Starting June 24, McGill students Alison Gu, U3 Kinesiology, and Sarah Mitchell,U3 Bioresource Engineering, embarked on a 47-day bike trip across Canada stretching from Ottawa to Burnaby in protest of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX). The pair plans to use the trip to raise funds for the Pull Together campaign, which supports Indigenous Peoples’ legal cases to challenge TMX.
Gu and Mitchell have been involved in environmental advocacy work for many years, and are now taking their activism one step further as they bike across Canada.
“Upon getting to university, I learned more about what it means to be doing sustainability work in the realm of activism as well as indigenous solidarity,” Gu said.
Gu also hopes to spark discourse among students and peers on climate change, colonialism, and the harm that pipelines cause to Indigenous communities.
The Liberal federal government approved TMX in November 2016. The pipeline will stretch approximately 980 kilometres between Edmonton, AB and the marine port in Burnaby, B.C, and will triple the capacity of the Trans Mountain Pipeline (TMP) by transporting an additional 890,000 barrels of oil per day. While the pipeline is forecasted to create over 50,000 jobs, it is also expected to have harmful impacts on the environment and health of those in the surrounding areas. Spills from the pipeline could result in acute to long- term health risks—ranging from asthma to cancer—for members of nearby communities. Spillage and leaks are also detrimental to the wildlife in the region. The TMP has already reported 69 oil spills to the NEB since 1961.
Gu and Mitchell hope to raise one dollar for the Pull Together campaign for every kilometer travelled:Exactly $4,461. The funds from the campaign will be held in trust for the Indigenous nations by Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs (RAVEN), a Victoria-based legal defense fund with a focus on First Nations legal efforts. The campaign itself was created by RAVEN and Sierra Club B.C. in order to launch legal challenges against the TMP. The organizations have previously challenged the Enbridge Northern Gateway on behalf of First Nations communities.
“RAVEN is still the only place Indigenous Peoples in Canada can go to for financial help if they choose the courts to take legal action to protect their rights,” RAVEN’s executive director Susan Smitten said. “The pipeline represents a significant risk to their water supply and their way of life and Aboriginal interests.”
In order to prove the unconstitutionality of the projects and to prevent the construction of the pipeline, Indigenous communities and climate activists are taking Kinder Morgan to court.
“It would not be justice if the legal challenges failed simply because of a lack of funds to see them through to trial,” Smitten said. “While these Nations could go it alone, standing together and pooling resources ensure equitable access to justice with a much more likely chance of success.”
Gu and Mitchell have been training since March in preparation for their 47-day journey. They intend to bike from Ottawa to Sudbury, take a train from Sudbury to Winnipeg in order to avoid unsafe bike routes, and then continue their route on bike from Winnipeg to Burnaby.
“We’re going to be biking 80 to 100 kilometres every day,” Mitchell said. “I think this trip will challenge me physically and mentally, but I know I will gain so much afterwards knowing that I can push my body like that.”
To follow their journey or to donate, visit cyclistsinsolidarity.com.