News Local

Diverse gathering for pipeline protest

By Byron Chu, QMI Agency Vancouver

More than 1,000 showed up to protest with First Nations, academics and environmental groups on the 23rd anniversary of Exxon Valdez oil spill to stand up for British Columbia's coast during a rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery in Vancouver Monday. (CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS)

More than 1,000 showed up to protest with First Nations, academics and environmental groups on the 23rd anniversary of Exxon Valdez oil spill to stand up for British Columbia's coast during a rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery in Vancouver Monday. (CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS)

A vocal crowd of about 1,200 people packed the Vancouver Art Gallery lawn Monday afternoon to mark the 23rd anniversary of the Exxon Valdez tanker spill and to oppose the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

The protestors then marched to the offices of pipeline company Enbridge, blocking off Burrard Street.

The city's largest anti-oilsands rally to date even surprised speakers at the event.

"If I was a politician, and I was looking at how many people showed up on a rainy Monday afternoon to say no to oil tankers right here in British Columbia, I would literally be shaking in my boots right now," said Wilderness Committee campaigner Ben West to loud cheers. "Big oil has got their back up against the wall and it's because of you guys."

The diverse gathering included aboriginals, union members, environmentalists, students, academics and politicians, including recent NDP leadership candidate Nathan Cullen and Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

"We know what an oil spill will do to the delicate habitat of the coast," said Heiltsuk First Nation Chief Edwin Newman. "Fish to us is like bread to the white man. We can't live without it."

Other speakers said the pipeline battle is not just about preventing oil spills, but also climate change.

"We must not forget that the fossil fuel industry threatens the world with more than just oil spills," said SFU professor Mark Jaccard, an energy economist and an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change member.

"What's the ethically right thing to do? I've become convinced that part of that response may have to be civil disobedience. I don't see any other way."

"What they (industry) wants is for British Columbia to be a carbon gateway, where oil and coal can get out to the rest of the planet to be burnt," said American climate change writer and activist Bill McKibben. "We just can't let that happen. That oil has got to stay in the ground."