Highlights: Defend Our Coast protest in Victoria
An enormous peaceful protest against oil tankers shut down the BC legislature in Victoria and fired up Twitter in Canada with the hashtag #DefendOurCoast on Monday.
#DefendOurCoast became the #1 trending topic for Canada on Twitter at around 2pm. Over 3,000 people gathered outside the Victoria legislature at 11 am-- a mix of young, old, private citizens and environmental advocates. The purpose of the protest, organized by coalition group Defend Our Coast, is to oppose further developments of pipelines carrying Alberta oil sands that will be shipped overseas on oil tankers.
"Together we can send a powerful message to the BC and Federal governments that the coast is not for sale and must be protected," Defend Our Coast stated on its website.
First Nations prominent presence at Defend Our Coast
First Nations leaders spoke within the first hour of the protest, giving impassioned speeches about why they opposed oil sands and oil sands pipelines being built in BC.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip. Photo source: @UBCIC.
First Nations community leaders came out to support the protest, including Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
"Our land, our waters to protect - 4000 strong on the BC legislature lawn," Atleo tweeted, with a picture of the crowd. Many media outlets reported earlier in the day that 3,000 people were at the protest, but Defend the Coast and individuals at the protest insisted the number was between 4,000 to 5,000.
According to Global BC, the final estimate was reported at 4,700.
Politicians call for opposition to oil sands
Green Party MP Elizabeth May took the stage at around 1:45 pm and called for an intervention.
Photo source: @DefendOurCoast
"When you have a friend with an addiction, they need an intervention," May was quoted as saying by Quinn Runkle (@quinnrunkle).
Among the politicians in attendance: BC NDP leader Adrian Dix, NDP MP and federal environment critic Rob Fleming, NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, NDP MP Murray Rankin, and former Federal Fisheries Minister David Anderson.
No BC Liberal MLAs were present at the protest. BC Environment Minister Terry Lake's spokesperson told The Vancouver Observer that Lake was unable to attend due to constituency business in his Kamloops riding. Lake said in a written statement that he is sympathetic to the protesters' concerns, and hoped that they would express their views in a "civilized way".
“It should be no surprise to anyone that the people of British Columbia care deeply about the environment. The members of our government care every bit as much about protecting British Columbia’s environment as anyone who is involved in the protest," Lake stated.
“I hope that the demonstration will be peaceful. I think we have processes like the environmental assessment process ongoing at the moment that gives people the opportunity to express their views in a civilized way."
Union leaders, citizen's coalition groups call for different energy policy
Council of Canadians' Maude Barlow. Photo source: @CouncilofCDNs.
Also on stage were representatives from major labour unions such as the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) and and a citizen's rights and progressive politics advocacy group Council of Canadians. The Council is for "fair trade, clean water, energy security, public health care, and other issues of social and economic concern to Canadians," according to its official site.
"We must build solidarity between pipeline struggles. We won't let BC become a carbon corridor," the Council of Canadians' Maude Barlow told the crowd, as quoted by Rosalind Sadowski (@rosalind_s).
245 metre act of civil disobedience not stopped by police
A long line of 500 people including First Nations leaders, environmentalists and protesters carried a 245 metre black fabric banner -- meant to symbolize an aframax supertanker -- around the legislature, eventually planting it on the front lawn.
Victoria police, who did not respond to calls from The Vancouver Observer for comment, did not intervene in the act of civil disobedience.
Enbridge VP Janet Holder told Global News the company is aware of the rally.
“We believe everybody has a right to their opinion,” says Holder. “As long as they are keeping a peaceful demonstration, that is ok with us.”
Holdersaid that "everybody has a right to their own opinion."
“As long as they are keeping a peaceful demonstration, that is ok with us,” Holder told Global BC.
“We are encouraging everybody, whether you support, you are neutral or you oppose [the pipeline], to engage in the conversation, get to our website northerngateway.ca and understand the issues. Ask questions, read other people’s questions, we answer every question that comes in… so we are engaging, we are just not engaging like our opposition is.”