Kwanten First Nation members and the public stood united during a rally in Fort Langley Sunday afternoon.
The group gathered in front of the Fort Langley Community Hall before marching to the Fort Langley National Historic Site, to protest the Trudeau government’s decision to green light a controversial plan to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline that carries Alberta oil through Langley to Burnaby.
Kinder Morgan’s $6.8-billion project would triple Trans Mountain capacity to 890,000 barrels per day and result in a seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic through Burrard Inlet.
“This would be going into our very vulnerable Salish Sea,” Langley Township councillor Petrina Arnason told the crowd assembled in front of the Fort Langley Community Hall.
“So we’re standing here together, adding our voices to the larger collective, standing in solidarity based on our common interest for a sustainable future and for a movement away from fossil fuel technology and towards green energy.”
Arnason said the common goal going forward is to prevent the expansion of the existing pipeline infrastructure in order to protect our watersheds and marine and terrestrial ecosystems, as well as all of the communities that rely upon them.
It is “undeniable” that any spill or accident resulting from increased traffic tankers containing diluted bitumen on “our extremely vulnerable coast will devastate the environment, and change the way of life of many generations,” Arnason said.
She noted that the decision is at odds with Canada’s promises to fight climate change by moving towards a sustainable, climate-friendly ecology.
Most importantly, Arnason said, the project is being pushed forward without the consent of many affected First Nations, thereby violating laws, traditions, and values, and authority through a number of ancestral territories.
This pipeline is facing stiff opposition from First Nations bands across B.C., including Kwanten First Nation.
At the Fort Langley National Historic Site, Kwanten First Nation member Brandon Gabriel said he was moved to tears when he turned back as he was coming up Mavis Avenue leading to the site.
“All I could see was a sea of people, marching through Fort Langley, ” he said. “It made me so happy. I was so proud.”
Gabriel said he looked to the sky and saw three eagles soaring overhead. “I was like, ‘Yep, the ancestors are here, they’re waiting.’”
Gabriel said the Kwanten people have unearthed more than 35,000 artifacts from Kwanten territorial lands.
“The Kwantlen presence goes back to at least the last Ice Age, as far as we know,” Gabriel said.
He said when the first pipeline was approved in 1953, it was done so without the permission of the Kwanten people.
“When they came here, and they started laying the pipeline, they did not have permission from us,” Gabriel said. “It was a coerced development that happened. We didn’t give permission for the first pipeline that was laid, so why would we give permission for the second one? We’re not giving assent to that.”
Gabriel said, to the people today, “This is our time; this is our fight. We are not going to let them build this pipeline.”
He also predicted that the pipeline would put Township residents $12 million in the red.
“You will go into debt before you ever see a nickel from the pipeline company to build their pipeline,” Gabriel warned. “If you are a voter in the Township of Langley, you need to go to Mayor Jack Froese, and tell him you don’t want this pipeline.”