Activists and community leaders say Trudeau lacks social license for today’s decision to approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline and warn the project will face large-scale citizen opposition.
Chief Bob Chamberlin, vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said First Nations groups and activists will take their opposition to the streets. “Trudeau is going to find out what social licence actually looks like and feels like, both on the streets and in the courts,” Chamberlin said.
An online petition coordinated by the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs, promising to do whatever it takes to stop the pipeline, has been signed by 7,666 people. The organization is not shy to walk the walk, in 2014 Grand Chief Stewart Phillip was arrested in a protest against the pipeline on Burnaby Mountain.
Some local activists warned of protests on the scale of the opposition to the U.S. Dakota Access pipeline. “You will see Standing Rock 2.0 to be honest,” said Rodrigo Samayoa, environmental campaigner with Leadnow. “First Nations are starting to organize, communities are starting to organize and if the Prime Minister approves the pipeline without the consent of communities, he will see protests and blockades in B.C., they will be very similar to the ones we are seeing right now in Standing Rock.”
Three hours after the annoucement, hundreds attended a rally in downtown Vancouver organized by local climate justice network Climate Convergence. “It’s clear that the opposition in this community is very strong and we say no. We don’t give permission. [Trudeau] can grant the permit if he wants, he can give it approval, but that’s not going to stop us,” spokesperson Eric Lescarbeau said.
While several First Nations communities are supporting Kinder Morgan, others are fundamentally opposed. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation, whose traditional territory encompasses the city of Vancouver and Burnaby, is clear that despite the prime minister’s approval Tuesday, their opposition to the pipeline is not over.
“I’m standing here telling you I’m still opposing the project. I’m making decisions for my grandchildren that are in the best way 30 years from now,” said Charlene Aleck, elected council for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.
Gavin McGarrigle is BC Area Director for Unifor, a union representing Chevron oil refinery workers McGarrigle said are threatened by the pipeline project. He doubts the pipeline will ever be built.
“[The Trudeau government] just try to say that they do have a social license but they don’t. There is almost unanimous disapproval here in the Lower Mainland for it,” McGarrigle said. “So they may approve it today, but we don’t see it ever getting built because we think there are people in British Columbia, lots of people in British Columbia, who will do anything it takes to make sure this doesn’t go ahead.”