British Columbia

B.C. First Nations plan large demonstration to stop Kinder Morgan pipeline

B.C. First Nations groups are hoping to throw another wrench in Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline project to expand the capacity of the system running from Alberta to B.C.'s southern coast.

Trans Mountain says it is confident project can be built with respect for environment

Cedar George (L) and Will George are organizing a March demonstration against the pipeline. They say the event is a spiritual and cultural event and has been in the works for two years. (Supplied by Will George)

B.C. First Nations groups are hoping to throw another wrench in Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline by amassing Indigenous people and their supporters on Burnaby Mountain to further delay the project.

Members of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation are calling for a mass demonstration on Burnaby Mountain in March. They expect hundreds of Indigenous people and their supporters to join from across Canada. 

"I'll do whatever it takes to keep this beautiful British Columbia," said Cedar George, a member of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation. His community directly faces Burnaby, one of the cities that Trans Mountain's pipeline expansion will go through. 

He says a spill could negatively impact his people's traditional diet and way of life and while the provincial government has already delayed the project, he wants to be sure it doesn't go ahead at all. 

In a statement, Trans Mountain told the CBC: "We support the right to peacefully and lawfully express opinions and views about our Project, and we understand that not everyone supports the expansion."

It added "we're confident we can build and operate this Project in a way that respects the values and priorities of Canadians and in respect of the environment."

For George though, it's not a matter of if a spill happens, but when.

"Ninety per cent of our diet came from that water. We are being stewards of the land and when we see an immediate threat to the water, it's time for us to stand up and delay this project," George said.

'Indication of last resort'

George says he was asked by spiritual leaders and elders in his community to do something to stop the pipeline and says they've been doing ceremonies for two years since the pipeline was approved.

On Tuesday, members of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation launched a volunteer recruitment drive via a network of Indigenous communities, environmental groups and concerned Canadians.

One of the groups supporting the action is the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. Bob Chamberlin is the chief councillor for the Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxwa'mis First Nation and vice president of the UBCIC.

Chief Bob Chamberlain, vice president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, addresses a news conference in this file photo from August. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

He says demonstrations like this are a last resort for First Nations people.

"It's at a point of exasperation of engaging in due diligence with government. We are constantly pointing to the government's lack of embracing its very own laws," Chamberlin said.

He says governments need to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and adhere to the notions of Indigenous rights to free, prior and informed consent.

The federal government approved the 1,147-kilometre pipeline project in November 2016. The detailed route approval process will determine the exact placement of the new pipeline.

The project is currently on hold until the route is approved. The B.C. government, meanwhile, has proposed to restrict any increase in diluted bitumen shipments until it conducts more spill response studies. The Alberta government has called for an immediate boycott of B.C. wine in retaliation. 


Angela Sterritt

CBC Reporter

Angela Sterritt is an ​award-winning investigative journalist. She is the host of Land Back, a six-part CBC British Columbia original podcast that uncovers land theft and land reclamation in Canada. Sterritt is known for her impactful journalism on the tensions between Indigenous people and institutions in Canada. She is a proud member of the Gitxsan Nation.