Sabotaging Pipelines is Reckless and Dangerous, but Not For Reasons You Might Expect

11 Jan

This article originally posted for Stop C-51: Toronto at

Syndicated with permission.

There’s an old adage: “Mess with a bull and you’ll get the horns.” I’ll expand that rustic logic with a further analogy: “Mess with a Canadian fossil fuel company and you’ll get the police state.”  December 7th, 2015 is a significant day in Canadian history. It may never make it into textbooks and it’s unlikely that the story of what happened will be echoed in the media anytime soon. That day marked the opening of a major new frontline in the struggle against corporations engaged in the destruction of the planet. It may also have marked the first significant material challenge to Canada’s new anti-terrorism legislation, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 (Formerly Bill C-51) since it became law this summer.

On December 3rd, after years of legal and political battles, Enbridge Inc. began moving crude oil through its controversial Line 9B pipeline system. Line 9B is a 40 year old pipeline that runs 640km from North Westover, ON to Montreal, QC. In the early hours of December 7th, three self-styled “anarchists” traveled to an Enbridge pipeline valve site on the Quebec/Ontario border near the community of Sainte-Justine-de- Newton.

Valves are surface infrastructure which control or moderate flow of oil in a pipeline. The valve in question was a manual type valve. The activists who attended the site proceeded to operate the valve and effectively shut the pipeline down. They then locked themselves to the valve wheel in order to prevent it from being easily reopened. The unplanned operation of the valve forced Enbridge to stop the flow of product in the pipeline, which remained closed for hours as activists were removed from the site. This shutdown presumably cost the company millions of dollars.

(Thanks to SubMedia.TV for the awesome Video!)


Why was this reckless and dangerous?

December 7th marked a radical departure from the previous phases of the fight against Enbridge’s controversial pipeline. The action effectively tied up the flow of crude oil to the east coast for 10 hours. By the activists’ own account published on Earth First Journal’s online platform the action was intended as a direct challenge to C-51, which became law in Canada in July 2015.

“This whole action was a test of Canada`s new anti-terrorism law C-51” –unnamed Quebec activist.

Over the last month there have been two further actions inspired by what I will call the “New Model Action”. The second action on December 21st occurred in Sarnia, ON. It followed the design of the first, and was staged by First Nations activists from Aamjiwnaang and their allies. In this second case, activists were slapped with draconian criminal charges including Mischief over $5000 and Mischief endangering life.

A third action on January 4th, 2016 was near Cambridge, ON and targeted Enbridge’s Line 7 that connects Sarnia to Hamilton, ON. In this case activists used a ‘block, lock and walk’ methodology. They shut down the valve, locked the wheel in place to slow Enbridge’s contractors down and left the site without any direct contact with the company or the police. The replicable and scalable idea of direct interference with fossil fuel infrastructure is obviously evolving.

That’s right, these awesome, heroic individuals are taking it upon themselves to ratchet up the rhetoric to meaningful action! It’s reckless and dangerous because nobody knows what the reaction will be when it comes to dealing with the repressive police state that C51 created. In an article later this week I’ll try to give some clues as to what we might be expecting. Until we see how the state reacts, this is all just emergent experimentation: messing with a bull. These actions are highly effective and definitely necessary, but as someone who works between both issue-spaces my honest advice: brace yourselves, the police state is coming.

From my perspective at the nexus of this issue, evolving sabotage actions are important because they challenge the hard-power of industry and state security. I believe in the value of these actions. Admittedly, I support them. STOPC51TO has also conferred its endorsement to the activists who were willing to test the law. We additionally believe it is important to support activists from First Nations communities like Aamjiwnaang or the Chippewas of the Thames as they express very legitimate concerns about infrastructure built and operated in violation of treaties and without either dutiful consultation or free, prior and informed consent.

More to come:

There’s a lot more which I can say and will say in the coming weeks and months as this issue unfolds. I’m looking forward to providing a more detailed analysis of the overlap between environmental activism and the police state as actions continue. Keep checking back to this space for new content and analysis on this or other issues. I’ll make every effort to keep you up to date at the cutting edge of the interplay between state security and environmentalism.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: