With massive protests in Seattle and Washington fresh in mind, the world’s media is looking to Calgary and the demonstrations planned against the World Petroleum Congress in June for more action. As anticipation builds for the events, students and faculty from the University of Calgary prepare to take part on both sides of the issue as congress participants and as protestors.
Like the recent World Trade Organization and International Monetary Fund meetings and protests, the WPC is an event of international significance. The conference is expected to show revenues of $14 million and 2,500 participants from 79 countries are already enrolled. This international flavour is reflected in the resistance efforts as well.
"We’ve received hundreds of e-mails from around the world–Pakistan, Nigeria, Brazil and large U.S. groups–who’ve all said this is an important event," said Angela Gabereau, former U of C student and spokesperson for the End of Oil Action Coalition. "Just how many participants we’ll have is hard to say."
The magnitude of the congress is what drew so much interest from students. Gabereau noted that students from many campus activist groups are involved in the organization of the protest activities.
"Forest Action Network, Sierra Youth Club, the Women’s Collective and Resource Centre, Students for a Free Tibet, Revolutionary Anarchist Kollektive, Eco Club," she listed. "Members from all these clubs and probably more are members of End of Oil."
Student interest isn’t limited to protest however, as many students are working with the congress in volunteer positions.
"There are many students taking part," said Cathy Nickel, the WPC Assistant Manager of Marketing and Communications. "Students were invited to take part in the Congress through the appropriate post-secondary faculties; registration for students had an early deadline, so no more student registrations are being accepted."
The opportunity to network with petroleum industry professionals is a strong incentive for students to volunteer their time, according to Wayne Patton, Acting Executive Director of the U of C Energy Centre.
The U of C will also make a showing at the congress with a booth in the Global Opportunities Center. Patton sees the Congress as a chance to both sell and expand the university’s technical ability.
"We want to internationalize more of our programs," said Patton. "[The Congress] gives us an opportunity to market our programs and research to the international community."
The university will have an information booth on campus for visiting delegates.
Also, the U of C campus will be the site of a teach-in about alternatives to the use of oil and alleged abuses of human and environmental rights by the industry. The teach-in, "Widening Peoples’ Choices: For a Just and Sustainable Future," takes place June 9-10.
Media concern about potential violence during the protests led the EOAC to go to great lengths to emphasize non-violence and the communication aspect of their efforts on their website and in their news releases. EAOC spokesperson Dan Gillean noted that nonviolence training and legal rights seminars will be taught to participants, but sees the action as changing the tenor of the current debate.
"Our large goal is that we feel it’s necessary to raise the stakes," observed Gillean. "These things need to be addressed because issues of environmental degradation and human rights abuses are pressing. It’s a tactic of escalation."
Industry professionals like Patton aren’t sure what to expect.
"There are statements to be made," said Patton. "I just hope they make those statements in a responsible manner."
For more information about the WPC you can check out their website at <<http://www.wpc2000.com/>> or call 220-2369.
The End of Oil Action Coalition is found on the net at <<http://www.tao.ca/~no_oil/>> or call 703-9463.
With additional reporting by Rob South.