Protesters take part in a mass sit-in in front of the British Columbia legislature in Victoria

Pipeline opponents gather at B.C. legislature

Thousands of protesters who packed the front lawn of the British Columbia legislature Monday yelled a thunderous “Yes” when asked if they were willing to lay down in front of pipeline bulldozers if the Northern Gateway project is approved.

VICTORIA — Thousands of protesters who packed the front lawn of the British Columbia legislature Monday yelled a thunderous “Yes” when asked if they were willing to lay down in front of pipeline bulldozers if the Northern Gateway project is approved.

But despite the crowd’s verbal willingness to risk arrest or injury to stop the pipeline, Victoria Police proclaimed the protest peaceful and arrest free.

Const. Mike Russell said there were no arrests and he estimated the crowd at 3,500 people, the largest protest at the B.C. legislature since last March when 5,000 people turned up on the front lawn to support striking teachers.

“There’s been no incidents at all today,” he said. “It’s been a very peaceful protest. We’re hoping it stays that way.”

Traffic at some streets near the legislature was snarled when protesters surrounded the building with a huge black banner meant to symbolize the size — about 235 metres — of one of the supertankers that would be transporting pipeline oil along the B.C. coast to Asia.

Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations, drew cheers from the crowd when he said his members have been fighting against the proposed pipeline for seven years and have been gaining support from First Nations, environmental groups and mainstream political organizations like the Union of B.C. Muncipalities.

Sterritt said British Columbians are opposed to the pipeline proposal, but federal and provincial politicians have yet to fully hear their unified voice.

“Let’s send a message to them that we have to make a difference,” he yelled.

Sterritt warned that the federal Conservatives stand to lose their 26 seats in B.C. if the pipeline proceeds.

“They also think in Ottawa they can jam this thing over the backs of British Columbians. What are you willing to do to stop them? Are you willing to lay down in front of the bulldozers?” said Sterritt as the crowd yelled, “yes.”

Chief Ruben George, grandson of well-known aboriginal leader and actor Chief Dan George, said his coastal First Nation, the Tsleil-waututh of North Vancouver, has respected and lived on the water for thousands of years and is not prepared to support oil tankers

“Our government is not standing behind the people who are here saying, ’No more,”’ he said.

The demonstration was aimed at sending a message to provincial and federal governments about the plan to pipe crude from the Alberta oil sands to a tanker port in Kitimat.

Molly Vanpoelgeest travelled from nearby Saltspring Island to participate in the protest.

She said she wants to show the federal and provincial governments that the majority of British Columbians and Canadians are opposed to a pipeline project that threatens the West Coast environment.

“Despite the fact that (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper would give away the coastline for nothing and (Premier Christy) Clark would give it away for the right price, I’m not willing to give it away,” Vanpoelgeest said. “I’d like it secure for my grandchildren.”

Many protesters carried placards telling Harper and Clark the B.C. coast is not for sale. One sign read, “Tanker Free B.C. For Me.”

Student Ben Gawletz said he is against the pipeline because it poses a huge environmental threat to B.C.

“Everyone is here today for the right reasons,” said the Cranbrook, B.C., resident who is in Victoria studying photography. “If something does go wrong, who pays for it? We do.”

The Northern Gateway issue is a tipping point for the public, and people from all walks of life are mobilizing against it, said Nikki Skuce of the environmental group ForestEthics.

“People have thought about the Enbridge and Kinder-Morgan pipelines as a real key issue, whether it’s to do with climate change, Harper bullying, cutting environmental legislation, First Nations rights and title, shipping raw resources and the jobs that go with it overseas,” Skuce said.

“This is the first, the culmination, of building on what people have said when they said they’ll do whatever it takes to try to stop these projects.”

The Northern Gateway pipeline would carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands through northern B.C. to a tanker port in Kitimat in one pipe, and condensate from Kitimat east to Alberta in another pipe.

Just Posted

Red Deer massage therapist not guilty of sexual assault

Judge said he had reasonable doubt and must acquit

Update: Nine dead, 16 injured in van incident authorities call a horrific attack

TORONTO — Nine people died and 16 others were injured when a… Continue reading

Watch: Flood watch remains for Waskasoo Creek

Red Deer crews monitoring creek

Warm temperatures this week for Red Deer

23 C forecast for Saturday

WATCH: Central Alberta dancers take over Red Deer College with their moves

Danceworks Central Alberta Dance Festival is now in its 38th year

Andersen leads Maple Leafs in win over Bruins to force Game 7

Maple Leafs 3 Bruins 1 (Best of seven game series tied at… Continue reading

As Osoyoos Indian Band flourishes, so too does Okanagan’s wine tourism

Indigenous practices have driven growth of South Okanagan’s wine history and agricultural influence

Anti-straw movement should consider people with disabilities, advocates say

TORONTO — Some Canadians who rely on plastic straws are calling on… Continue reading

Doctors must get better at diagnosing patients with darker skin: Dermatologists

TORONTO — About a month ago, a frustrated Emma Schmidt turned to… Continue reading

Loblaw Companies tax court trial over Barbadian banking subsidiary starts

TORONTO — A tax court trial involving Loblaw Companies Ltd. and allegations… Continue reading

As trial winds down, DA downplays Cosby travel records

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Prosecutors highlighted gaps in Bill Cosby’s travel records on… Continue reading

Summer Movie Preview: Hollywood roars back into action

LOS ANGELES — Summer starts early this year in Hollywood with the… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month