As part of a wave of anti-pipeline actions across BC this week, Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE) organized a march and rally on Tuesday outside the Delta Burnaby Hotel and Conference Centre. Inside the hotel the National Energy Board (NEB) continued its review of Texas-based oil-giant Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of the Trans-Mountain pipeline.
As the final oral arguments in the NEB hearing process began, the hotel’s ballroom was littered with empty chairs for an excluded populace. Outside the hotel, speakers included Grand Chief Stewart Phillip from the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Audrey Siegl of the Musqueam Nation, Chief Bill Williams of the Squamish Nation, Burnaby City Councillor Sav Dahliwal, Elsie Dean of BROKE, Janice Edmonds of North Shore NO Pipeline Expansion, and Alexandra Woodsworth of the Georgia Strait Alliance, among others.
The hearing process has come under intense and widespread scrutiny in recent days. Due to its closed-door approach and perceived bias towards multinational resource-extraction interests, Councillor Dahliwal has called it “a public hearing minus the public.” The hearings and pipeline expansion have also been slammed by numerous lawyers and intervener statements over the course of this week, including harsh critiques by legal representatives of both Surrey and Burnaby. The City of Burnaby’s legal counsel Gregory McDade pointed out on Wednesday that in this two-year process for an estimated $6.8 billion proposal, there has not been a single meeting open to the public. The NEB itself is stacked with last-minute board extensions hungover from the Conservative administration. Current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been called on by indigenous nations and municipalities across Canada to uphold his commitments to undo the illegitimate processes currently underway, but so far there has been no response.
The rally was attended by both current interveners in the NEB process, and those who have decided to boycott the proceedings. As part of the latter contingent, Chief Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Indian Band, and Chief Aaron Sam of the Lower Nicola Indian Band, announced their withdrawal. “I feel, and most of the people in our community feel, that the National Energy Board process does not take our considerations seriously. It doesn’t take into consideration the rights of indigenous people,” Chief Sam said. “If we don’t move forward in a collaborative way where all of our voices are going to be heard, we are not going to be able to move forward for us today, or for future generations.”
The Neskonlith and Lower Nicola Band’s refusal to participate is also a plea for collective thinking that goes beyond the specific, discredited process, instead looking into broader futures. “They have to stop what they are doing because it’s going to displace all of us. Not just indigenous people,” Chief Wilson stated. “We can’t continue with dirty oil. We can’t continue with dirty policies, because they are polluting everything. They are even displacing our children’s future.”
These sentiments were felt widely at the rally. Bill Xu, from Burnaby Youth for Climate Justice said, “the youth are in solidarity with the indigenous communities in the frontline fight for climate justice.” Khalid Boudreau, also from Burnaby Youth for Climate Justice, also responded to the Prime Minister’s campaign adage that “governments grant permits, but only communities grant permission.” As a community, said Khalid, “we do not grant permission for this pipeline.” Xu continued, “we are ready to hold the governments and corporations responsible for this current crisis to account.”
Elsie Dean, a founding member of BROKE whose social and climate justice work has spanned seven decades, gave this alternative to the closed NEB process: “We can and will share our collective knowledge, we will share our ideas, we will share our energy. We can and we will stop excessive global climate change. We will shut down the fossil fuel industry. We will stop the pipelines and shut down the tar sands. And we will replace it all with renewable energy. Because we know how to do that. We know how to do that today. So let’s start.”
The Tuesday action comes ahead of a mass-solidarity rally tomorrow, Saturday, January 23rd at The Delta Burnaby Hotel and Conference Centre, 4331 Dominion Street, Burnaby, at 1:00PM. There also continues to be a daily presence at the hotel, from 8:30AM to 3:30PM, organized by The Dogwood Initiative.