Vancouver pipeline protest start of busy Sept. for Trans Mountain Expansion foes

Trans Mountain Expansion
Photo: Ellen Coulter, NEWS 1130.

Climate Convergence Metro Vancouver says many actions planned for fall to stop Trans Mountain Expansion construction

As Kinder Morgan prepares to begin construction this month on the $7.4 billion Trans Mountain Expansion, opponents kicked off their campaign to stop the pipeline project with a noisy rally and march Saturday outside the Vancouver Art Gallery that drew 1,200, well short of expected numbers.

Trans Mountain Expansion
Trans Mountain Kinder Morgan photo.

The protest was organized by Climate Convergence Metro Vancouver, which describes itself as a “grassroots network of climate justice organizations and activists (Indigenous, Labour, Student, NGO and Communities of Faith)” whose mission is oppose the fossil fuel industry. On its website, the group claimed Saturday’s event was endorsed by 38 local and provincial organizations.

“We had a lot of different people from a lot of different communities, really energetic, led by indigenous leaders from many of the communities opposing the pipeline,” spokesperson Thomas Davies said in an interview. Climate Convergence’s website notes that the protest took place on the territories of the səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations.

“Our message was very simple: Kinder Morgan we still say no.”

Davies says that the group has been planning the protest since spring, knowing that Kinder Morgan’s construction schedule called for initial site preparation and cleaning to begin in Sept. on a number of locations in British Columbia, including the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby.

Trans Mountain Expansion
Ali Hounsell, spokesperson, Trans Mountain Expansion Project.

The company has told North American Energy News it plans to stick to its schedule, even though the new British Columbia government of NDP Premier John Horgan has told it to not “stick shovels in the ground” until the Province issues permits and final approvals. If Victoria delays issuing permits, Kinder Morgan has the option to apply to the National Energy Board, just as it did in 2015 when the City of Burnaby refused permits for work on Burnaby Mountain.

“The Trans Mountain Expansion Project is in an ongoing process to meet the conditions required by the NEB to begin construction. This process will continue in-step with our activities into the future, keeping in mind that the construction of the Project is phased and condition compliance will be ongoing as construction is underway,” spokesperson Ali Hounsell said in an email.

“We are confident we will satisfy the NEB’s compliance requirements to begin construction activity in September 2017.”

That commitment by Kinder Morgan has Climate Convergence Metro Vancouver members prepared to organize a series of protests designed to hinder the company’s construction plans.

“We’re going to be engaged and unified and continue to make sure the pipeline isn’t built,” said Davies. “There are a lot of campaigns and initiatives that are going to be ongoing through the rest of Sept.” and beyond.

Climate Convergence’s next event will target the TD Bank, which led the financing of Trans Mountain Expansion, including an initial public offering of $1.75 billion that closed May 31.

“On Sept. 29 we’re going to be at the TD Bank at the foot of Burnaby Mountain by Kinder Morgan’s tank farm. We’ve been demonstrating in front of TD banks once a month,” Davies said.

“TD Bank needs to be held accountable.”

Another example of protests already under way is the Tiny House Warriors project – led by Kanahus Manuel, an activist from the Secwepemc peoples near Kamloops, BC – which will build 10 small lived-in homes along the Trans Mountain Expansion route as a means of asserting indigenous title and jurisdiction.

Trans Mountain Expansion“We collectively hold title and governance regarding Secwepemcul’ecw and the collective consent of the Secwepemc is required for any access to our lands, waters and resources,” Manuel told CBC.

Manuel participated in the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access pipeline late in 2016 that attracted international attention, including $1.5 million a day that was crowdfunded to support the 5,000 person “protest village.” She says Standing Rock activists are eager to join the fight against Trans Mountain Expansion.

Davies says he and other BC activists also joined the Standing Rock Sioux in their failed attempt to stop Dakota Access (President Donald Trump overturned the Obama Administration’s suspension of construction pending negotiations over a new route) and the American example was prominent at the Saturday rally.

“One of our main chants today was, ‘from Standing Rock to BC, keep the land pipeline-free,'” he said. “There’s a lot to learn from Standing Rock, but I think we can improve upon the legacy of Standing Rock. A lot of indigenous people are saying the fight Kinder Morgan fight is the same as Standing Rock.”

Climate Convergence media contact Kyle Farquharson noted in an email that based upon Facebook registrations, 3,000 to 5,000 people were expected to show up Saturday. He said issues the group hoped to publicize include climate change, the “incompatibility” of the Alberta oil sands (which will provide much of the crude oil for Trans Mountain Expansion) with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the “danger to the local ecosystem and species” posed by diluted bitumen spills, and First Nations rights to use of the land and water.

“We also hope to encourage more people to take the Coast Protectors’ Pledge – a commitment to non-violent resistance against the twinning of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline, likely including civil disobedience,” he wrote.

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