Protests provide a forum for citizens from all walks of life and backgrounds to unite under a common banner for movements and causes which are important to them. This can be for their livelihoods, the environment, or their children and grandchildren. Sometimes, it can be all these things at once. There was rain and snow, but this did not prevent 150 people from marching through downtown Fort Langley to “Stand with Kwantlen” against the proposed Kinder Morgan (Trans Mountain) Pipeline Expansion.
On December 11, 2016, the Kwantlen Nation was joined by members of the surrounding community in a march of solidarity. “Stand with Kwantlen” featured speeches by Brandon Gabriel and Tumia Knott from the Kwantlen Nation, and Petrina Arnason from the Township of Langley Council. The event was a reaction to the federal government’s approval of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline expansion.
The speakers raised many points of opposition including threats to the local environment, climate change, costs to local municipalities, and, most adamantly, the right of the Kwantlen Nation for sovereignty over unceded territory. Gabriel explained that there was no consultation with First Nations when the original pipeline was built in 1953. At the time it was extremely difficult for First Nations to find legal representation. Now, things are different and across the continent First Nations are opposing these types of energy projects. “We didn’t give permission for the first pipeline that was laid, so why would we give permission for the second?” Gabriel stated. “What we are saying is ‘No, you do not have permission to do this.’”
Arnason explained, “We’re standing here together, adding our voices to the larger collective.” While Arnason was speaking on her own behalf, the Township has raised many concerns about the expansion and were active participants in the National Energy Board hearings. During the summer, Maegen Giltrow, a legal representative of the township, told the Ministerial Panel that “This [pipeline] cannot be approved.” Earlier that day, Tumia Knott, legal representative for the Kwantlen Nation, spoke at a session with the Ministerial panel expressing grave concerns about the impact of the expansion on the Kwantlen community (including impacts on the environment) and the lack of consultation.
This is second time the Kwantlen Nation has decided to march as a nation, both times inspired by the threat that Kinder Morgan poses to their community. On April 11, 2015 the Nation marched together for the first time since colonization from their reserve through Fort Langley. This act of solidarity is an increasing trend in Indigenous and community opposition to new proposed energy infrastructure that threatens the land and water. Sunday’s march had the same message. Justine Nelson, Chapter Coordinator of the PIPE UP Network and one of the main organizers for the march, explained, “This march was to show solidarity with the Kwantlen Nation and send a message to Trudeau that the community will be standing next to Kwantlen through this fight. Very simply, they will not be able to build this pipeline.”
The expansion would triple the amount of diluted bitumen travelling from Alberta to the Burnaby coast. The result would be an increase in the amount of tankers leaving our coast to 30 per month. Kinder Morgan, the Texas-based company that owns the existing pipeline and proposed expansion, was originally created under “Enron”, the company famous for the huge tax scandal in the United States. Richard Kinder and many of the other original staff of the company were transfers from Enron. Kinder had worked for Enron for 16 years, eventually becoming the president and vice operating officer.
Opponents of the expansion insist it does not make sense from an environmental or economic perspective. In fact, Kinder Morgan is not even a good corporate citizen. They do their best to pay as few taxes at possible, and have 69 (reported) spills on the existing line and a horrible record on their other lines. Across the country, people are stating they will prevent this expansion from being built in addition to other proposed tar sands pipelines. The “Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion” has been signed by over 50 First Nations across the continent. Similarly, the Coast Protectors Pledge has been signed by over 19,000 individuals. It states: “We stand in solidarity with Indigenous lands, water and environment protectors across Turtle Island, from BC to Quebec, from Burnaby to Lelu Island, from Muskrat Falls to Standing Rock.” The “Stand with Kwantlen” rally was one of many actions uniting opposition across Canada and the United States. This was not the first, and will not be the last.
By Justine Nelson and Scott Douglas Jacobsen
* All views expressed don’t necessarily reflect the views of CYH.
Photo Credit: Getty Images