NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

On November 5, thousands peacefully protested the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project in downtown Toronto. Support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has galvanized across the continent in a number of related protests over the past couple of weeks. The crowd that assembled in front of Queen’s Park last weekend was diverse and spirited.

Recently, opposition to DAPL has focused on police crackdown on protesters and the fact that the pipeline is set to run beneath the Missouri River — the Standing Rock Sioux’s main source of drinking water.

Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the proposed project, purports that the $3.7 billion 1,172-mile long pipeline will create 8,000–12,000 local jobs, translating into an estimated $156 million in sales and income taxes and $55 million annually in property taxes. “The pipeline will enable domestically produced light sweet crude oil from North Dakota to reach major refining markets in a more direct, cost-effective, safer and environmentally responsible manner,” the company says on its website.

According to the Standing Rock Sioux, the DAPL project has negatively affected some of the tribe’s burial grounds along with other areas of cultural relevance. The tribe fears that should the pipeline rupture, it would contaminate their freshwater supply.

Saturday’s proceedings began with a drum chant and a series of Indigenous speakers. Chief R. Stacey LaForme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation was among those who spoke, and he began his address by acknowledging “the heart and courage of those at Standing Rock.” His speech included a passionate plea for the violence at Standing Rock to stop.

LaForme also called for a larger shift in perspective: “When you see Indigenous people stand to defend the land, don’t question why they do it. They do it for all of us and for the future of the human race. Don’t ask why they are standing up to corporate development in defense of the lands and the waters, instead ask, ‘Why are they standing alone?’”

“Let’s show everyone that we remember our responsibility to the Earth… To Standing Rock, four simple words: we stand with you,” LaForme continued, to cheers of approval.

After the speakers finished, the march started. The crowd grew as it made its way south down University Avenue to emphatic chants of “We stand with Standing Rock” and “Water is life,” while passing drivers honked in support. Accompanied by a police escort, the crowd was led by elder Pauline Shirt of the Plains Cree, Red-Tail Hawk Clan, and it passed by the US Consulate General on its way to Nathan Phillips Square. The proceedings wrapped up around sunset in front of City Hall with some drumming, singing, and a great deal of dancing, during which everyone came together and held hands.

U of T’s Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU) also took part in the demonstration and issued a statement in support of the Standing Rock Sioux.

“We, the Arts and Science Students’ Union stand in solidarity with the Chairman David Archambault, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and protestors against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and will continue to stand with them until this pipeline construction is stopped,” ASSU’s statement reads.

On November 3, another protest took place outside TD’s Head Office in Toronto. Trinity College Humphrys Chaplain Andrea Budgey participated in a sit-in, along with Anglican Minister Maggie Helwig and activist Taylor Flook. Flook and Budgey were arrested under charges of trespass and mischief under $5,000 for interfering with the bank’s lawful enjoyment of its property. They were released on bail later that night.

The three locked themselves to the railing in the business accounts line-up with bike-locks and asked to speak to Bob Dorrance, Chairman, CEO, and President of TD Securities, regarding why he had yet to condemn the attacks on protesters by police in Standing Rock. Their aim was to draw attention to the fact that TD Securities is the seventh-largest investor in the DAPL, with $360 million dollars invested in the project.

Budgey considers the action “a logical extension of her spiritual and ethical responsibilities.” She believes that “all these financial institutions need their investments seriously examined.”

She thinks that “most of our banks are investing Canadians’ money in things that Canadians would be shocked about, in North America and around the world — in industries that are complicit in human rights abuses and that are extremely problematic in environmental terms.” Budgey states that as “many people are too busy trying to survive to research that sort of thing on their own, so any sort of attention that can be drawn to it is important.”

Budget continues, “I’ve been really encouraged since I’ve been a Chaplain at U of T at the level of student activism around fossil fuel divestment and environmentalism and social justice and human rights causes in general. It’s one of the things that actually gives me some hope, so a real shout-out to the students that are doing this work.”

Budgey also mentions the protests in Ottawa against the Kinder Morgan Pipeline, where U of T student Amanda Harvey-Sánchez was arrested: “That’s really significant work, and I’m happy to be able to support that as a Chaplain,” said Budgey.

On November 1, President Barack Obama announced that the US Army Corps of Engineers was considering the viability of alternative routes for the DAPL.

Like our content? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

* indicates required