This afternoon, hundreds of people marched from the Vancouver Art Gallery to Sunset Beach in protest against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion — a $7.4-billion project that would “nearly triple capacity to 890,000 barrels a day” and “increase oil-tanker traffic seven-fold a year.”
Chants of “from Standing Rock to BC, make the land pipeline free” and “hey hey Trudeau, Kinder Morgan has got to go” could be heard, as the crowd weaved through the streets of downtown Vancouver.
Hosted by Climate Convergence Metro Vancouver, the protest featured a lineup of mainly Indigenous activists and office holders. They talked about the importance of both thinking about the future and taking collective political actions.
“They have made many commitments to you as voters and to me as First Nations, and they’ve not lived to them in the fullest intent that they promised,” said Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation Chief Councillor Bob Chamberlain, criticizing the federal government for approving the Kinder Morgan pipeline despite making statements about supporting the environment and Indigenous communities.
“I don’t like the idea of cashing in on my son and grandson’s future.”
Another speaker suggested the idea of forming a class action lawsuit to stop Kinder Morgan.
“Nobody has said class action lawsuit,” he said. “Take action through the courts or no one will listen.”
One particularly notable speaker was Kanahus Manuel, who called in from one of the 10 “tiny houses” being strategically built on the pipeline’s path to block its expansion. Called the “Tiny House Warriors,” this effort has seen the first house being built near Kamloops, BC.
Some other speakers included anti-poverty activist Jean Swanson, Burnaby South NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, as well as Indigenous activists Eagle Eyes and Linda Williams.
“We are together as one,” said Eagle Eyes. “The world is round, so walk on the earth. We don’t own the mother earth, the mother earth owns us. So I’d like to make a difference and stand together in unity”
The event saw a notable UBC presence.
Gabby Doebeli, a third-year integrated science student and communication coordinator of UBCC350, was the co-emcee of the event.
“We stand in solidarity with Indigenous people and anyone affected by climate change — from Harvey to Irma, from the flooding in South Asia to BC wildfires,” she said in one of her various speeches.
Beside her involvement, UBCC350 also planned a pre-protest event to mobilize the youth voice in opposition to “resource expansion projects that threaten [the] future and the lives of many.” This further aligned with the organization’s new focus on not just climate action, but also environmental justice that incorporates in support for Indigenous rights.
“There are disproportional effects felt by different communities, and that’s something that is often missed when we just talk about climate action,” said Doebeli in a previous interview with The Ubyssey.
The Pride Collective was also present to support the initiative.
“As an organization, our priority is to advocate for LGBT+ and queer folks, but we have to bear in mind that UBC and the Pride Collective too are on unceded Indigenous territories,” said Nodi, a fourth-year computer science and GRSJ student. “We have Indigenous folks involved in our organization as well as in the broader queer community, so we would be throwing them under the bus if we didn’t [participate].
“It’s all about intersectional queer activism.”
Overall, there was a common emphasis on the importance of youth involvement, as “[they] would be the one living with the consequences of this pipeline.”
With the new NDP-Green coalition, the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion is facing opposition from the provincial government, despite already being approved by the federal Liberal government.
In particular, BC now has intervener status in the court case filed by First Nations groups against the project, which means the province could now offer legal opposition against the pipeline expansion.
Supporting this court case will also likely be the next step for UBCC350, according to Doebeli.
“I’m pretty sure we’re going to go through with supporting the Pull Togethercampaign —Indigenous folks are in court right now and they need funds to support their court battle,” she said. “We’re going to be there in person during the court battle and we’re going to see if we can raise funds for them as well.”
Another approach that was mentioned during the speeches is bank divestment from the project, which would require compliance from “26 banksfrom Canada, the United States, Japan, Europe and China.”
At UBC, while the $10 million Sustainable Future Fund does not invest in Kinder Morgan according to Doebeli, it is unclear whether the university’s Endowment Fund — worth approximately $1.8 billion — has a stake in the company or not.
“[UBC] has been trying to engage in reconciliation in light of its coloniality, but admittedly it would be a stretch for it to take an active stand against this pipeline at this point,” said Nodi. “It’s something that the student body and faculty have to try to lobby the university for.
“We can all do the land acknowledgement, but we can’t let that become a token.”