Canada's largest energy union calls for national fracking moratorium

Canada’s largest energy union wants national fracking moratorium

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Canada's largest energy union calls for national fracking moratorium
First Nations and supporters protest fracking in Vancouver last month (Damien Gillis)

Canada’s largest private sector union, Unifor, has joined the growing chorus of concern over controversial shale gas development. The labour organization representing over 300,000 members in a wide range of economic sectors, including energy, is calling for a national fracking moratorium.

Unifor issued a statement from its 25-member National Executive Board Thursday raising concerns about the impacts of  shale gas development on the environment and on First Nations’ rights.

“Unconventional gas fracking has the potential to have catastrophic effects on our environment and economy. The safety risks are also a major concern for our union,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.

[quote]Just because we can carry out this activity does not mean we should. We must enact a national moratorium on fracking activity.[/quote]

Provinces pass fracking moratoriums

The call comes on the heels of provincial fracking moratoriums in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador – and France’s recent national ban on shale gas.

Fracking has become a hot topic across the country in recent months.

In BC, a lawsuit against the provincial regulator over water permits for fracking was announced on Wednesday, while a high profile court case over water contamination winds its way through Alberta’s courts. The industry minister for the Northwest Territories is developing a new regulatory model for shale oil in advance of devolution, and fracking remains a highly controversial subject in New Brunswick, where First Nations recently clashed with the RCMP over exploratory work by an American company.

Support for First Nations

That last point was a key factor in Unifor’s decision to come out against fracking – as the union noted in its statement:

[quote]Any resource extraction industry in Canada must confront the problem of unresolved aboriginal land claims, and the inadequate economic benefits (including employment opportunities) which have been offered to First Nations communities from resource developments. [/quote]

Despite the potential job benefits to its, members, Unifor remains highly critical of the shale gas industry, concluding:

[quote]Instead of being guided by short-term swings in prices and profits for private energy producers, Canada’s federal and provincial governments must develop and implement (in cooperation with other stakeholders) a national plan for a stable, sustainable energy industry that respects our social and environmental commitments, and generates lasting wealth for all who live here.[/quote]

Council of Canadians calls for national fracking moratorium

Unifor’s call for a national moratorium echoes recent statements by public interest group The Council of Canadians.

Canada’s big energy workers’ unions are increasingly taking a critical look at the job promises from fossil fuel development. Watch this speech by president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, Dave Coles, at last year’s Defend Our Coast rally in Victoria, explaining why his members are “diametrically opposed” to Tar Sands pipelines to BC’s coast:

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About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

12 thoughts on “Canada’s largest energy union wants national fracking moratorium

    1. Since you can’t substantiate that ridiculous pair of statements, I advise you retract them. Otherwise, since you first made a claim here, show me your proof. I’m tired of google-ing for people who talk out of their ass online

  1. If we all want to end fracking, everyone have to get involved with clean renewable energy programs here in BC, we have out of three and I only know one in Alberta (maybe more).
    We also need the fossil fuel industries support clean energy, cause having spills and leaks makes them look really bad and angers people when the environment is permanently damaged.
    Every new building of any type gets build, must have solar panels (its what California is doing and other places in the states).
    So what if we get about 6 months of winter and have around 6 hrs of sun, there is no excuse not to use solar.
    We also have to upgrade wind turbines where they cannot harm birds (cats, vehicles and diseases also kill birds, not just wind turbines), and build smaller versions for homes.
    Sure they say you can only build geothermal where volcanoes are, but, even if you don’t live by one, you still can have geothermal (reusing the same water), just dig a little deeper.
    Clean renewable energy can be comprise to fit every need, no excuses not to advance and catch up to Germany, ice land, china, Sweden (is that correct, Sweden?).
    We have the brains and technology to do the right thing if we really care about our food sources, food chain and everything that is involved.
    As a person, I am upgrading where I can enrol myself in a clean renewable energy program in the future, cause I care what is being done and also, I am still a young person.

      1. WELL SAID , JEN!

        THANK YOU DAMIAN FOR ALL YOUR EFFECTIVE WORK IN SUPPORT OF OUR ENVIRONMENT. i CAN HARDLY WAIT UNTIL YOUR FRACKED LAND DOCUMENTARY COMES OUT IN FULL…..KAAREN SOBY, SMITHERS/TELKWA,BC

    1. Most in BC get their electricity from BC Hydro, which is (mostly) owned by the province, and produces lots of power that is 95% clean and renewable hydro.

      It has been put horribly into debt though.

      1. Our electricity, yes. But the main excuse has nothing to do with energy independence. As you’ve pointed out, we’ve pretty much got this covered. The main excuse is all about economics. Canada’s national economy, to be exact.

        Renewable energy is honestly a great thing, but creating jobs doesn’t mean much in our current economic system unless (for some reason) investors worldwide decide to invest in Canada’s renewable energy sector. It might be in Canada’s best interest to sustain itself via renewable energy, but we’re basing our decisions on a broken economic system where resources are exploited (based on perpetual economic expansion and the need for growing demand rather than necessity) that is in desperate need of reform.

        Our current market system is problematic, because you can’t trade renewable energy. Thus, why would a country like China invest in Canadian renewable energy?

        The problem is complex but I refuse to say that the situation is all doom and gloom.There must be some possible solutions. For example, could Canada transform itself into a manufacturing economy that produces renewable energy technology to supply other parts of the world? How? We’ve already got multi-billion dollar pipeline projects and a ginormous amount of clout created by fossil fuel lobbyists.

        My personal take on Canada’s economic-political complex is that it needs to be dramatically reformed if we’re going to get anywhere. That’s easy to say, much tougher to do, but probably our only choice if we want to survive as a nation. Rather than implementing laws that allow corporations to bloody-well SUE our country (*cough* CETA) we ought to fight tooth and nail for our government to go beyond meager carbon taxes and make corporations pay deep out of their pockets to fund renewable energy technology and production. it won’t ever replace what they’ve already destroyed, but it’s a start…

        But going beyond this, we need to seriously put an end to further development of industry at the expense of ecology. A national moratorium would be a good start, but let’s also talk about NOT selling out Canada’s prime agricultural land to make room for short-term development. Once you pollute that soil it’s toast, and not the good kind of toast that you can eat. The kind that’s loaded with carcinogens and toxic waste.

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