On Wednesday, I stood in front of Prime Minister Trudeau to tell him that as a young person, I am deeply disappointed and opposed to his approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline. I interrupted the UN press conference and spoke to the Prime Minister because I felt it was my responsibility as a young person, and as a settler on this land to tell Justin Trudeau to reverse his decision, and stop the Kinder Morgan from destroying this land, and the climate.
When I heard that the Prime Minister would be in Vancouver, and would not be meeting with the public while in the city, I knew I had to do whatever it took to speak with him. My co-protestor and friend, Jake Hubley, and I are both of the generation that grew up only knowing one Prime Minister — Stephen Harper. The year 2015 was our first opportunity to vote in the federal election, to take politics into our own hands. When I heard Justin Trudeau’s election promises for real action on climate change, and for renewed reconciliation, I believed him. But then, once elected, he went and approved the dangerous Kinder Morgan oilsands pipeline, and I am now embarrassed to say that I voted for Prime Minister Trudeau.
I snuck into the press conference yesterday because it is my generation that will have to live with the consequences of Prime Minister Trudeau’s decisions. It was scary to find our way into a federal event with high RCMP security, and it was certainly not my first choice for how to get a moment of the Prime Minister’s time. However, as we get closer and closer to global temperatures beyond two degrees of warming, it feels vital to do whatever it takes to stop fossil fuel infrastructure like the Kinder Morgan pipeline that increases emissions beyond a livable planet. The reality of global climate change that impacts my generation, and future generations, is much scarier to me than being arrested for entering the Prime Minister's event.
I voted for Justin Trudeau on his promises for real action on climate change and a new relationship with Indigenous nations. As a young person and settler in Canada, I want to see meaningful implementation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, and a shift away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy. The moment Trudeau approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline, he broke both these promises. There can be no reconciliation, and no climate justice in Canada when the Prime Minister has approved a pipeline that increases demand and emissions from the tar sands and, without consent, goes through Indigenous territories.
The Kinder Morgan pipeline approval fundamentally contradicts climate action by investing in dirty fossil fuels instead of renewable energy. More importantly, the approval makes reconciliation impossible by pushing a pipeline through Indigenous communities that have openly opposed this dirty oil sands project. In British Columbia alone, six First Nations have brought the federal government to court over the approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline. By approving the pipeline, Justin Trudeau has made a new relationship with First Nations impossible. There is nothing "new" about the Canadian government forcing dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure on unwilling Indigenous communities.
When we spoke to the Prime Minister yesterday, our request was simple. In order to keep his promises of reconciliation and climate action, Prime Minister Trudeau must reverse his approval and stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline. As Jake and I were being dragged away by private security, the Prime Minister responded by commending our activism. What he failed to address, however, was our questions and concerns about the pipeline. Although Prime Minister Trudeau nodded along as I spoke, I do not feel he heard us. This activism he congratulated is only necessary because of the dangerous, and detrimental decision his government has made on the pipeline.
After we spoke, Jake and I were escorted out by private security and questioned by the RCMP. We were detained on charges of obstruction of justice and criminal mischief and taken to the Vancouver Police Department, and eventually released without charge. As I sat for an hour in the dark, cold paddy wagon, I replayed the action I had just taken and decided that it was absolutely worth risking arrest to have our message to stop Kinder Morgan heard.
Author Hayley Zacks is a 20-year-old campaigner with Stand.earth in Vancouver, on unceded Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish, and Musqueam territories.