British Columbia

Police patrol Northern Gateway hearings in Victoria

Uniformed police officers are stationed at the Victoria hotel where oral presentations on the Northern Gateway pipeline started Friday.

Observers barred from Vancouver, Victoria hearing rooms

Some people are angry they were not allowed to attend the pipeline hearings in Victoria 2:04

Uniformed police officers are stationed at the Victoria hotel where oral presentations on the Northern Gateway pipeline started Friday.

Plainclothes security officials are also in the meeting room where the chairwoman of the environmental review of the pipeline, Sheila Leggett, says she wants respectful and orderly hearings.

Members of the public who want to observe the hearings must gather at a second hotel, located about three kilometres away, to view them remotely, according to spokesperson Annie Roy.

"Considering the history of protests around the project in Victoria and Vancouver, the panel took a pro-active approach ... The panel decided that that would be the best format in order to avoid disruptions in the hearing room," Roy said.

Two police officers are also at that hotel.

Less than 100 people showed up to protest the Northern Gateway pipeline project in Victoria. (Kristen Robinson/CHEK News)

About 280 people have signed up to speak to the joint panel during its seven days of hearings in Victoria.

The oral presentations will continue in Vancouver during the second half of the month.

Previous protests have targeted MLA's offices and the legislature in Victoria, but the panel did cancel hearings in Bella Bella after they were met by protesters at the airport in April.

Fears unfounded, says pipeline opponent

A spokesperson for the Dogwood Initiative, an environmental organization that opposes the project, said the panel's fears are unfounded.

Barry Callele, second from right, answers questions along with other members of the Enbridge panel at the Joint Review Panel looking into the Northern Gateway Pipeline in Prince George, B.C., in October. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Emma Gilchrist says protestors have not disrupted any proceedings in the past, and they are unlikely to start by interrupting the general public's first chance to address the panel.

"I don't see anybody really having an interest in disrupting the voices of average citizens who have taken this step to put their voice on the record."

Gilchrist is concerned having a separate venue will lower public interest.

"It's kind of like the difference between watching live theatre and watching it on a screen somewhere."

Although protesters did not interrupt the proceedings, about 100 opponents held a small rally outside of the hearings at the Delta Pointe Resort in Victoria.

The proposed pipeline would transport diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands across northern B.C. to a tanker port planned for Kitimat, B.C. Opponents argue the risk of an oil leak on land or a tanker spill off the coast is too great.

With files from The Canadian Press