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

Maxime Bernier reaches out to Red Deer

Voters looking at The People’s Party of Canada

Alberta municipalities gather in Red Deer for fall conference

About 1,700 people expected for Alberta Urban Municipalities Association conference

Rocky-area widow pleads for better cardiac treatment for Central Albertans

Lillian Hay wonders if her late husband Grant would have survived with local cardiac catheterization

Festival of Trees lineup announced

Popular event has raised millions for Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre

Maskwacis Mall has gone solar

Ermineskin Cree Nation receives provincial funding for project

WATCH: Barbecue in support of Red Deer Food Bank

The sun came out for the sixth-annual Feed the Need community barbecue… Continue reading

Black communities seek cannabis amnesty as pot legalization nears

OTTAWA — Members of Canada’s black communities are praising the Liberals for… Continue reading

Goodale tours Ottawa area destroyed by tornado, says feds ready to provide help

DUNROBIN, Ont. — Canada’s public safety minister says the federal government is… Continue reading

Province reports first decrease in child welfare numbers in 15 years

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government says the number of kids in the… Continue reading

Woman says boyfriend pressed her to ‘produce a baby’

FARGO, N.D. — A North Dakota woman convicted of killing her pregnant… Continue reading

Defence focuses on behaviour of teen killed by Chicago cop

CHICAGO — Lawyers for a white Chicago police officer on trial for… Continue reading

Washington wants Canada to improve spill plan for U.S. spur of Trans Mountain

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington’s Department of Ecology wants the Canadian government to… Continue reading

National Transportation Safety Board to determine cause of Air Canada close call

Video captured the moment that an Air Canada jet flew off course… Continue reading

Most Read