Opponents of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion gathered on traditional Tsleil-Waututh territory to launch a 'flotilla' of boats to the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby. The group was led by four traditional canoes supported by around 100 people in 70 kayaks and was joined by international crews from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, which was seized at gunpoint in 2013 by Russian authorities after a demonstration against oil drilling.
Tsleil-Waututh elder Ta’ah Amy George led paddlers in ceremony, song, and prayer. The kayakers edged close to the razor wire fence on the water, around the Westridge terminal.
"I’ve been fighting since I was six years old in residential school and still fighting today," said George. "We sent Kinder Morgan back to Texas. It doesn’t matter whose hands the pipeline is in — the answer is still no."
"As a Tsleil-Waututh youth, I have learned from my peoples the importance of the water - the way it sustains us and nurtures every aspect of our lives," Oceann Hyland, a 21-year old youth leader, said in a statement. She urged people to "protect what is sacred, to protect our culture, lands, waters and all living beings."
Cedar George, another youth leader at the protest, thanked participants for "working toward a sane future," referencing the climate impacts of the pipeline expansion project. On May 29, the federal government came to an agreement with Kinder Morgan to purchase for $4.5 billion.
The expanded Trans Mountain facilities would triple the capacity of an existing pipeline system to ship up to 890,000 barrels per day of heavy oil and other petroleum products from Alberta to the west coast. Supporters of the pipeline, including both the federal and Alberta governments, say it would drive growth and support a transition that enables action on climate change. Opponents say the project could lead to spills and push Canada's climate change goals out of reach.
"We recognize there are a variety of opinions about our project and we respect the right to peacefully demonstrate," Kinder Morgan commented in an email to National Observer. "When it comes to our operations and construction sites, safety is our first priority — safety of our workers, communities and everyone near our facilities. There were no impacts to our operations today."