On Sunday January 17th, We-Wai-Kay Hereditary Chief, Geh-Soh-Giliach (Dan Wallace) and another activist boarded Kinder Morgan’s Barge on the Salish Sea’s Burrard Inlet in the Southwestern coast of Burnaby BC near the Westridge Marine Terminal to stop the barge’s drilling of bore holes for an oil terminal that would expand the environmentally catastrophic Trans Mountain Pipeline. Kinder Morgan went ahead with the drilling despite the B.C. Government’s rejection of the proposed $6.8-billion expansion of the pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby. On the 18th more protesters joined the others on the barge to offer their solidarity and support. A friend of mine from the Deep Green Resistance Movement was one of those protesters who gave me further details about the situation. She prefers to remain anonymous but had this to say about the occupation:
“I was on the mainland for the NEB [National Energy Board] meeting about Kinder Morgan’s expansion of the TransCanada pipeline. When I got there I was informed that Kinder Morgan wasn’t waiting to gain consent and instead already started drilling for test holes for that expansion. So I heard that the [We-Wai-Kay] Hereditary Chief [Geh-Soh-Giliach] and one other already boarded the barge and drill and spent the night. The next morning, I decided with a few others to lend support. Me and another kayaked over and boarded it as well, bringing food and such. That’s when ERT came in heavily armed and removed us. When they took us back on land, I told the cops that they didn’t have permits to work. The cops claimed they did, but when I asked to see them they refused to show me. They detained us for over seven hours because by then the media was informed, (I texted an ally before boarding the barge to call all media) so the media were waiting outside the detachment…but obviously they didn’t want attention drawn, so we were separated in solitary confinement for 7 hours til’ the news media LEFT. Also, we had someone filming secretly the whole time. Somehow, they knew this when the ERT were taking us back to land and they kept asking by name the person with the footage. The person was able to get away and release the footage. So they have charged us with mischief, which we don’t think will go through…And because of the media attention they stopped the drilling and removed the barge, so I guess we won the battle for this scenario…I’m assuming there will be more to come though…. industrial civilization is collapsing and things are gonna get worse while the state and the rich try to hold on to power.” – Anonymous from DGR.
While the barge was being occupied, two other protesters locked themselves to the doors of the National Energy Board office in Vancouver. The protesters wanted to attend the meeting but because it was closed off to the public, the protesters took direct action to stop the meeting. “We’re here to protest the Kinder Morgan pipeline review process, which is going to start this week,” climate activist, Claris Figueira told CBC News. “Basically, what we’re demanding, is that Justin Trudeau cancel or suspend the National Energy Board review process.”
Burnaby resident, Mia Nissen who was one of several protesters named in a multi-million dollar lawsuit filed by Kinder Morgan last year against activists for speaking out against the oil gianti, said “It looks like they are drilling in the Salish Sea without consent. We hope it’s not the case, because they don’t have consent from First Nations, Burnaby, the city of Vancouver doesn’t want them here, and the province of B.C just came out against the pipeline,” she said. “People are tired of industry running roughshod through First Nations territory without consent. They have a complete disregard for indigenous sovereignty, for the environment, and for climate change disaster.”
1.5% of the population of Burnaby is Native American. .9% belong to the First Nations and 0.5% are Métis. The indigenous populations of the Coast Salish territories have lived there for 5000 years.ii This was their land exclusively before European colonization and they claim to still own it. The barge was situated right on Tsleil-Waututh Nation land, prompting Tsleil-Waututh Hereditary Chief, Tulsii’m Kia’palanexw to approve of the protest before it occured.
Geh-Soh-Giliach, the We-Wai-Kay Hereditary Chief pictured above who led the occupation made this statement over a megaphone to workers on the barge: “We the indigenous people of these lands do hereby assert our aboriginal title as established by the Supreme Court of Canada. We now require that you Kinder Morgan cease and desist any attempts any attempts at drilling, sampling, or testing bore holes in the Burard inlet or any other part of these Coast Salish Territories.”
Kinder Morgan had originally planned to drill until February 29 but the pressure put on them by these protests has forced them pack up and leave. The government just added four months to the review process of the Trans Mountain Pipeline (perhaps due to these direct actions) and announced that it will come to a decision by the end of yeariii, so although this protest was successful, this fight is far from over. This protest is one the many examples that demonstrate the effectiveness of direct action and the necessity of taking more actions like it. Waving signs, writing representatives, and signing petitions can create public awareness and put pressure on those responsible for environmental destruction but direct action is often far more effective. When brave activists risk their well-being and throw a wrench (or even themselves) into the gears of the dystopic, capitalist machinery, that is when we see results. We can’t limit ourselves to protest and other measures that are “legal” according to an oppressive, violent, and illegitimate government, but rather we must resort to any means necessary to protect the Earth and life on it while we still can.