A crowd of more than 60 people protested oil pipeline expansion outside local MP Randy Kamp’s downtown Maple Ridge office on Saturday.
The Fraser Valley Pipeline Watch Group protest was part of the Canada-wide Defend our Climate rally, which occurred in 85 municipalities across the country.
The Maple Ridge protest was organized by Michael Gildersleeve, who works in Maple Ridge and is a former federal Green Party and Mission mayoral candidate.
“Many people were showing up for the first time, it’s catching more attention,” Gildersleeve said of the ongoing demonstrations. “Concern is growing.”
Kinder Morgan has applied to expand its 1,150-kilometre Trans Mountain Pipeline system by increasing capacity up to 600,000 barrels a day. Its proposal is currently under review by the National Energy Board.
The City of Vancouver has asked the board to review the application, criticizing it for containing potentially flawed information.
Enbridge has had plans to build the $6.5 billion Northern Gateway Pipeline from Kitimat to Bruderheim, Alta.
“We’re expecting a decision on the Enbridge pipeline as early as June,” Gildersleeve said. “There’s lots of concern, especially from First Nations people who have signed a Save the Fraser declaration confirming their disapproval and rejection of tankers on their coast, let alone the pipeline which is carrying this hazardous material called bitumen across from Alberta to be loaded in Kitimat.”
A recent plebiscite in Kitimat found that 58 per cent of voters are against the Enbridge contract, despite the potential job creation.
The nation-wide Defend our Climate campaign was coordinated by activist group LeadNow, founded in Ontario.
“Our role at LeadNow is to support local organizers in having the capacity and the know-how to organize an event, and then really to be able to support them in being able to amplify their message,” said LeadNow organizer Cameron Gray. “There was action in just about every province and territory. Quite literally from Halifax to Victoria to Whitehorse, all the way to Quebec City, Chicoutimi and southern Ontario.”
Rob Dramer is a member of the Suzuki Elders Society, an independent environmental group that conducts research and promotes advocacy. He attended the rally with his partner Lilian and his daughter Jenn, and was pleased with the turnout.
“I’ve been involved in pipeline activism for over three years,” Dramer said. “There were certainly more people out there on Saturday.”
Dramer said he has been involved in activism since he was traumatized as a child during an air raid drill while living in the United States during the Second World War.
“I started by protesting Vietnam and other conflicts,” he said, “Since then, I’ve learned that peace and the environment are just as important.”
Gildersleeve hopes the support will keep growing.
“I’m sure there will be more events,” he said. “We are now close to decision-making time and most people see it as a tipping point. We have a government saying this is a responsible resources development, and we have many others saying they have other ideas. This is another step along the way to build connections and networks for people that have concerns.”