Submitted by Judy Sauve, PARC Member
When PARC members learned that TransCanada was a “gold sponsor” of the 2015 World Freestyle Kayak Championship held in Beachburg, we decided it was important to go there to inform the public. Time was short for organizing but a group came together, gathered up previously used pickets, made some new ones and set up a carpool heading to Beachburg. We discussed en route how difficult it was to do this at an international event because we, like everyone else, instinctively want Canada to make a good impression. But we agreed that our reason for being there outweighed our discomfort.
The event was being held on the Ottawa River, specifically in the whitewater wonders which the media had described as the best natural location in the world for this sport. It is a priceless asset to the region, not only for recreation but it also creates employment. TransCanada’s sponsorship was considered by PARC to be grossly inappropriate because that company proposes to ship oil through the Energy East pipeline which would cross at least 24 waterways draining into the Ottawa River. A spill could potentially destroy this celebrated asset.
Members protested with pickets at the entrance to the event on closing day, September 5. It was encouraging to see many thumbs up as cars entered the grounds, although many others drove by intentionally ignoring the pickets. We didn’t interfere with the flow of traffic getting into the grounds but if windows were down, people were offered pamphlets.
We were told initially that we could stay, provided we remained on the strip between the ditch and the road. We set up and began displaying our pickets. After a while, the chief organizer of the kayak championship came by to talk to us. He clearly wanted us to leave, pointing out that this was just a competition involving amateur athletes. Tricia Darley, our spokesperson and co-founder of PARC, spoke with him and explained that our objection was not with the event but with the TransCanada sponsorship. He said they had donated $5,000 and if they had offered $10,000 he would have accepted it. He also suggested we could donate to the cause! He then gave up and drove away, not happy that we were staying but not interfering with our actions.
We stayed for a couple of hours, feeling by that time that most people had entered the grounds and that we had sent our message. During that time, Tricia completed two media interviews, one with myFM radio and another with COGECO cable. myFM immediately posted a picture and brief story on several websites and as yet, we don’t know when/if the video and interview will be carried on COGECO.
Conclusion? A successful day in getting the word out!