About 200 people linked arms Wednesday outside the Courtenay office of Comox Valley MLA Don McRae, demonstrating against tar sands pipelines and tankers.
They were among thousands of protesters who gathered Wednesday at numerous Defend Our Coast day of action rallies at MLA offices throughout B.C. Protesters are demanding a ban on coastal tanker expansion, which could stop the Enbridge pipeline proposal and Kinder Morgan’s plans to increase its pipeline capacity.
Wednesday rallies followed a Monday demonstration at the Victoria legislature where thousands of people called on politicians to defend the West Coast.
Andy Everson, who attended both rallies, said there was a strong First Nations component at the Victoria demonstration.
“I think this is gaining momentum,” said Everson, a member of the Kumugwe Dancers who kicked off Wednesday’s rally in Courtenay. “I don’t normally go to protests, but I think this is a time that we have to stand together and speak our minds on what’s happening.
“The effects that this could have on all of us are pretty profound. If we all come together now, we could save a lot of grief in the future.”
Enbridge proposes to ship 500,000 barrels of oil per day from the Alberta Tar Sands to Kitimat. Despite the distance from the Comox Valley, Everson said an oil spill up north would nevertheless affect people in this region.
“We’re all connected through our waterways,” he said. “If something happens to them, it happens to all of us. It will have effects that are far-ranging — something we can’t even predict right now.”
The Green Party of Canada’s message is an emphatic No.
“No expansion of pipelines — Kinder Morgan, Enbridge or any other corporation that wants to build,” Sue Moen, a Green candidate in the past federal election, told the Wednesday crowd. “No expansion of tanker traffic on our coast. No expansion of the tar sands. No more extraction of fossil fuels that destroy our environment, our health and our future.”
Green Party leader Elizabeth May reminds the public of a precedent for the provinces to stop Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the federal Conservatives, Moen added.
“They require provincial OK, so it is our job to let them know that this province says No,” Moen said.
The National Energy Board has twice conducted community hearings in the Valley about Enbridge’s proposal.
The province is cross-examining Northern Gateway Pipelines on the Enbridge project at hearings throughout B.C. until December.
Subject to regulatory approval, construction of the pipeline would extend from mid-2014 to the latter part of 2017. The public and government review process continues into next year. Consultation with the public and First Nations continues through 2017.
Numerous First Nations have signed the Save the Fraser Declaration to ban pipelines, and the Coastal First Nations Declaration to ban tankers carrying crude oil.