Downtown demonstration as decision looms on Kinder Morgan pipeline

By Vanessa Ybarra
November 25, 2016 - 5:37pm

KAMLOOPS — With the federal government expected to make a decision on the proposed Kinder Morgan Expansion Project in less than a month, the days for protesters to have their voices heard are numbered.

As it stands, at least three indian bands in the Thompson Nicola region have signed negotiation agreements in support of the pipeline project.

Today, members of the Shuwsap Nation took to the streets to voice their concerns, in particular the risk to local water sources.

WATCH: Full report by Vanessa Ybarra

They came with a mission.

TRU students and members from the Shuswap Nation gathered at the corner of Third Avenue and Victoria Street Friday morning in a passionate plea to have their voices heard against the proposed Trans-Mountain Expansion Project. 

"The issue is water," says protest organizer Mike McKenzie. "Everything that's here in this space is affected by water. It's important to stand up for the health of our water."

The Kinder Morgan pipeline currently carries oil from Edmonton through to Kamloops where it finally ends up in Burnaby.

The proposed expansion project would include twinning a pipeline to run next to the current one. Kinder Morgan says in doing so the amount of oil carried to the coast would triple - adding to tanker traffic in Vancouver's Burrard Inlet.

 "They've had  pretty nasty track records in other places," warns protestor Nickie Ford. "I think that twinning a pipeline, regardless, there's always a risk."

Kinder Morgan workers were on clean-up patrol in 2013 after around 12 barrels of oil leaked from the pipeline south of Merritt.

The National Transportation Board has approved the project granted the company meets 157 conditions focused on environment and aboriginal land protection. 

The project has plenty of support in the interior.

"The main benefit for Kamloops comes during the construction phase and all the businesses that supply support," says Steve Earl, Immediate Past President with the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce.

"There will be a few additional people working in Kamloops operations and there will of course be additional tax revenue that flows to the city of Kamloops as well."

Former chief of Whispering Pines Indian Band Mike LeBourdais negotiated and reached an agreement with Kinder Morgan.

He believes the process in reaching a deal will benefit other First Nations.

"I think other bands will come along once they realize it's about jurisdiction,"says LeBourdais. "It's not about whether or not there's an oily duck on T.V. Nobody wants that, not even Kinder Morgan and we don't want it either. What we do want is for them to respect the original landowners and respect our taxation laws and our environmental laws and those kinds of things."

The final decision from the feds may be expected within days or weeks, but the message from Shuswap Nation member Jody Leon and the rest of the protesters is don't expect their voices to go away any time soon. 

"The Prime Minister, if you make that announcement Monday or Tuesday, we're going to continue to be here."

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