Dozens of people took to the Burrard Inlet in canoes on Saturday in a First Nations-lead paddle to save the marine environment and oppose Kinder Morgan's proposed pipeline expansion.
"I think it's amazing we are all coming here to show our connection to the water," said Ernie "Bones" George, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation's director of treaty, lands and resources. "Through our teachings, we've always been told we're responsible for the land, water and air."
The event, co-hosted by the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish nations, included environmentalists and First Nations from as far away as Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and Washington.
They congregated at Sw‡ywi (Ambleside Park in West Vancouver) and paddled to Whey-Ah-Wichen (Cates Park in North Vancouver), where they received a traditional shoreline welcome in front of cheering crowds. The two host nations also signed a declaration to protect the water.
Along the way, the canoes stopped in front of Kinder Morgan's Westridge Marine Terminal for a special ceremony re-affirming the importance of water. Paddlers pounded their handles against the boats' bottoms in applause, and First Nations representatives poured water from their territories into the ocean in front of the terminal.
"It's just a celebration of us and the water," George said, "that we still use it and want to protect it. That's the message."
The Tsleil-Waututh, who have not been able to harvest shellfish in their traditional territory on the Burrard Inlet after decades of pollution, are opposed to the Trans Mountain expansion plan. Kinder Morgan, the pipeline's operator, hopes to widen the marine terminal, where tankers fill up with crude, if the expansion is approved. The Trans Mountain, which was built in the 1950s, runs oil from Alberta to the West Coast of B.C. The marine terminal and part of the pipeline are in Tsleil-Waututh traditional territory. Kinder Morgan wants to increase the line's capacity from 300,000 barrels of oil per day to 750,000 and will apply to the National Energy Board for project approval in late 2013.