Protesters arrested after storming pipeline hearings in Vancouver
Published Tuesday, January 15, 2013 6:37AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 15, 2013 10:28PM EST
Five people have been arrested in Vancouver after protesters burst into hearings on the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project and cordoned off the room with tape.
Three men and two women are facing charges after they snuck into the hearing room Tuesday morning and started “causing a ruckus,” police said.
Police have now beefed up their presence at the downtown Vancouver hotel where the hearings are taking place.
The ongoing protests against Enbridge’s proposed oil pipeline have recently merged with the Idle No More movement, whose supporters are demanding that the federal government address First Nations treaty rights and the plight of Canada’s aboriginal people.
The protesters began gathering around the hotel Monday night. It was estimated that more than a thousand people turned out.
Some First Nations travelled hundreds of kilometres from British Columbia’s North Coast to join the protests.
Many of them spoke out against the changes federal Conservatives made to environmental laws, saying the new rules won’t ensure a thorough evaluation of proposed natural resource projects and their impact on the region’s communities and waterways.
Eddie Gardner, of the Sto:lo First Nation, told protesters that Prime Minister Stephen Harper implemented the legislation “with crass and ruthless disregard for the environment.”
"Stephen Harper is hell bent to expand the tar sands,” he said. "Canada is coming alive to Harper's real agenda ... he is one of the biggest enemies of the environment."
The Northern Gateway pipeline would deliver diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to a tanker port in Kitimat, B.C. A federal joint review panel has been established to assess the environmental impact of the project. Hearings have already been held in Victoria, Prince George, Prince Rupert and Edmonton.
Eight days of hearings have been scheduled in Vancouver and a one-day hearing is set to take place in Kelowna after that.
Access to the hearings has been limited. In Victoria, anyone who was not on the official list of speakers was sent to another location to watch the proceedings on a television screen. Among those barred from the hearing was Victoria’s member of Parliament, Murray Rankin.
While environmentalists have been critical of the pipeline proposal, oil industry analysts and various trade unions say that Northern Gateway would create much-needed jobs and increase Canada’s oil export revenues.
With files from The Canadian Press