More than 2,000 protesters gathered on the B.C. legislature lawn Monday, some promising to provoke arrests as well as criticizing proposed heavy oil pipelines from Alberta to the B.C. coast.
Organizers offered training in civil disobedience techniques to the more than 1,000 people who signed up for the protest, under the banner of Defend Our Coast.
Sponsored by Greenpeace and the Council of Canadians, the coalition includes unions, aboriginal leaders and environmental organizations.
Victoria Police were out in force to back up legislature security, who locked the buildings down and turned away visitors for the day.
The protest focused on two proposed projects, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline from northern Alberta to Kitimat and the pending application by Kinder Morgan to twin its oil pipeline that has been carrying Alberta oil to Burnaby and Washington state for more than 60 years.
Among the speakers was David Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union.
He said his union is “diametrically opposed” to pipeline expansion, despite the fact it represents employees at the Chevron refinery in Burnaby that is supplied by the Trans Mountain oil pipeline from Alberta.
The new proposals are “job killers” because more diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands will be shipped out raw, either from Burnaby or Kitimat, Coles said.
Protesters ringed the crowd with sections of black banner described as being the length of an oil tanker, and staked it to the legislature lawn.
That is technically a violation of legislature rules, which are aimed at preventing people from setting up tents and other structures on the lawn.
Art Sterritt, executive director of the Coastal First Nations group on B.C.’s North Coast, said the protest is designed to show Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Christy Clark that people are prepared to “stand in front of the bulldozers” to stop the projects.
Other speakers included federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May and B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Susan Lambert. Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians, called for opposition to gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas exports from northern B.C. as well.
Supporters of the oil sands protest include Simon Fraser University professor Mark Jaccard, former United Nations ambassador Stephen Lewis and U.S. environmentalist Bill McKibben, a leading campaigner for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.