Hours after the announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his cabinet’s decision on the expansion of the Trans Mountain, hundreds of protesters gathered in downtown Vancouver to oppose the decision, promising to fight it “in every corner”.
Demonstrators gathered in front of the CBC building on West Georgia Street chanting anti-Trudeau and anti-pipeline slogans before marching several blocks in the downtown core.
Charlene Aleck, former councillor of the Tseil-Waututh First Nation, criticized Prime Minister Trudeau’s "hypocrisy" in addressing the climate change crisis, adding that “we are gonna oppose this project every way which we can.”
“Our Salish Sea is under attack. And you don't go promising lessening the carbon footprint or declaring a climate emergency and then propose to build a fossil fuel infrastructure that's gonna last for 75 years that the Canadian taxpayers will have to pay [for],” Aleck said. “We’ve committed to doing whatever it takes to oppose this pipeline project and tanker project.”
A 19-year-old environmental activist, Harrison Johnston of the Sustainabiliteens Vancouver, a youth environmental group demanding actions to address the climate crisis, called the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion a “devastating” decision and “a giant leap in the wrong direction”.
“Now is not the time to approve a pipeline that will set us even further off course. Now is the time for drastic actions,” Johnston said. “Now is the time for us to stop waiting for the government to act in our interest. And instead, force them to realize that the only option they have is to take immediate action to address the climate emergency that they declared yesterday.”
Members of Indigenous communities across Metro Vancouver are irritated by Trudeau’s decision to approve the pipeline expansion, accusing him of following his father’s (Pierre Trudeau) footsteps.
Dakota Bear, an Indigenous hip-hop artist from the Treaty 6 First Nations, says that Indigenous communities “will continue to fight” for their lands and waters, adding that “we are defending Indigenous rights, titles, and treaties.”
“They want to push us off this 0.2 percent [land] that we have. But we will continue to fight. We will continue to resist and will continue to defend,” Bear said. “We are here to terminate the white paper 2.0 because standing up for Indigenous rights is standing up for land.”
Pipeline will triple shipments of diluted bitumen to B.C.
Trudeau announced yesterday (June 18) that his government is proceeding with the expansion of the $9.3-billion Trans Mountain pipeline project.
However, right after the anticipated announcement by the federal government, the B.C. government, Indigenous communities, and environmental activists vowed to fight the decision in every way possible.
If implemented, the expansion will triple shipments of diluted bitumen from Alberta to the Lower Mainland from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day. It will also reportedly lead to a nearly seven-fold increase in oil tankers traffic in Burrard Inlet, though NDP candidate Svend Robinson says that tanker traffic will increase by more than 10 times.
The expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline project was first approved by the Liberal cabinet in 2016.
But the federal government’s decision was overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal for falling short of its constitutional requirement to consult with affected First Nations and because the National Energy Board failed to consider the impact of tanker traffic on threatened marine species.
Now, Trudeau says the new decision has been made after robust consultations overseen by former Supreme Court of Canada justice Frank Iacobucci.
"We listened to community concerns and we are acting on community ideas," Trudeau said. "We're working with Indigenous peoples to codevelop and implement real accommodation measures to make our environment, our coast, and our communities safer and healthier and better protected than ever before."
The federal government bought Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5-billion from Texas-based Kinder Morgan last year.
The announcement on the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline took place a day after the House of Commons declared a national climate emergency in Canada.