“Can’t drink oil, keep it in the soil!”
Vancouverites heard this and other chants on the morning of September 19, when about 20 protesters made their way through the downtown core protesting the construction of a Trans Mountain Pipeline in BC.
The proposed project would be an expansion to the existing pipeline and has been a controversial issue for Burnaby residents, SFU students, and local governments for the past five years. The project saw the Edmonton to Burnaby pipeline tripled in capacity, dramatically increasing the number of tankers being loaded in the Burrard Inlet and exporting oil from the tar sands to international markets.
Before the march left its rallying point from BC Place, several activists explained to a crowd of listeners why they were so vocal.
Audrey Siegl, a prominent local activist who has spoken at many anti-pipeline events, explained that although the Trudeau government is conducting more public consultations about the pipeline, the councils don’t reflect popular opinion.
“When this government [. . .] consults with the electeds, they’re consulting with themselves,” said Siegl, referring to the First Nations elected officials. She and other speakers accused the consultations of being used as an excuse to push through the pipeline despite vocal opposition.
At the Vancouver protest, Ariel Martz-Oberlander spoke about how concerned citizens should seize the opportunity to tell the government what they thought about the project. “I think we should celebrate our ‘no’!” she said to cheers, adding that “we’re in the right place and we’re the right people to stop this pipeline.”
The hopeful spirit stems from a pipeline project being blocked earlier this year. Enbridge’s Northern Gateway was rejected by the Federal Court of Appeal after it was found that Ottawa had not sufficiently consulted with indigenous peoples who would be affected by the pipeline. The federal government has chosen not to appeal the court’s decision.
Proponents of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project say that it will result in economic benefits for British Columbia and Alberta, but critics hotly dispute the cited figures. A report from 2014 by SFU’s Centre for Public Policy Research found that the project would only create one-third of the jobs reported by Kinder Morgan.
The Vancouver protest comes hot on the heels of reports indicating that Trudeau is likely to approve the Trans Mountain Expansion. The National Energy Board recommended its approval on May 19 with 157 conditions, and a final decision from the federal government is expected in December.