BURNABY, B.C. — First Nations vowed to stand in unity with anti-pipeline protesters as police kept up the arrests Friday in a Metro Vancouver conservation area where crews resumed survey work for the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Shortly after activists announced they would do whatever it takes to stymie the project, a group began marching up Burnaby Mountain in the pouring rain.
More arrests quickly followed.
Charlene Aleck, a Tsleil-Waututh councillor, told a gathering of protesters at the base of the mountain that members of her First Nations band would join the actions aimed at protecting their homelands and waters.
“For the Tsleil-Waututh nation, it is our sacred obligation,” she said to a cheering crowd. “In our shared opposition to Kinder Morgan we are many people paddling one canoe. Our united opposition and the sum of our collective voices will ensure this pipeline is never built.”
The act of defiance was prompted after RCMP officers began enforcing an injunction order Thursday morning, four days after a court deadline passed for activists to vacate. In the days after the injunction was granted, protest barricades expanded as more supporters erected tents and voiced their opposition.
Burnaby RCMP said they arrested 26 people, releasing most on conditions that they abide by the court order.
Work crews that had stayed away from the mountain returned in the overnight hours to remove tents and protest placards. Geotechnical work, approved by the National Energy Board, is required before any construction can begin.
At an event in Calgary on Friday, Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson told reporters that the Burnaby Mountain passage is still the preferred route for the pipeline’s expansion.
He said the delays by protesters won’t force the company to ask the National Energy Board for an extension to complete its work on the mountain.
“I think the RCMP has done an excellent job in securing the work site. We’ve got seven to 10 days of work we want to undertake and we want to respect the right of peaceful protest,” he said.
“There are laws to be enforced and we’re hoping those can be enforced in as mild-mannered a way as possible while still enabling us to do the lawful work that we’re entitled to do.”
Anderson said the company has the full support of its customers, shippers and investors in pushing ahead with the project.
“They believe in the path we’re on. It’s unfortunate what’s happening in Burnaby right now, but hopefully we can manage through it.”
The company said in a news release that it’s employees would be drilling two, 250-metre deep holes, and would be setting up equipment, lights and fencing.
Trans Mountain said it communicated with RCMP before it set about to “respectfully remove and relocate” protesters’ property, most of it camping equipment, tents and other personal items.
“Trans Mountain supports the right to peacefully protest and believes individuals can express their views in the lawful assembly area, which is near one of the work sites, while allowing our workers to continue working safely,” the company said in its statement.
Only a small group of activists and a few tarps were left by early morning, when a re-energized crowd formed and followed up the road a Simon Fraser University professor who had pledged to engage in “civil disobedience.”
“I’m going to walk up that hill and I’m going to be the best citizen I can be,” said microbiology Prof. Lynne Quarmby to applause.
Squamish Nation Chief Ian Campbell told the group his nation doesn’t consent to Canada issuing rights to third-party interests atop of their sovereignty and aboriginal rights and title.
“We do not consent to Kinder Morgan’s application for the wilful destruction to this beautiful part of our territory, the related tanker traffic that is being contemplated, we do not condone this behaviour in our territory.”
Opponents of the pipeline argue the expansion would increase the risk of a devastating spill because of the increased quantity of oil being transported through the pipeline. They are also concerned by the prospect of increased tanker traffic in Vancouver’s harbour.
Trans Mountain says if the project gets final approval, there will be “no surface disturbance” because the tunnel will pass 160 metres below ground.
The City of Burnaby has filed a lawsuit to prevent Kinder Morgan from cutting down trees and damaging parkland around the bore hole sites.