About 300 demonstrators marched 22 kilometres from Victoria City Hall to Island View Beach on Saturday to protest the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Indigenous drummers led protesters as they went north on Douglas Street to Uptown shopping centre, then marched east to follow the Patricia Bay Highway north up the Saanich Peninsula.
They arrived at the beach for a feast at about 6:45 p.m.
“Drummers are drumming and people are singing and spirits are high,” said Keith Cherry, a march organizer, as protesters neared the beach.
Cherry said the marchers caused some backup of cars. But alternate routes were available and identified by march officials, and motorists were mostly able to detour around the protest.
Travelling with the demonstrators was a truck towing a tiny wood house similar to ones First Nations have built along the pipeline path in B.C.’s Interior. The tiny houses are built and deposited in the paths of construction crews as a demonstration of Native people reclaiming their homelands.
Marcher Paul Wagner, also known as Chiyokten, said the demonstration was part of an effort to show disapproval of the federal government’s approval for the expansion of the pipeline over its route from Edmonton to Burnaby.
Wagner said in days past he believed he was working to preserve the environment for his grandchildren. But the climate is already showing bad effects from the burning of oil products and today’s living children are being force to deal with it. “Now is the time to rise up and end this era of foolishness,” said Wagner.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday approval for the pipeline expansion, a tripling of the line’s capacity. It was the second time the project has been approved.
Originally approved in 2016, the Federal Court of Appeal shelved the project last summer. A second National Energy Board review was ordered to look at the effects of oil tankers on marine life.
Former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci was also hired to oversee a new round of consultations with 117 affected Indigenous communities.
Ottawa bought the existing pipeline a year ago for $4.5 billion, when Kinder Morgan Canada investors decided to sell. The energy sector and Alberta argue existing pipelines are at capacity and the oil sands need more ways to get product to market.
B.C. Premier John Horgan said he was disappointed with the project’s federal approval and the province will continue with legal challenges. Horgan has often said increased oil-tanker traffic increases the chances of a catastrophic spill on the West Coast.
Saturday’s demonstrators carried placards saying, “Don’t be Crude,” and “What part of NO do you not understand.”
Marcher Eric Doherty said he was prepared to walk more than 20 kilometres to join what he believes will be a public groundswell against the pipeline expansion.
“Governments approve all sorts of things and then they face the people on the street and they get cancelled,” he said. “That’s how societies turn around is people hit the streets.”
Victoria Indigenous leader Rose Henry told the demonstrators Trudeau’s pipeline approval decision could hurt his government’s chances of re-election this fall.
“We can stop it,” said Henry. “We can stop it by saying, ‘No,’ to this unwanted pipeline. You know in the next few months we have two elections coming up.”
She said she was referring to the October federal election and United States election in 2020.
Environmental studies student Sadie Gibbs said she was looking forward to the 22-kilometre “casual stroll.”
She said the pipeline project represents ongoing developments with the potential to harm the environment and quality of life in exchange for the promise of jobs and profits for big oil companies.
Gibbs, who painted her face in bright colours for the protest, said she supports economic ventures that do not threaten the environment.
Gibbs wore a name tag on her dress that said: “Hello, my name is the environment.”