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Federal Politics
BC Politics

Ralliers Decry Canada’s Pipeline ‘Blind Spot’ on Eve of Trans Mountain Decision

Low turnout, visible anger at Sunday event in Vancouver.

By Braela Kwan and Carol Eugene Park 12 Jun 2019 |

Braela Kwan is a graduate student at the UBC School of Journalism who writes about the environment, sustainability and cannabis. She is completing a practicum at the Tyee. Follow her on Twitter @br_aelak. Carol Eugene Park is a graduate student at the UBC School of Journalism. She is completing a practicum at The Tyee. Follow her on Twitter @carolparkk.

The federal Liberals need to walk their climate emergency talk when it comes to the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, say organizers of a rally held in Vancouver Sunday to protest the project.

Six B.C.-based organizations hosted the rally near Science World in anticipation of the June 18 deadline for the federal government to make its final decision on expanding the pipeline.

The federal Liberal government introduced a motion in May to declare a national climate emergency in Canada, but rally organizers say the government’s pursuit of the pipeline expansion conflicts with its climate emergency motion.

Click the SoundCloud link to hear the sights and sounds of Sunday’s rally in Vancouver against the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. Audio by Braela Kwan and Carol Eugene Park.

“They’re trying to show some leadership [by tabling a climate emergency motion] but for some reason they have a blind spot when it comes to pipelines,” said Christianne Wilhelmson, director of the Georgia Strait Alliance. The alliance was one of the six organizations that hosted the rally.

For Peter McCartney, climate campaigner for the Wilderness Committee which also organized the rally, the pipeline expansion is a key election issue. “Canadians will be voting for bold climate action this fall,” he said. “That doesn’t include a pipeline.”

According to a survey from Abacus Data, 69 per cent of Canadian voters say climate change will be a top-five ballot issue for them in the Oct. 21 federal election.

Climate change and pipelines go hand-in-hand, says Nayeli Jimenez, a Vancouver-based organizer with climate groups Our Time and 350Vancouver.

“When we hear them say they’re going to declare climate emergency, we’re asking them to walk the talk,” Jimenez said.

She said the pipeline expansion is incompatible with the notion of a climate emergency.

The angry few

Although the rally’s organizers hoped for a few thousand attendees, only a few hundred people showed up to Sunday’s event.

Participant Niki Westman expressed her disappointment at the small turnout. “People have given up. They don’t want to sacrifice anything. So, why would they come to this kind of protest?”

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Niki Westman showing off her 'sparkly banner' at the Vancouver rally.

Despite the small turnout, Westman said the signs and art created by protesters were her favourite part of the rally.

“There’s a place for anger. And sparkles. People need to understand, it’s OK to get angry and do something about it,” said Westman, who used sparkles on her sign.

Anne Grant held a picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s face covered in oil that was dripping onto a drawing of the Earth.

“Building pipelines and supporting LNG industry is just outrageous. We know it’s an emergency. They said themselves it’s an emergency. But now, we have to act like what the emergency is. We have to take serious action,” Grant said.

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Anne Grant’s artwork on display. Photo by Braela Kwan.

An oily future

The Trans Mountain expansion project will parallel the existing 1,150-kilometre pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby and triple the capacity of the pipeline by increasing its volume to 890,000 barrels per day from 300,000 barrels per day.

The expansion will increase carbon emissions from Alberta’s oilsands by over 20 per cent. The oilsands industry is already the largest source of emissions for the province, according to data from Environment and Climate Change Canada and the province of Alberta.

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Joan Phillip and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of UBCIC delivering a keynote speech at the rally. Photo by Braela Kwan.

The expansion will also increase the number of oil tankers travelling through the Salish Sea. The number of tankers departing Burnaby would increase from five per month to 34 per month, effectively increasing the number of barrels of oil leaving B.C.’s coast by nearly six times, based on data from the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Opponents of the expansion argue that escalated tanker traffic will increase the risk of an oil spill in environmentally sensitive coastal waters home to endangered species of killer whales and salmon.

McCartney says a “real, credible, meaningful environmental assessment” of the project has yet to be completed. “It would be an absolute travesty if it’s allowed to go forward without one,” he said.

At Sunday’s rally, speakers said the pipeline expansion will pose new threats to the environment, young people, human livelihoods and marine wildlife.

“It’s protecting our water. It’s protecting the salmon. It’s protecting our children. And it’s protecting our way of life,” said Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.  [Tyee]

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