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‘Kayaktivists’ protest the Trans Mountain Expansion Project

Pipeline construction sparks conflict within the community

Kayaktivist demonstrators join a flotilla opposing the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in the Burrard Inlet on Oct. 28, 2017. Photo by By Natalia Buendia Calvillo
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Reported by Natalia Buendia Calvillo

The ‘kayaktivist’ movement is gaining momentum in Vancouver and participants are not afraid to stand in the way of the oil industry to achieve their goals, even if that means possible jail time.

Marine-borne activists took to their vessels from Cates Park in North Vancouver Oct. 29 and managed for that day to stop preliminary work at a construction barge in the Burrard Inlet. The barge is just off-shore from Kinder Morgan’s Westridge Marine Terminal at the foot of Burnaby Mountain, where the envisioned Trans Mountain pipeline would ship Alberta crude oil to waiting tankers for world-wide export.

Hayley Trachsel, Langara environmental studies student and Sea Wolves kayaktivist joined the flotilla and was prepared for potential legal consequences.

“I’m not afraid of it really,” Trachsel said about being arrested. “It is more important to put yourself out there.

“It’s non-invasive to the environment to get out in the kayaks, and that puts forth the message that we are trying to convey.”

Conflicting views over a successful future

Leaders of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, whose territory is directly north across the water, haven’t consented to the project approved by the federal government and the National Energy Board a year ago.

The First Nation has been leading the litigative process against the twinning of the pipeline at the Federal Court of Appeal. Rueben George, Tsleil-Waututh sundance chief, said he and his people are ready to face the government agencies and industry.

“[Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau at one time he said it’s going to be Canada against B.C.; I’d take on that fight,” George told a cheering crowd.

Activism sparks conversation

Olivia French, articling student at environmental law charity EcoJustice, said  the flotilla was an exercise in democracy.

“Public involvement in civil society is absolutely fundamental to our democracy,” French said.

“It is really important that people have the ability to voice their concerns.”

Five kayaktivists were eventually arrested by the RCMP and charged with criminal mischief for tying themselves to the barge.

 

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