Vancouver protesters stage final rally against Trans Mountain pipeline ahead of Ottawa decision
Protesters gathered near Science World in Vancouver to protest the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion Sunday in a last-ditch effort to convince the federal government not to approve the controversial project.
Ottawa has promised it will make its final decision on the expansion by June 18 to allow for consultations to wrap up with Indigenous groups.
Protesters in Vancouver argued granting approval for a second time would be a huge and costly mistake.
WATCH: (Aired April 18) Trans Mountain pipeline decision extended to June 18
“People here in British Columbia are still opposed to this project,” Stand.earth campaigner Sven Biggs said. “We know [Prime Minister Justin Trudeau] is going to be out here looking for our votes in the fall, and if he approves this pipeline he is going to run into a lot of angry British Columbians.”
Beyond the political ramifications, Biggs echoed one demonstrator’s sign that read, “No pipelines in a climate crisis,” and said the expansion will only make things worse for the environment.
“When the U.N. is telling us we have just 11 years to halve our emissions, you can’t be building projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline that will increase Canada’s contribution to greenhouse gases,” he said.
This will be the second time Trudeau and his cabinet have had to consider approving the project, after giving the green light in 2016.
The Federal Court of Appeal reversed that decision last August, however, declaring that neither the environmental review nor the Indigenous consultations had been properly completed.
WATCH: (Aired June 2) Burnaby mayor meets with Trudeau over Trans Mountain concerns
By that time, Ottawa had already purchased the expansion project from Kinder Morgan at a cost of $4.5 billion in order to avoid political hurdles, including court challenges from the B.C. government and municipalities, including Burnaby and Vancouver.
After a new round of consultations, the National Energy Board said on Feb. 22 that it still believed the project was in the public interest and should go ahead, subject to 156 conditions and 16 new non-binding recommendations for Ottawa.
The decision gave the federal government until May 22 to make a call, but officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources quickly signalled more time would be needed.
Svend Robinson, a former Burnaby MP who’s now the NDP candidate for Burnaby-North Seymour in October’s federal election, said at the rally that he expects Trudeau will announce the project’s approval, but he’s prepared to fight it on behalf of his community in court and in Parliament.
“The people of Burnaby-North Seymour will not accept having 14 big, new tanks on Burnaby Mountain, in a residential area, and over 400 tankers leaving Westridge Terminal,” he said.
“We will fight this, no matter what Trudeau says.”
WATCH: (Aired May 24) NDP government vows to appeal Trans Mountain pipeline court loss
Robinson said the fact the Liberals are clinging to the project goes against their self-portrayal as environmentalists during the last election.
“In 2015 the Liberals were saying, ‘We’re going to be the great defenders of the climate,'” he said. “They said explicitly this pipeline wouldn’t go ahead if the community didn’t agree and if Indigenous people didn’t agree.
“What did they do? They bought the pipeline, they ignored Indigenous peoples, and they still use [former prime minister Stephen] Harper’s targets for the climate process. So it’s been a complete betrayal.”
The proposed expansion, which twins an existing pipeline from northern Alberta to the Kinder Morgan terminal on Burnaby Mountain, is estimated to triple the amount of bitumen flowing across the provincial border.
An attempt by the B.C. government to pose a constitutional challenge against the import of bitumen into the province was blocked by the B.C. Court of Appeal last month.
Other court challenges from Burnaby and local First Nations have also been struck down.
WATCH: (Aired May 16) Trans Mountain pipeline makes ‘no economic sense’, May says
In a statement Sunday, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said Indigenous groups are still opposed to the pipeline and are vowing to continue their legal challenges.
“Building the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project would trespass on fundamental Indigenous rights in Canada, fuel the climate emergency fire and risk our coastal waters,” Phillip said.
“One major spill could doom our Southern Resident killer whales and the salmon so many depend on.”
Dozens of Indigenous and environmental protesters were arrested blocking the Burnaby Mountain facility before the Federal Court of Appeal decision.
Those same groups have vowed to step up their obstructionist efforts if the pipeline is approved yet again.
—With files from the Canadian Press
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