While the pipeline dispute battle lines have been drawn in the political arena, British Columbians spent their Saturdays also making their stances heard – highlighting a clear divide within the province on the federally-approved Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Two demonstrations in the Lower Mainland – an anti-pipeline protest organized by Coast Salish members and a pro-pipeline rally organized by Resource Works – drew hundreds to the respective causes.
At the centre of the debates displayed Saturday: A $7.4-billion Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion set to nearly triple the flow of multipurpose oil from Alberta to B.C.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government approved the Kinder Morgan project in 2016, but the pipeline has since faced permit fights and challenges from the B.C. government.
And both sides Saturday argued economic, environmental and cultural factors are at stake.
In Burnaby, where Indigenous leaders led more than 4,000 people from Lake City Way SkyTrain to the two Trans Mountain terminals, signs were waved with messages reading “No consent, no pipeline,” and “Oil $pills are forever.”
Organizers of that protest, called Protect the Inlet, said they’re hoping their tactics delays Kinder Morgan’s tree-clearing work, which is set to be completed by March 26, as part of the initial ground-breaking for the pipeline.
Walking with her son Saturday, Cassandra Schodt, 28, said more fossil fuel development isn’t needed.
“There are better ways,” said the Port Coquitlam woman, adding that she worried about the ability to clean up oils that sink.
“We cannot sit by idly and let this project go with the way it would threaten our livelihood, our lives, our territories, our waters and our culture,” said Dustin Rivers, a Squamish Nation leader.
Kanahus Manuel, a Canadian activist who was arrested during protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, said Kinder Morgan does not have consent to run the pipeline through Secwepemc tribal territory.
“We never surrendered, ceded or released the land,” said Manuel, who is leading a group of activists building tiny homes that will be erected along the pipeline’s route in an attempt to assert indigenous sovereignty.
Meanwhile, in Vancouver, political leaders and activists rallied with several hundred pipeline supporters – some who travelled from Alberta to take part.
There, those who gathered – calling themselves the “silent majority” – heard Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, Calgary Foothills MLA Prasad Panda speak on the 51 First Nation communities who have to come agreements of support with Kinder Morgan.
Bernard Hancock, born in North Vancouver but an employee at an oil patch in Alberta for the past two-and-a-half-years, told demonstrators that his job in the oil industry was the first to ever give him a sense of dignity.
“I could save money, get ahead, make my parents proud and feel like I was making a difference, I was getting ahead. Oil and gas gave that to me,” he said.
Lyn Anglin, a scientist in the mining industry, said it’s important Canada continues to develop its natural resources.
“I’m a fan of renewable energy but we’re not there yet,” she said. “We can’t stop relying on oil and gas.”
Supporters say the expansion of the pipeline, which has operated since 1953, will give Canada access to new global markets, provide jobs and millions of dollars in economic benefits and can be done responsibly.
Political feud between Alberta and B.C. left to the courts: Heyman
Notley brought in a ban on B.C. wine in early February after B.C. Premier John Horgan’s government announced it would not allow increased oil shipments through the province until it had reviewed oil spill safety.
Notley lifted the ban on Feb. 22 after Horgan said his government would not block extra oil while it asked the courts to determine if B.C. has the authority to take the action it was planning.
There has been plenty of back and forth between Prime Minister Rachel Notley and Prime Minister John Horgan in recent week.
Notley has suggested broadening the dispute by threatening to turn off the oil taps, cutting off B.C. from the current Trans Mountain pipeline.
B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman responded to Notley by saying the province will continue to defend its interests when it comes to protecting the environment.
“I see no reason for the government of Alberta to take any action when all B.C. has been doing is standing up for our interests,” he said in Victoria.
“We’re proposing some regulations that are well within our jurisdiction. We’re determined to defend our environment, our economy and our coast line.”
Heyman said B.C. would expect the dispute to be settled in court.
NOTE: The story has been updated to correctly reflect Bernard Hancock’s employment.
With files from The Canadian Press