Thousands of Marchers in British Columbia Say No to Trans Mountain Pipeline

by Lynda V. Mapes / The Seattle Times

Marchers wound through the streets of Burnaby, B.C., to a soccer field in the shadow of a tank farm where Kinder Morgan is cutting trees to prepare for boring a tunnel through Burnaby Mountain for the new pipeline. (Courtney Pedroza / The Seattle Times)

BURNABY, British Columbia — Thousands of opponents of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain oil-pipeline expansion filled the streets of metro Vancouver on Saturday in the biggest pushback yet against the $7.3 billion project.

Planned along the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby, the expansion already approved by the federal government of Canada is intended to nearly triple the volume of diluted bitumen oil flowing from Alberta to Burnaby in British Columbia to slake overseas markets’ thirst for oil. But the project has hit a buzz saw of opposition from First Nations and tribes on both sides of the border, the province of British Columbia and municipalities from Burnaby to Vancouver to Victoria.

Rooted in concern over climate change, oil spills, species extinction and indigenous rights, the battle lines are drawn — just as they were at Standing Rock in North Dakota, where thousands of Native peoples and their allies sought to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“I will lay down my life to stop this,” Cedar George-Parker of the Tulalip and Tsleil-Waututh nations said of Trans Mountain pipeline, as demonstrators massed at a rally at the end of the march.

Not just a one-day march but an ongoing movement, the Protect the Inlet campaign that launched Saturday is intended to keep pressure on the expansion project until it is stopped, by delay, disruption and ongoing civil disobedience.

The march terminated near a clearing in a cedar grove in the shadow of Kinder Morgan’s tank farm, where opponents erected a cedar structure, Place to Watch From. Opponents vowed to occupy and utilize the house as a ceremonial encampment to stop the pipeline.

Kinder Morgan said the structure is in its right-of-way and that it would request the city of Burnaby to issue a stop-work order. The company supports the right to peaceful protest but also is certain the project can be built safely and in accordance with the values of all Canadians, said spokeswoman Ali Hounsell.

Indigenous women from Canada’s interior have launched The Tiny House Warrior movement and are building structures in the path of the pipeline. The wave of civil disobedience follows a turnover of the government of the Province of British Columbia, which has filed a lawsuit to overturn permits from the previous government.

Another 15 lawsuits have been filed, including by First Nations who assert they were never adequately consulted and that the project crosses unceded territory without their consent.

“There are three ways this could be stopped: political, the courts, or through some kind of direct action, and all three are coming to a head right now,” said Kennedy Stewart, member of Parliament for Burnaby South, the neighborhood where the protests were held, as he marched arm in arm with First Nations leaders Saturday. “The company says it’s a done deal. It is far from that.”

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