Roughly 250 people packed Confederation Seniors' Centre Wednesday night for the first public town hall meeting organized by a Burnaby residents' group opposing Kinder Morgan's pipeline expansion plan.
Speakers talked of widespread public opposition to the expansion and recounted their experiences with Kinder Morgan's 2007 pipeline rupture that sprayed local homes with oil.
Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation opened the meeting, talking about the importance of protecting the environment for future generations.
"It's not just a First Nations problem," he said. "It's all of our problem."
Local resident Mary Hatch told the crowd of her experience with the 2007 pipeline rupture. The Inlet Drive resident did not know her home was next to the pipeline until it broke and sprayed her home and car with crude.
"That was a traumatic time for our community," she said. "Our health and safety had been breached."
Kennedy Stewart, the NDP member of Parliament for Burnaby Douglas, spoke of the pipeline issue from his perspective as a new politician. The first call he received after being elected was from Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada, explaining that the company was intending to twin the current pipeline, which runs oil from Alberta to B.C., and more than double shipping capacity. Stewart said he raised the issue with his constituents, conducted phone surveys and found the majority of respondents were not supportive of the expansion, and had a map made of the current pipeline route when Kinder Morgan declined to give him one.
"My job is to take what I'm hearing here back to Ottawa and develop a national position," he said.
Stewart also mentioned that there are 2,200 homeowners along the pipeline route. Kinder Morgan clarified with the NOW, stating that there are 2,200 landowners (not homeowners) along the existing right-of-way from Edmonton to Burnaby. In Burnaby, there are a total of 13 landowners - one is Kinder Morgan, seven are "government," and five are private.
Mayor Derek Corrigan criticized the federal government for having no national energy plan and leaving the fate of Canadian energy security up to market forces and corporations that oversee bitumen shipments to China, where there are less stringent environmental regulations.
"We'll be handing those environmental problems off to China, and they'll be drifting back over the Pacific into our communities," he said. "To impose upon our communities this incredible risk and to risk tanker traffic that will affect the oceans of our world is beyond ridiculous - it's absurdity. And we need to stand up as a community - if we are the only voice across Canada that is heard - we need to stand up as a community and say we are not going to tolerate this foolishness. We want an energy policy in Canada that answers to Canadian needs first that ensures our long-term viability as a nation and that we do not export our environmental problems to other parts of the world."
Ben West, a healthy communities campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, described the region as the frontlines of a fight against some of the richest, most powerful companies on Earth.
"We're fighting some of the richest people in the world," he said. "This is just the beginning of a long fight."
He also said diluted bitumen, which Kinder Morgan has been shipping through the Trans Mountain pipeline for years, is "very different from light crude," and he raised the spectre of the Enbridge spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where diluted bitumen sank to the bottom of a tributary after the chemical dilutants evaporated and residents were evacuated because of the fumes.
Ta'Kaiya Blaney, an 11-year-old girl from the Sliammon First Nation, talked about her concern for the environment and her future generations before she performed a song she wrote called Shallow Waters.
The town hall meeting was organized by BROKE, Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion, and was the first public meeting the group has hosted. BROKE spokesperson Karl Perrin said the group may organize another town hall meeting and possibly a debate and invite Kinder Morgan.