Several hundred people marched through Fort Langley Saturday to oppose the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline that runs through Langley.
Organized by groups including the Pipe Up Network and the Kwantlen First Nation, the march headed from the Kwantlen reserve to the Fort Langley Community Hall.
The march paused in the center of the Jacob Haldi Bridge that connects MacMillan Island to the village of Fort Langley. Above the Fraser River, Kwantlen members drummed and sang before the march continued.
“We must protect the beautiful and bountiful land that has sustained us for thousands of years,” said Brandon Gabriel, one of the key organizers.
Gabriel, a member of the Kwantlen First Nation, mentioned the environmental damage seen recently from a spill of bunker fuel from a ship near Vancouver. That oil has been washing up in English Bay, and Vancouver and B.C. politicians have been highly critical of federal response to contain the spill.
Fears over spills are one reason why the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline by Kinder Morgan has been controversial. The expansion would almost triple the amount of Alberta oil flowing through B.C.
A stretch of the pipeline passes through Langley on its way to a Burnaby oil refinery, from which some of it is pumped onto ships.
The expansion could also result in the pipeline being moved. Some lengths of the pipe might be moved near different neighbourhoods, parks, and through farms in the Fort Langley and Walnut Grove areas.
Gabriel said Saturday’s event is the first time he can remember the Kwantlen First Nation marching for their rights, and the first that the nation’s elders can remember.
While Gabriel spoke about the history of native peoples being held back socially and economically, the pipeline fight brings them together with their neighbours.
“We stand here united as one community to fight a common enemy,” Gabriel said.
Other speakers included Langley Township councillor Petrina Arnason, who talked about the dangers of global warming.
“As a society, we can and must do more to ensure our collective future,” she said.
Carleen Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation works for the Sacred Trust Initiative, which has been opposing the Trans Mountain expansion for years.
She described the tactics of Kinder Morgan, the company that owns the pipeline, as “bullying,” and called the National Energy Board process vetting the pipeline “a farce.”
“We’re saying, enough is enough,” she said.
Kinder Morgan has argued that the number of spills ever caused by the existing pipeline, in operation since the early 1960s, has been minimal. The company will be responsible for cleaning up any spills that do occur.