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Pipeline Projects Threaten Canada's Land, Health And Future

01/26/2017 11:21 EST | Updated 01/26/2017 11:38 EST

trudeau pipeline

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, November 30, 2016. (Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,

As barely one year has elapsed since the historical COP21 agreement to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), we are deeply shaken by the federal government's approval of the proposed extension of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and the replacement of Enbridge's Line 3, both of which will have undeniable consequences for the environment and for many communities living on Canadian soil. As health sciences students, we are all the more concerned since these projects will entail significant negative environmental health impacts, as well as on that of indigenous populations.

Proceeding with the installation of the Kinder Morgan pipelines is certainly not within the horizon of Canada's target of 30 per cent reduction in GHG emissions -- corresponding to a reduction of 217 million tonnes. According to federal estimates, between 24 and 28 million tonnes of GHGs will emanate from such an ecologically aberrant gesture.

While we applaud the federal government's announcement of national carbon pricing and the closure of coal-fired power plants, emissions attributed to those new pipeline projects will take little over 10 years to completely erase the benefits expected from these green initiatives.

First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities... will be the first threatened by such unilateral decisions.

And how can we ignore, beyond their environmental impact, the catastrophic consequences of these installations on the lives of numerous communities inhabiting the land that these pipelines will infiltrate and may poison? First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities, with whom our Canadian nation is seeking reconciliation, and to whom it has promised respect and dignity, will be the first threatened by such unilateral decisions.

Facing a destruction of their habitat, if not an exile from their homes, they are being put at high risk that sooner or later, as is rather the norm than the exception, gas and oil leaks will poison the land on which they depend to live. Must we subject these communities to a fate reminiscent of last July's incident, when the North Saskatchewan River ecosystem and its communities faced a spill of 225,000 liters of oil from Husky Energy's pipeline?

saskatchewan oil spill

Crews work to clean up an oil spill on the North Saskatchewan river near Maidstone, Sask. on July 22, 2016. (Photo: Jason Franson/CP)

Considering the resounding victory of the protesters at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, it is a great time to follow the lead of such examples, to honour the will of the peoples caring for their homeland, and to invest in our communities. Considering the climate challenges we are now facing and the unprecedented need for human solidarity in this respect, compromising these by prioritizing the commerce and use of oil is an attitude most absurd today of any "leader."

Representing a market oblivious to a sustainable future and blind to the well-being of our future generations, oil has been and remains a symbol of corporate domination and, sadly today, of corporate obstinacy. Handing our land to the oil lobby does not reassure any Canadian citizen, nor does it glorify Canada's position internationally while a strong transition towards renewable energies is gaining momentum, as is shown by leaders such as Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Scotland, amongst others.

Handing our land to the oil lobby does not reassure any Canadian citizen.

Should it act as a climate leader, Canada has to elaborate a serious energy transition plan. If private investments in fossil fuels are still profitable, it only shows how dependent we still are from them. Canadian politicians and civil society must get involved with ecoresponsible initiatives, whether by reducing our fossil fuel consumption by investing in sustainable transport and infrastructures, or by producing renewable energies. Only in this trajectory may we accomplish what is best for our economy and environment.

Mr. Trudeau, if as you have announced Canada "is back" as a leader on the international stage, and if you do value a sustainable energy transition, as you have proclaimed recently, then we cannot proceed with an economic gesture so retrograde and obsolete now in terms of our social progress and national identity -- both enriched by our diversity and our fundamental respect of peoples lands and way of life.

It is thus out of concern for the Canadian population, its future generations and the indigenous peoples who inhabit it, that we join our voice with the many ecologists opposing the extension of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and the replacement of Enbridge's Line 3. Economic development stands on the shoulders of our nation's people, and it should not be at the expense of their land, health and future.

Signed,

IFMSA-Québec,

as well as 270 students from medicine, health sciences and environment sciences, whose signatures you can see here.

About IFMSA-Québec

IFMSA-Québec gathers all medical students in Quebec and its mission is to raise awareness and mobilize them around social, cultural and global health issues. Through its outreach projects, its international exchange programs and its policy statements, IFMSA-Québec is dedicated to improving health here and abroad.

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