By: Karissa Ketter, News Writer
Editor’s note: Article is updated to reflect that the rallies are hosted by Fridays for Future Vancouver.
At the construction site on Lougheed and Gaglardi, protesters gather on Fridays from noon until 2:00 p.m. On March 11, cars passing continuously honked to show their support of the cause.
The Peak spoke with Fridays for Future Vancouver organizer, Neelam Chadha, to find out more about their cause.
Fridays for Future Vancouver were previously protesting at Vancouver City Hall. The protests at this location started on February 25. “The reason for shifting it down here was, I was actually contacted by phone six days in a row by one of the Indigenous leaders who really encouraged me to get out here,” said Chadha.
Chadha noted, “One of the main things that got my attention is the location of where it’s being built — within 100 meters of Burnaby Mountain Secondary School. That is dangerously close to the school.”
She said while the chance of a rupture may be low, “there is more of a possibility of a slow leak, which does tend to happen over time as pipelines age. Even with the likelihood of a rupture or leak being lower, there [would be] a catastrophic impact if anything were to happen.”
The Center for Biological Diversity reported an average of 76,000 barrels have been spilled per year in America since 1986. This averages to over 3 million gallons. Pipeline spills have left over 31,000 barrels of oil to pollute the land and water, creating problems for years.
The Peak spoke with one protester, who identifies as Oyster, about their support for the campaign, “As long as construction continues, it just means you have to fight harder.”
Dressed as a Tyrannosaurus Rex to remain anonymous, Oyster joined other dinosaur and non-dinosaur protesters on Friday.
Oyster is concerned with another key issue of the pipeline construction at this site. “There’s the threat to Indigenous rights and title as well. This is unceded land that we’re on — unceded Coast Salish territory. The Tsleil-Waututh nation whose land we’re on right now has not consented to this project.”
“Trans Mountain respects the constitutional rights, unique culture, diversity, languages and traditions of Indigenous People in Canada. We acknowledge the significance of culture and language for Indigenous People and the considerable traditional knowledge that has been passed on for generations,” Trans Mountain states on their website.
The Tsleil-Waututh Nation released a report of assessment on the TMX pipeline and tanker expansion project. “We stand here together as Tsleil-Waututh people and we say ‘no.’ We say ‘no’ the risk is too great. Our obligation is not to oil. Our obligation is to our land, our water, our people, our life, our [law]. This project represents a risk that we, the Tsleil-Waututh people, are not willing to take,” noted the report.
Oyster explained Canada has an ethical responsibility to stop TMX, as they benefit from industrialization and cheap fossil fuels. “People closer to the equator are impacted first and worst [by climate change] so this is a racialized problem, this is a class problem, and an imperialist problem that Canada is still burning fossil fuels,” said Oyster.
“Canada’s already not on track to meet the Paris Agreement commitment to limit global temperature rise to well below two degrees celsius,” said Chadha. “With pipelines going in, especially this type of pipeline, we are just not on track to do that.”
The protest resulted in police intervention. One dinosaur protester at the event obstructed a construction vehicle’s pathway by standing in front of it. The police were called by the construction workers and arrived promptly.
In a follow-up email after the protest, Chadha told The Peak the police informed them not to block vehicles, or walk along the side of the road near the construction site.
The sidewalk has been removed because of construction but a corridor of cones has been placed down. “They also said that the people at the rally should not be walking on the corridor by the road, so I went to tell them not to walk there. It was not intended to be a sidewalk, but people had misunderstood it to be used as a sidewalk,” said Chadha.
She also noted she “will likely talk to the ‘T-Rex Against TMX’ people about not engaging in actions that may result in a police visit.” Chadha added, “It is great to have a few T-Rexes dancing and adding to the energy of the rallies, but we want to keep the rallies inviting for everyone of all ages. We, however, do not want anyone engaging in any potentially arrestable actions, or activities that may result in a police visit.”
Chadha hopes this incident will not deter anyone from attending the protests, “or be given the wrong idea about being involved with ecological protection in general.”
Oyster added, “As a young person, I’m looking ahead at my future, and I’m terrified. I’m absolutely terrified of what the rest of my life is going to look like because of the climate crisis. The fact that the government is still pushing this through without the consent of the nations whose land it is, it really shows how little the government cares about young people,” said Oyster. “It really shows how little they value our lives. When our rights are under attack like this, we stand up and we fight back.”
“We actually might have a chance of stopping the pipeline,” said Chadha. “It would be great to reroute it if we can’t stop it.”
According to Financial Post, the federal government announced in February that no more public funding will be used for the costly TMX project. Instead, third-party financing will be used to complete the project. Chadha said one of the reasons they stopped public funding of TMX is because of public pressures including rallies like this.
Chadha noted they are hoping to see more youth involvement in the protest. “We are looking for especially more youth leaders and leaders at the university level as well.”