presse, so that was really cool. He said that he knows it's an important decision and he’s going to make the best choice, which is basically an empty answer,” said Barnea.

Yuna Godefroid, co-spokesperson of Pour le futur Mtl, added that for each protest, the group would try and elevate the pressure, mentioning how she hoped their voices would be heard loud enough for them to make a significant change. The group hopes that Guilbeault will listen to their message and put a stop to the oil-drilling project. 

“Realistically speaking, [fossil fuels] just [aren’t] the way forward anymore, and it’s a bit of a shame that [the Bay du Nord Project] is even being considered,” Curtis added.