Protesters targeting both the Coastal GasLink pipeline and Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion blocked some of Vancouver’s busiest intersections Wednesday, stalling rush-hour traffic.
Hundreds of people organized by Climate Convergence Vancouver descended on Commercial Drive and East Broadway around 5 p.m.
Yelling chants supporting Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the crowd then marched west on Broadway towards Clark Drive — one of the main routes for trucks heading to the Port of Vancouver.
Protesters stopped in the middle of the intersection, banging drums and chanting.
Just after 6 p.m., the group then began heading north on Clark Drive toward the port before stopping at East First Avenue, another major route for drivers heading to Highway 1.
At that intersection, drivers attempting to head off the viaduct and cross Clark Drive were openly expressing their anger with the protesters who forced them to stop and wait.
“Canada was built on a lie,” a man who described himself as a Dutch settler told a woman behind the wheel who was trying to get home to Maple Ridge.
“And you’re going to fix it by shutting down intersections?” replied the woman, who said she was Indigenous and that she supported the larger issue the group is protesting.
“It’s having an effect,” the man said.
“It’s not having an affect on the right people,” she said.
The woman told Global News that multiple protests around Metro Vancouver have cost her roughly $400 in gas as she is constantly forced to detour around the blockades.
“Who does that help?” she asked. “I’m totally with them, but their methods are wrong, because they’re not affecting Justin Trudeau. They’re affecting me.”
The protesters then stopped at Commercial Drive and East First for another brief blockade before turning back up Commercial toward East Broadway, where they reconvened shortly after 7 p.m.
The blockade finally cleared around 7:30 p.m. as the protesters dispersed in different directions from the intersection.
Fears that the protest would also stall SkyTrain service at Commercial-Broadway Station — the busiest transit hub in the city — were quelled when TransLink was granted an injunction covering all train platforms.
Bus service has been impacted, however, with the 99 B-Line route in particular seeing delays. Detours for that line and others that pass through the Commercial-Broadway area have since been cleared.
Other bus routes have also been impacted throughout the protest route, with the transit authority asking passengers to check its alerts page and Twitter for full details.
Organizers say the event is in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their traditional territory, and are calling for the RCMP to withdraw officers from the area.
The group says it is also unhappy with the Federal Court of Appeal’s recent decision to dismiss an Indigenous-led legal challenge of the Trans Mountain expansion project.
“The Federal and B.C. provincial governments continue to insist that a new dirty Tar Sands and hydraulically fractured ‘natural gas’ pipelines are in our interests,” says Climate Convergence Vancouver.
“As global warming and its associated extreme weather events continue to wreak havoc in Canada and around the world – prolonging the extreme pollution of Tar Sands oil and ‘fracked’ natural gas production is a recipe for climate disaster.”
Trans Mountain, which was purchased by the federal government in 2018 to ensure the project expansion’s completion, said last week the cost to finish the job has now ballooned from $7.4 billion to $12.6 billion.
Opponents argue that completing the two projects will make it impossible for Canada to reach its emissions reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement.
The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2018 report says emissions must be cut by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 in order to avoid severe climate change impacts.
Wednesday’s rally comes as protests in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have spread nationally, with road and rail blockades starting to have measurable economic impacts.
The Indigenous relations ministers from B.C. and Canada have offered to meet with the chiefs, but the Wet’suwet’en leaders say they won’t agree to the sit down until the RCMP is removed from their territory.
Mounties have maintained a presence on the Morice West Forest Service Road since enforcing a B.C. Supreme Court injunction earlier this month ensuring Coastal GasLink crews could access a worksite in the remote northern B.C. area.