EDMONTON — Federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr has assured business leaders that workers at pipeline construction sites will be kept safe in the event of protests or civil disobedience.
Carr was speaking at an Alberta Enterprise Group breakfast in Edmonton on Dec. 1 when he was asked about how the Liberal government would deal with protesters.
Paul de Jong, president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada, said there have already been rumblings over the approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain and Enbridge Line 3 pipelines.
"We've already heard in these few short days since the announcement, some voices raised saying this is going to be a hill for them to die on," de Jong said.
"We think that this is a real thing. We've seen some of these types of actions taking place in other jurisdictions internationally and across the border. We do have some genuine concerns that this type of thing may happen in places like the lower mainland."
Carr said peaceful demonstrations are a valid part of the debate process.
"We have a history of peaceful dialogue and dissent in Canada," he said. "If people determine for their own reasons that that's not the path they want to follow, then we live under the rule of law."
Keith Stewart, Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner, has said the group will take whatever peaceful means necessary to ensure the Trans Mountain project, running from near Edmonton to a port in Burnaby, B.C., never gets built.
"We make that commitment because we care about the climate, because we care about indigenous rights, healthy communities and sustainable economies, and we will act when they are threatened," Stewart said. "Building new tar sands pipelines threaten them all."
In North Dakota, thousands of protesters opposing the Dakota Access pipeline have been camped out since the summer, and their numbers have been growing, with 2,000 military veterans reported to be joining the demonstration.
Police have made about 575 arrests during clashes along the pipeline route and in a couple of North Dakota cities. Protesters have complained about excessive force by law enforcement, including the use of water hoses in bitterly cold weather.
The developer of the pipeline, which will carry North Dakota oil to a shipping point in Illinois, says it will be safe but the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says the project threatens the drinking water on its nearby reservation as well as some American Indian cultural sites.