Protesters around Vancouver held duelling rallies on Saturday, some welcoming Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project with others decrying it.
Both sides delivered impassioned arguments about the proposed expansion.
Indigenous leaders beat drums and sang out against the project Saturday morning, saying they won’t step aside for construction.
The pipeline runs between Edmonton and Burnaby. Kinder Morgan received federal approval for an expansion in November 2016.
Rueben George, of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, told protesters that it will take more rallies and protests to stop the $7.4-billion project, which is set to increase the flow of oil products to 890,000 barrels up from 300,000 barrels per day.
“It’s going to take gatherings such as this … (to) make sure the environment is not laid to waste and taken away from future generations. This is what we stand for today,” George said, speaking by megaphone to the crowd gathered outside Burnaby’s Lake City Way Skytrain station.
‘Just build it’
The pro-pipeline march began at 2 p.m. PT at the Olympic flames in downtown Vancouver under signs reading: “Enough politics. Just build the pipeline.”
One of the organizers, James Robson came from Alberta and says it’s important for pro-energy, pro-resource people to voice their support for pipeline projects that will help Canada’s economy.
“This is what makes democracies important, is people standing up for what they believe in,” he said.
Rick Birch, also from Alberta, says he’s worked his whole career in the oil and gas industry and describes Trans Mountain and Kinder Morgan as responsible companies, committed to making the expansion as safe as possible.
“I know that Kinder Morgan and Trans Mountain are very, very careful,” he said.
Meanwhile others at the pro-pipeline rally, like Jason Dettieh, from Fort Nelson B.C. says there will be a risk to some communities if the expansion is stalled.
“There’s a lot of us that depend on the oil and gas industry,” he said.
On Friday, a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted Kinder Morgan an interim injunction aimed at preventing anti-pipeline activists from protesting construction at two terminals in Burnaby.
The injunction restricts protesters from coming within 50 metres of the facilities until Wednesday, when a hearing on the matter will continue.
The Tseil-Waututh are among six First Nations that filed a court challenge to the project last fall, along with the City of Burnaby and City of Vancouver.
The First Nation organized the protest alongside the Musqueam and Squamish First Nations, George said.
Protesters marched toward a watch tower they were building, which will overlook tanker traffic on the coast.
George explained that First Nations would traditionally build a watch tower, or “Kwekwecnewtxw,” to watch for enemies. He said the environmental threat posed by the pipeline expansion constitutes such an enemy.
Squamish First Nation elder Robert Nahanee said expanding the pipeline will only add more pollution to the coast where he grew up.
“My family was food gatherers. We gathered clams, crabs, oysters fish — everything. That’s how I grew up. Now we can’t even do that,” Nahanee said. “We need to stand up and hear our voices. My voice is: O, Canada, you’re on native land.”
Burnaby RCMP says 5,000 protesters participated in the anti-pipeline protest.
It’s estimated that around 200 participated in the pro-pipeline event.