Religious leaders – including ordained ministers, the National Anglican Indigenous Bishop, and Vancouver city council candidate Rev. Christine Boyle – are coming from across Canada and Metro Vancouver to protest the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in Burnaby this morning. Some will be risking arrest.
The group is responding to a call from Tsleil-Waututh member Will George to religious leaders and “all people of faith and spirit” to oppose the project. Demonstrators will attempt to turn away workers and vehicles from the Westridge Marine terminal in Burnaby (7065 Bayview Dr.) while holding copies of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) starting at 5:30 a.m. Action is expected to be similar to protests at the Burnaby terminal at 8099 Shellmont St. that have seen nearly 200 people arrested since mid-March.
A larger protest and rally of religious leaders is also planned for April 28 at the same location.
Steve Heinrichs is a former pastor and currently the director of indigenous-settler relations with Mennonite Church Canada in Winnipeg, but originally he is from Burnaby's Capitol Hill neighbourhood close to the Westridge Marine terminal. As someone who grew up in the area, the pipeline issue is important to him, he said.
“It feels like it’s a part of me. I grew up every morning looking at Burnaby Mountain. I could see the tanker silos since I was little kid,” he told the NOW. “We need to get off this if were still going to have a beautiful Burnaby, let alone country and planet to share.”
But Heinrichs is more concerned about the Indigenous peoples’ rights to “free, prior and informed consent,” and because he says there has not been adequate consultation. And today he will be risking arrest to make that point.
“For me, it is to fulfil a personal obligation because yes, this is the space and place where I grew up, and I’ve come to a greater awareness of whose traditional territories these are,” he said. “They need to be consulted with, and we need to receive their consent for a project like this.”
Boyle will be protesting because she believes approving the pipeline goes against reconciliation efforts with Indigenous people.
“For Indigenous rights and climate reasons, I feel very strongly that this pipeline takes us in the wrong direction,” she told the NOW. “Kinder Morgan has been trying to pin opposition to this pipeline on the B.C. NDP, but the reality on the ground is that it is people, and particularly indigenous leadership, that have been resisting this pipeline and who will continue to resist it.”
The following people are expected to attend: National Anglican Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald; former Moderator of Mennonite Church Canada Henry Krause; Mennonite Church Canada director of indigenous-settler relations Steve Heinrichs; Fossil Free Faith director Rev. Christine Boyle; Christian Peacemaker Teams-Indigenous Peoples Solidarity, Chuck Wright.