The sounds of traditional drums and songs of the Kwantlen, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh people welcomed an estimated 400 people who gathered on the grounds of the Fort Langley Community Hall taking part in the “This is our home march and rally” on Saturday in Fort Langley.
The march and rally were held to show opposition to Kinder Morgan’s proposed bitumen pipeline expansion. It began with a march from the Kwantlen First Nation field, with protesters slowly walking down Glover Road to the community hall to listen to speakers at the rally.
Speakers at the rally included Petrina Arnason, Ben West, Lynne Quarmby, Carleen Thomas, Rhiannon Bennett, Kevin Kelly, Brandon Gabriel, Byron Smith and Brent Euchler.
Andhra Azevedo, chapter co-ordinator for the PIPE UP Network and a resident of Fort Langley explained the march and rally is to protest “against the proposed Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion project. The expanded pipeline if built will carry 890,000 barrels per day of diluted bitumen through Fort Langley out to Burnaby.
It was also to show solidarity with the “Act On Climate March” held the next day in Quebec City. Canada’s premiers met in Quebec City on Tuesday to discuss climate change.
According to Azevedo, the goal of the Fort Langley protest is “to make a clear statement that in Langley there is a large community that does not support the Trans Mountain expansion project and to make a strong statement that we do not want the Township of Langley to stay neutral on the project. By marching and raising our voices, we are communicating opposition to the project and concern about climate change. We also want to communicate information on the project to others who might be listening and are curious about what is going on”.
Langley Township Councillor Arnason told those at the rally that “as a society we can and must do more to ensure our collective future and to signal our local, regional and national governments that they must better represent our current and future interests by seriously analyzing all energy initiatives, including pipelines, with respect to their effect on global climate change.”
Artist and educator Gabriel, one of the organizers of the march and rally, was born and raised on the Kwantlen First Nation Reserve in Fort Langley. He spoke of the important role the Kwantlen people played in the history and creation of the local area, British Columbia, and Canada and spoke of the injustices and unequal balance of power endured by indigenous people.
Gabriel told the crowd the past is important to the issue of pipeline because, “the past never went away for us First Nations people. We live it every day.”
Gabriel stressed “we do not come to you as adversaries. We come to you with rightfully placed anger and distrust and disgust, but with the intent of making things work better. We stand here together today because a new threat is upon us. We stand here together as one community to fight a common enemy”.
Quarmby, an SFU professor and outspoken opponent of the Trans Mountain pipeline, spoke of her personal experiences in fighting for environmental causes and told the crowd that when governments don’t take action on the issues then “in a civil society the next step is to get out there and do civil disobedience. That’s the loudest that we can communicate.”
She is running as a Green candidate in the next federal election.
The rally’s final speaker, West, is the executive director of Tanker Free B.C., an organization opposed to Kinder Morgan’s plan to triple the amount of oil it ships through British Columbia and the increase in the number of tankers in Burrard Inlet the plan would create.
He told the crowd “the leadership we’ve seen from First Nations in British Columbia in this fight against the oil companies has been beyond courageous. It has been heroic and amazing…and it is really important today that everyone of us who is here today follows the lead of the First Nations people who are so brave and so strong in this fight. We have a responsibility to show respect and to support land and treaty rights, always, not just when it’s helpful to our campaigns, but always.”