The RCMP arrested more than two dozen people who violated a court injunction and staged a sit-in on Saturday to interfere with Texas-based Kinder Morgan's construction activities on Burnaby Mountain in the Greater Vancouver Region.
Around 30 people entered the injunction zone and fastened themselves to the gate of Kinder Morgan's Westridge Marine Terminal, while a crowd of supporters held signs to protest the company's Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion. The demonstration took place one week after a mass rally that drew thousands of people to march against the pipeline expansion on Burnaby Mountain.
Twenty-six of the protesters were arrested and brought to a processing centre near the blockade site. They were released after agreeing to appear in court violating the injunction. In 2014, around 100 people protesting Kinder Morgan were arrested, many of them staying for hours in jail before being released, but the demonstrators today were allowed to walk away after processing.
"My emotional response to this is that the risk of a tanker spill in Burrard Inlet is just unimaginable for many, many reasons," Walter Hardy said.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Affleck granted the injunction on March 15, in response to a request from Kinder Morgan which alleged that some protesters were deliberately trying to obstruct construction activity in an effort to delay the Trans Mountain expansion project and cause financial harm to the company. His injunction banned any efforts to interfere with construction in a zone that includes the company's property as well as a five-metre exclusion zone.
“We need more people standing on the front lines," said Angelina Rose, a UBC student at the protest, in a news release. "As a person of mixed Indigenous and settler history, I owe it to my ancestors, my future grandchildren and Coast Salish nations to stand with them in this fight.”
Kinder Morgan has said it will seek compensation from protesters who violate the injunction.
"When it comes to our operations and construction sites, safety is our first priority - safety of our workers, communities and everyone near our facilities. And to that end, we will make every effort to ensure we can carry out our work and operations safely," Kinder Morgan said in an email to National Observer.
"We respect the right to peacefully protest and there are many ways to express opinions in a safe and lawful manner. The RCMP were notified when several individuals attached themselves to the gate of Burnaby Terminal, blocking emergency access to our facilities and employees onsite in contravention of a court order."
Earlier in the day, local resident Walter Hardy told National Observer he was there to support the protest because he believed a large increase in the transport of diluted bitumen — one of the petroleum products in the Trans Mountain pipeline — was bad for British Columbia.
"My emotional response to this is that the risk of a tanker spill in Burrard Inlet is just unimaginable for many, many reasons," Hardy said. "There's marine life, and Indigenous fishing...but the worst is [in the event of a spill], Vancouver will drop multi-billions of dollars, and it would be a complete disaster. This pipeline is just not necessary. I consider that Alberta has not used their resources wisely. With (late Alberta premier) Peter Lougheed, they had a system in place....but [Alberta] shouldn't be foisting this on people who don't want it."
Clayton Thomas-Müller, a Mathias Colomb Cree Nation member from Manitoba and campaigner with environmental group 350.org, said he was willing to be arrested to oppose this project.
"We have the right to protest," Thomas-Müller said, while sitting in front of the fence, which they'd covered with a protest banner. "If the RCMP decide to enforce the injunction, that's entirely on them...We're here to make our opinions known."
Thomas-Müller said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was underestimating the strong opposition to the project, which included the City of Burnaby, the City of Vancouver, and 150 First Nations.
"We've already seen with Northern Gateway pipeline that federal approval doesn't mean anything in the face of social movements...Justin Trudeau's going to get a similar lesson," he said. "Government approvals mean nothing. It's communities that grant consent."
Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was approved by the federal government in November 2016, but is opposed by the current NDP government in B.C., and has faced a court challenge from six First Nations, the City of Vancouver and City of Burnaby.
Trans Mountain pipeline expansion
If built, the Trans Mountain expansion would triple the capacity of an existing pipeline network, allowing it to carry up to 890,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Alberta, home to the world's third largest reserves of oil after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, to the west coast.
Supporters of the project say it will promote jobs and growth in the oilpatch, while its detractors say it will lead to spills and push Canada's climate change goals out of reach. Trudeau said in an interview with National Observer last month that his government had approved the Trans Mountain pipeline as a "trade off" to win Alberta's cooperation on climate policies including a carbon tax.
Although the project has been described as a "twinning" of an existing pipeline, part of the expansion would include a different route through the Rocky Mountains to the coast.
Editor's note: this story was updated at 3:10 p.m. to include information about arrests that took place in the afternoon. This story was updated again with comments from Kinder Morgan and Angelina Rose. This story was updated Sunday at 4:30 p.m. to include details about the number of arrests. It was updated again at 10:50 p.m. on Sunday with additional background information.