VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada, May 22, 2019 (ENS) – An Indigenous leader demanding that cancellation of the Trans Mountain pipeline interrupted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his speech today at a Liberal fundraiser at the Opus Hotel in downtown Vancouver. Trudeau is fundraising ahead of the federal election scheduled to take place on or before October 21.
Will George, Tsleil-Waututh community member and spiritual leader of the nonprofit organization Protect the Inlet, disrupted the Prime Minister as he began speaking, with these words, “As long as Justin Trudeau continues to come to BC and sell his dirty pipeline, I’ll be here to tell him that he will be met with fierce opposition. He sells his story of truth and reconciliation and tells the world that he wants to be a climate leader while buying a diluted bitumen pipeline.”
Before being escorted from the room by police, George repeatedly called Trudeau a “liar” and a “weak leader.”
Trudeau responded by saying he understands there are strong Indigenous voices for and against the pipeline expansion.
Outside the hotel, Indigenous community members, community groups, conservationists and students called on Trudeau’s Liberal Government to take the climate emergency seriously and demonstrate his commitment by canceling the pipeline and tanker project that would add more than 70 megatonnes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere every year. [One megatonne is equal to one million metric tonnes.]
The protest demonstration was organized by the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, Lead Now, SumofUs, Stand.Earth, Coast Protectors/UBCIC, and Protect the Inlet.
The crowd of around 200 was accompanied by a Jumbotron crowd funded by Leadnow and SumOfUs members with the message, “Trudeau, No Pipelines in a Climate Emergency.”
Today, the Trans Mountain pipeline is one line, in operation since 1953, that carries oil from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia. In 2013, Canada’s National Energy Board, NEB, approved a proposal by the U.S. energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan to expand the pipeline with a second line, parallel to the existing pipeline. The project would have nearly tripled capacity from 300,000 barrels to 890,000 barrels per day.
The proposal was controversial due to its potential environmental impact. Legal challenges, as well as protests from environmentalists and First Nations groups, followed.
In May 2018, the Trudeau Government announced its intention to buy the pipeline from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion, and seek outside investors to complete the expansion.
In August 2018, on the same day that Kinder Morgan shareholders approved the sale, Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal overturned the NEB’s approval of the pipeline expansion, ruling that the government did not sufficiently consult First Nations groups or assess its environmental impact.
The Canadian government reinitiated consultations with Indigenous groups impacted by the pipeline, beginning on November 19 and ongoing.
Since August 31, 2018, Trans Mountain pipeline system and Trans Mountain Expansion Project have been part of the Trans Mountain Corporation, a
wholly-owned subsidiary of the Canada Development Investment Corporation, CDIC, that is accountable to the Parliament of Canada. Until the purchase by the CDIC, it was owned by the Canadian division of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners.
Protect the Inlet refers to protecting the Burrard Inlet, which separates the city of Vancouver, with its 2.5 million people, from North Vancouver, home to 150,000 people and West Vancouver with its 43,000 residents.
Currently, the Port of Vancouver handles between 30 and 50 crude oil tankers a year. If the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is built, this number could increase to about 400 tankers per year, according to the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. This increase would raise the oil spill risk to the inlet by at least eight-fold.
The area’s Indigenous people have been protesting the pipeline ever since it was proposed to intersect with Burrard Inlet on what they claim as “unceded territory.”
The nonprofit organization Protect the Inlet is “the spiritual home of the resistance against the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project in the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples,” the group says. It is centered on a traditional Coast Salish Watch House — called Kwekwecnewtxw — built in March 2018 in the path of the pipeline and tanker project.
Since then, tens of thousands have marched in support of Protect the Inlet and more than 210 people have been arrested.
In November, 85-year old Joanne Manley, the oldest person yet jailed for blockading construction on the now-stalled Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project, received a fine of $2,000 and 14 days of house arrest.
“Facing 14 days in jail frightens me, but a climate catastrophe frightens me more,” said Manley, before her sentencing. “The Trans Mountain Pipeline and tanker project will be the final nail in the coffin for BC’s beloved Orcas, our Southern Resident whales. If there’s an oil spill like what happened to Newfoundland last week, Vancouver harbour and our coastal waters will be poisoned. I made a decision to do whatever I could to stop the pipeline – for every child and grandchild, for the Orcas, and for this planet.”
There has been no formal accounting of climate pollution from the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project from the federal government.
But a study commissioned by the City of Vancouver determined the downstream climate impacts of greenhouse gas pollution from the Trans Mountain Pipeline to be 71.1 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually, roughly equivalent to 13.7 passenger vehicles driven for one year or the amount of carbon sequestered by 76 million acres of forest in a year.
“Dangerous wildfires fueled by the climate crisis are forcing evacuations in northern Alberta, but while firefighting crews from across the country are rushing to tackle the fires, Justin Trudeau and his cabinet are considering re-approving a tar sands pipeline.” said Sven Biggs, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Stand.earth. “I hope that he hears the message today that you can not be a leader in the fight against climate change while you are building a pipeline.”
Environment Canada research, the first to be conducted by aerial surveys over Alberta’s oil sands, shows that oil sands emissions have been underestimated by 64 percent, according to a study published in the April 23 issue of the journal “Nature Communications.”
In January, Indigenous people, including Watch House Guardian Will George, staged a similar protest at a Trudeau event in the British Columbia city of Kamloops. There, militarized RCMP demolished their checkpoint in unceded Wet’suwet’en territory, as more than 60 solidarity events around the country called on the government to respect the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, title holders, and land defenders.
George said, “This is the same fight as the fight to stop Trans Mountain’s disastrous diluted bitumen pipeline and tanker project. The risks are too great – we can not and we will not allow them to destroy our way of life. No means no.”
Meanwhile, the Liberal government has a motion to declare Canada in a “Climate Emergency” in the House of Commons this week as the 2019 federal election campaign heats up.
“The climate crisis is a top issue for voters in this election, and that will increase through wildfire season,” said Sonia Theroux, co-executive director of the social change advocacy group, Leadnow. If Trudeau approves this pipeline, he’ll destroy his credibility as a climate leader – and that could cost him the election. Millennials, now the largest vote block in Canada, were key to his 2015 win and they won’t elect a pipeline Prime Minister.”