Thousands of environmental activists marched to protest the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline and tank expansion in Burnaby, British Columbia, on Saturday, March 10, despite an injunction filed by the Texas-based company.
The new USD$6.8 billion pipeline would transport diluted bitumen between Edmonton and Burnaby, potentially harming waterways in between and the inlet.
The project has been mainly opposed by First Nations people, including the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish and Musqueam, which are part of the broad Coast Salish ethnic and linguistic group. The pipeline poses an environmental threat to their sacred lands and they are promoting the hashtags #ProtecttheInlet and #StopKM movement to defend their territory.
"For Tsleil-Waututh Nation, the People of the Inlet, it is our sacred obligation to protect the water," the tribe said in a statement.
Protesters built a Kewkewncewtxw (pronounced Kwu-kwe-ow-tukh), or a watch-house, by the initiative of independent members of the Tsleil-Waututh nation and Coast Salish spiritual leaders. The watch-house will serve as a beacon for ceremonies and future protests against the pipeline expansion.
Kewkewncewtxw translates to “a place to watch from,” and these watch houses have been used by indigenous groups for centuries to defend themselves from enemies.
Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline System has transported oil through 1,150 km from Alberta to British Columbia since 1953. It finished its first expansion in 2008 and the Canadian National Energy Board approved the second pipeline, running parallel to the first, in 2013.
British Columbia was opposed back then, but the federal government finally approved it in 2016, raising concerns among First Nations and environmental activists.
Just one day before the protests, Kinder Morgan won an injunction prohibiting more than 15 people to come within 50 meters of the company's facilities.
“This lawsuit tries to prevent someone from so much as standing on the side of the road and holding a sign,” said Karen Mahon, director of the Stand campaign.
In 2016, about 150 First Nations and Tribes signed the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion as an international indigenous solidarity platform and declaration against tar sands projects that would potentially damage the environment and pollute the waters of their territories.
The treaty specifically opposes Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline System, as well as Enbridge's Line 3 and TransCanada's Keystone XL. Enbridge's Northern Gateway and TransCanada's Energy East were already stopped by the treaty signatories and other activists efforts.
"This is not just a B.C. First Nations fight: they have the full support of the 150 Nations from across the continent who signed the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion in opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline and any other attempt to expand the already devastating Alberta Tar Sands," said Grand Chief Serge 'Otsi' Simon of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake.
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, often portrayed by the media as a progressive political figure, supports and defends Kinder Morgan's project as he supports Canadian mining companies in Latin America.
“Trudeau has put the interests of a Texas oil company ahead of clean water, Indigenous rights and the climate. He's on the wrong side of history,” said Katie Perfitt of 350 Canada.