An oilsands protester explains the purpose of the protest and what message they are trying to send to the Canadian and U.S. governments. He also discusses whether protesters plan to try and get into parliament for a sit in.
Date: Mon. Sep. 26 2011 4:50 PM ET
Environmental protesters gathered on Parliament Hill have begun a planned mass act of "civil disobedience," as they seek to draw public attention to a controversial pipeline project they oppose.
The participants say they are willing to risk arrest as they protest against the Keystone XL pipeline extension, a proposed project that would seek to bring Alberta oil to refineries in the southern United States.
But the "disobedience" amounted to no more than a small number of protesters walking up to police barricades, climbing over a stepladder and immediately surrendering to police.
The RCMP said that about 400 people attended the protest, with 100 people being arrested for obstructing police officers, Sgt. Marc Menard said.
According to Patrick Moore, a former leader of Greenpeace, the turnout shows that the vast majority of Canadians support the oilsands and recognize its importance for the country.
Moore, an ecologist who now operates a public relations company, told CTV News Channel from Vancouver that the Keystone project is the best way to get the oil down to the U.S.
"How else do we get the oil to Texas? Is there a better way? I don't think so," he said.
There has been criticism that the oil should be refined in Canada, but Moore noted that's not the best option. He said that refining the oil in Canada would mean building multiple pipelines to carry the products to the U.S. for export.
"You've got to get the oil where it's needed, and this is the best way to do it."
Moore added that First Nations communities are getting $800 million in contracts from the oilsands, and the industry is also reclaiming mining sites in an effort to return the area to forest.
He blamed the heightened rhetoric about the oilsands on "misinformation" from environmental groups.
"This is all going to be reclaimed, I have seen it all with my own eyes," he said.
Earlier, CTV's Power Play host Don Martin said the crossing of the police barricades was simply a symbolic gesture of defiance.
"It's the quintessential Canadian protest," Martin said from Parliament Hill.
Martin said the taking place event on Parliament Hill "was a very quiet and well-behaved protest."
Hundreds of police were firmly in place before the demonstration began Monday, which was seen as a pre-emptive strategy against any large protests.
Police handed out flyers to protesters, which spelled out where the participants were allowed to roam, what their rights were and the duties that officers would be performing at the site.
Security appeared keen to avoid anything similar to the December 2009 incident where Greenpeace protesters managed to unfurl a banner from the parliament buildings.
Temporary fences were erected around the parliament buildings on Sunday night.
Environmentalists on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border have spoken out against the pipeline extension, which critics fear could cause a variety of environmental problems if it is constructed.
The Monday protest was expected to be one of the most public rebukes of the pipeline to date, following in the footsteps of another high-profile protest that took place outside the White House last month and involved more than 1,000 people.
The rally in Ottawa was organized by Greenpeace and other groups that oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. Other groups involved include the Council of Canadians, the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Polaris Institute.
Liberal Leader Bob Rae made brief mention of the protest during question period in the House of Commons on Monday. Rae used one of his questions to attack the government's record on environmental policy.