Thousands march in Vancouver to protest Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion

Thousands of protesters cried betrayal Saturday during a massive march against Justin Trudeau’s anticipated approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The federal government will make a decision by Dec. 19 on whether to allow Texas energy giant Kinder Morgan to twin its existing pipeline, which primarily carries bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands to the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby.

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The expansion project would include about 987 kilometres of new pipeline, new facilities and the reactivation of 193 km of existing pipeline, and would see increased tanker traffic.

Saturday at noon, at least 3,000 protesters met outside Vancouver City Hall before marching downtown over the Cambie Street Bridge.

Mayor Gregor Robertson called the rally “the most important meeting at city hall that we’ve had in our history” before the march began.

“We’re going to walk the talk today from here into downtown to send a clear message to our prime minister, his cabinet, members of parliament, to say no to Kinder Morgan’s pipeline and oil tankers,” Robertson said. “We need to stand strong for these weeks ahead, the days ahead. The decision is coming.”

Tsleil-Waututh elder Amy George choked up as she called upon Trudeau to listen to the thousands of protesters who had gathered.

George said she witnessed first hand the environmental impact of Alberta’s tar sands at “Dead Duck Lake” and said she spoke with residents of communities nearby who suffered negative health consequences and abysmal water quality.

“If Kinder Morgan gets to come through the Salish Seas in the Burrard Inlet, not if there’s a dump, when there’s a dump, it’s going to be there for 70 to 100 years and we’ll be breathing in seven dangerous, toxic gases,” George said.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs also attended the rally, where protesters lashed out at Trudeau for what they said was a failure to uphold Liberal platform promises to protect the environment and reconcile with Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.

“I’m worried that he’s back-pedalling,” said Vancouver resident Melanie Preston, who marched with her four-year-old niece Poppy. “He’s expressed interest in protecting the environment and so we’re here to make him accountable to that promise.”

Vancouver resident Bec Wonders carried a sign with a drawing of Trudeau that read “Harper 2.0.” Wonders believes Canadians would hold Trudeau accountable for breaking campaign promises if his government approves the project.

“Justin Trudeau needs to take reconciliation seriously and he needs to realize that in order to do so, he must listen to First Nations’ voices and recognize that they have not given consent to this pipeline,” she said. “He has to divest and give Canadians what they want, which is a green future.”

Kinder Morgan says twinning the Trans Mountain Pipeline will inject $6.8 billion into the Canadian economy through project spending while added production capacity will increase producers’ revenues by $73.5 billion over 20 years.

As well, the firm says federal and provincial governments would benefit from $46.7 billion in additional taxes and royalties from construction and two decades of operation, revenues and tanker traffic.

But the project has been met with fierce opposition by First Nations, groups such as Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Expansion and Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan.

If the project is approved, Kinder Morgan expects the Westridge Marine Terminal to serve 34 tankers per month, up from the current five.

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