Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan set the tone for the Defend Our Coast protest in Langford on Wednesday when he showed up with a platter of cookies.
A group of about 70 people of all ages gathered outside his currently closed office, holding signs, singing songs and speaking out against the proposed Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines.
“We’re linking arms across the province to continue getting the word out to everybody,” Langford resident Deidre Hill said at the rally. “There’s no place to have these great big huge tankers. There are going to be accidents. We don’t want that at all.”
The protest comes on the heels of Monday’s demonstration at the B.C. legislature where thousands of people organized by Defend Our Coast – a loose coalition of First Nations, unions, environmental organizations and others – voiced their opposition to the project.
In Langford, Horgan passed out his cookies and chatted with the crowd, before linking arms with the others. He apologized for the construction going on at his office and thanked the crowd for coming out.
“I think it’s great, I think it’s fantastic,” Horgan said about the rally. “Monday was extraordinary at the legislature, and to have people coming out in Langford today is good news.”
As the NDP energy critic, Horgan said he is against the proposed pipelines and stands in unity with the protestors.
“The potential impacts on Haidi Gwaii, on the north coast, are just too dangerous to contemplate,” Horgan said. “The opportunities in those regions are local community development projects, not massive mega projects driven by Alberta.”
Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong’s constituency office was the site of another protest of the pipeline proposals.
Speaking before the rally, Celine Trojand, a coalition spokesperson, said that protesters will link arms in front of Chong’s office to show an “unbroken wall of opposition” to Enbridge.
“She’s the minister for Aboriginal affairs and this is important to (First Nations people),” Trojand said.
The demonstration at Chong’s office in Saanich was one of a series of demonstrations targeting MLA offices across the province.
Organizers want the protest to draw attention to Chong’s role and responsibilities regarding aboriginal affairs.
“It’s a swing riding (Oak Bay-Gordon Head) that was won by a very narrow margin,” said Trojand. “(Chong) has to know that … the way she handles this issue will make a difference in the next election.”
Chong says that she and the B.C. Liberal government share the group’s concern.
“They’re saying what we’re saying. It’s a matter of risk-benefit and right now there’s nothing but risk.”
In July, the provincial government outlined its position on the pipeline proposals by listing five points that needed resolution before the projects could proceed, including one that requires that aboriginal and treaty rights be addressed.
“There are some 20 B.C. First Nations groups at the (federal joint review panel) hearings. Not one of them support the project. That tells us something,” said Chong.
“If there is no support that develops from First Nations, I would have to go to the premier and say ‘we haven’t met that point and can’t proceed.’ I would have to oppose the project on those grounds.”
For Chong to be successful it begins with listening, said Geraldine Thomas-Flurer, the co-ordinator of B.C.’s Yinka-Dene Alliance. “We haven’t seen her do that yet. She hasn’t even addressed our community yet.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Keith Henry of the B.C. Métis Federation.
“We have grave concerns,” said Henry. “We still haven’t seen them (the province) clarify what (its) position is on First Nation rights and titles. They say it’s an issue, but what’s their position?”
Both Thomas-Flurer and Henry’s organizations took part in last Monday’s protest and the demonstration at Chong’s office.
“These protests are just the beginning,” said Henry.
“I ask my staff every week if any First Nations peoples are (supporting) this project,” Chong said. “As of now we have none. That means I can’t support it.”