Canadian oil offensive hits the skids as protesters storm UK Parliament

tar sands protesters

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Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper was met in London today by tar sands protesters as he attempted to deliver a prestigious speech to the UK Parliament

With toxic water seeping into Canadian soil, Harper travelled to London, where he was given privileged access to British MPs from both Houses of Parliament in a last ditch attempt to get the UK to support Canadian tar sands oil in Europe.

But he was greeted by three separate anti-tar sands protests both outside and inside Parliament.

Outside on Parliament Square, 50 campaigners representing 30 environmental groups used banners, placards and chants to make their voices heard. One protester was dressed as Senate Page Brigette DePape who was fired after holding a “Stop Harper” sign on the Canadian Senate floor in 2011.

Meanwhile, in a separate protest two activists from a group calling themselves “Love Canada, Hate Tar Sands”(LCHTS) attempted to block the Sovereign’s Entrance Gate to the room where Harper was speaking.

They poured “oil” on themselves and their anti-tar sands shouts were heard inside the room as Harper stood up to begin his address. At the same time, three more activists from LCHTS entered the Parliament building and scaled the roof, in an attempt to get to where Harper was speaking. They livestreamed their protest for some time until being removed by security.

Jess Worth, from UK Tar Sands Network, said:

Today’s multiple protests demonstrate just how strongly people in the UK feel about the Harper government’s attempts to force their dirty tar sands oil onto Europe. This is part of an unstoppable global movement of resistance to tar sands extraction, expansion and pipelines.

The science is clear: to have a chance of avoiding runaway climate change, we need to leave unconventional fossil fuels in the ground. It’s time the Harper government accepted this fact and stopped putting the interests of Big Oil above all our collective futures.

Some MPs voiced their own concerns over the catastrophic impacts of tar sands, tabling a motion calling on the UK government to back proposed EU rules that will discourage future imports of this oil into the trading bloc.

Caroline Lucas, MP who tabled the Early Day Motion said:

Tar sands oil is one of the dirtiest, most polluting fuels out there and the extraction process causes environmental destruction an almost unimaginable scale. Indigenous communities in Canada and elsewhere are now speaking out about the human and ecological rights violations and economic devastation being inflicted by companies like Shell who are hell-bent on extracting tar sands at any cost.

David Cameron must make it clear to the Canadian Prime Minister during his visit to the UK that such dirty fuels have no place in the UK or Europe, and UK Ministers must commit to supporting proposals to label tar sands oil as more carbon intensive than other fuels through the EU Fuel Quality Directive.

The widespread, transatlantic opposition to the expansion of Canada’s dirty energy infrastructure appears validated by news of a huge spill of 9.5 million litres of toxic waste from an oil and gas operation in northern Alberta.

Harper has further meetings planned with the British Prime Minister David Cameron, French Ministers and US President Barack Obama, where activists fear he will continue to spread disinformation in order to build support for pipeline construction and the development of overseas markets for tar sands oil.

He is the latest in a string of top Canadian politicians to come to Europe, with the aim of lobbying against a piece of EU climate legislation (the Fuel Quality Directive) which could label the tar sands as more polluting than conventional oil and discourage its future import, closing off Europe as a desperately-needed potential market.

Tar sands oil is considered to be responsible for a higher proportion of carbon emissions than other sources of oil and has come under intense criticism for its contribution to climate change.

Critics also say the industry is ignoring a range of problems including health impacts on First Nations communities, environmental degradation associated with toxic tailing ponds, health impacts on regional wildlife, high levels of water use and water contamination and widespread loss of land.

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