Thousands of people have taken a stand on the plains of North Dakota.
In several camps dotting the Standing Rock reservation of the Sioux people, Native American and non-aboriginal protesters have put themselves in the line of an oil pipeline.
Their ongoing fight against the $3.8-billion Dakota Access pipeline has become a powerful symbol of the struggle against indigenous oppression, corporate power, and climate change.
Since April this year, hundreds have been arrested by police, but there is no sign that the battle is going to be over soon.
Across the border in western Canada, Ruth Walmsley is watching Standing Rock with a great deal of interest.
Walmsley is a volunteer with a grassroots organization that formed in 2012 when Kinder Morgan announced its plan to twin the existing Trans Mountain pipeline.
Since then, Walmsley and her colleagues with the Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE) have organized forums and other activities to stop the $6.8 billion project.
On May 19, the federal National Energy Board granted conditional approval for the project, subject to 157 conditions.
The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to make a final decision on the Kinder Morgan expansion on or before December 19.
According to Walmsley, a green light for Kinder Morgan could lead to a local version of Standing Rock.
“If the federal government goes ahead and approves the Kinder Morgan pipeline, then I think it’s quite likely that we will see something similar here,” Walmsley told the Straight in a phone interview Wednesday (November 9).
Two days earlier, Trudeau was in Vancouver to announce a $1.5-billion marine protection plan, a move that some guessed was designed to pave the way for the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
The ocean protection plan satisfies one of the conditions set by the B.C. provincial government for its own endorsement of the project.
Andrew Weaver, who is the only elected Green representative in the B.C. legislative assembly, expressed concern for the possibility that Trudeau’s announcement would be used to justify the approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
“Even with a full protection plan the effects of a diluted bitumen spill in our waters would be catastrophic,” reads a statement attributed to Weaver, who was a renowned climate scientist before his historic election in 2013 as the first Green MLA in the province.
For Walmsley in Burnaby, Standing Rock is also a symbol of hope.
“It demonstrates the reality that leadership in the campaign to get off of fossil fuels is coming from the grassroots,” she said.
About two years ago, scores of protesters were arrested on Burnaby Mountain by the RCMP for defying a court injunction against people blocking survey and drilling work by Kinder Morgan.
Walmsley isn’t sure whether Burnaby Mountain is going to be Metro Vancouver’s physical Standing Rock, except to say: “There will be something.”