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Stanley Park on the front lines if there's an oil spill, Wilderness Committee warns at public forum

The Wilderness Committee hosted the first of a series of public forums on Kinder Morgan's pipeline and tanker expansion last night at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre. 

People clean up the shores near Vancouver's Stanley park after two oil spills in September and October, 1973. Photo by © John Denniston

“No more rallies and protests,” Rueben George  of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation told the audience at the Wilderness Committee's Stanley Park Tanker Town Hall on Thursday. “This is a time for teaching.” 

George was among the many speakers who came to speak at last night's public forum about  the devastating impacts a potential oil spill in the Burrard Inlet would have on Stanley Park, based on a new report. With Kinder Morgan’s plans to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline and bring 300 to 400 tankers a year through the Burrard Inlet, many locals expressed deep concern about the possibility of oil spills if tanker traffic were to increase four or five-fold from now.

George told a story of his childhood that vividly illustrated what has already been lost as a result of pollution. When he was a boy, he said, George and his family would walk along the shores of their traditional territory in North Vancouver at low tide to collect dinner, fresh from the water. 

“When the tide went out, the table was set,” he told a crowd of 300 who packed into the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre last night to hear about the danger of an oil spill.

“We’d walk out onto the waters and we’d pick up crab and harvest clams, and we would eat them.”

Today, however, that way of life is a thing of the past: industrial activity has changed the Burrard Inlet from a source of sustenance to a place filled with pollution. 

Protecting the Burrard Inlet

Seeing the consequences of that pollution firsthand, George joined his first ever environmental campaign to stop the increase of tanker traffic through an environment already under stress. 

Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation

George told the crowd that he got involved in the Wilderness Committee campaign to stop tanker traffic about a year ago. He said he’s taken time away from his full time job as a director of community development to focus his energy full time on trying to halt Kinder Morgan’s proposal, to which the crowd erupted in cheers. 

While adamant that Kinder Morgan’s plans to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline and increase tanker traffic are too risky, he advocated for better education and public knowledge around the issue as the best way to stop it.

Stanley Park ecosystem under stress

Stanley Park, Vancouver’s iconic outdoor playground for residents and visitors young and old, is one of the biggest and most ecologically diverse urban parks on in the world, according to the Wilderness Committee report.

“You can’t think about Vancouver without thinking about it,” Wilderness Committee campaigner Ben West said, referring to how integral Stanley Park is to the city’s identity. 

Every year, 17,000 individual birds use the park, including 230 different bird species. Home to the "largest urban heron colony in the country,” the park is also a stopping spot for birds migrating between California and Alaska.

Other species, such as salmon, rely on a healthy Stanley Park, which contains one of three remaining salmon spawning streams in Vancouver. Orcas, porpoises, seals and otters have been spotted near the park feeding on creatures in the surrounding marine environment. 

But despite a wealth of wildlife, the Stanley Park Ecology Society still sees reason for concern. 

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