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Indigenous groups enduring four-day fast to raise TMX construction concerns near Coquitlam

'Fast For The Fraser' follows the events of May 2021 when anti-pipeline supporters held prayer circles in Maquabeak Park.
Water ceremony Fin Donnelly photo
Indigenous leaders host a ceremony at Maquabeak Park in Coquitlam to express concerns about an oil pipeline being drilled under the Fraser River.

The Trans Mountain pipeline remains a key topic of political conversation during the 2021 federal election.

Those against the $12.6-billion project are set to undergo a four-day ceremonial fast in hopes federal leaders can understand why they believe the pipeline shouldn't be built.

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is organizing the awareness campaign by gathering in Maquabeak Park, which is just underneath the Port Mann Bridge on the Coquitlam side. The fast is scheduled to begin at noon tomorrow (Sept. 7) and ending at noon on Sept. 10.

"TMX plans to divert 26 million litres of Fraser River water and drill a large hole beneath the river to build a pipeline from the tar sands," reads a UBCIC release sent to the Tri-City News.

"This project, if allowed to continue, will have devastating and irreversible impacts on salmon, fish, and Indigenous culture and welfare."

The new initiative — dubbed Fast For the Fraser — comes more than three months after several spiritual groups joined Indigenous Nations at the same park to block the continued construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline. Stages were set in Coquitlam, New Westminister and Burnaby.

Some activists also showed concerns that hummingbird nests at Colony Farm Regional Park will be affected by pipeline project staging taking place there.

However, Trans Mountain says the Colony Farm work is not effected by the stop-work order in Burnaby.

"Trans Mountain will proceed with any work in the area not subject to restrictions of the Order and our work on the Expansion Project continues in all other regions and areas," a spokesperson stated in an email.

However, protesters are concerned about the impact of pipeline construction on salmon as well as the Nooksack dace, a fish designated as endangered under the species at risk act.

“Canada is gambling the Fraser River to squeeze a few more dollars out of the tar sands before they are going to have to be shut down," stated Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Executive Board member of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and one of the matriarchs who held the ceremony.

"The writing is on the wall. Canada continues to build this pipeline without the consent of many Indigenous communities, risking the salmon, the whales and the very foundations of Indigenous life."

The UBCIC believes "global climate collapse" will also be imminent if TMX is built, citing the three heat waves the Tri-Cities endured this past summer along with the smoke from B.C. wildfires as major contributors.

Wilson will be joined by Sara Cadeau, Anishnaabe kwe on Tuesday (Sept. 7).

FEDERAL CANDIDATES' TMX VIEWS

According to statements provided to the Tri-City News, the majority of local candidates for the 2021 federal election are in favour of the Trans Mountain pipeline's continued construction.

COQUITLAM-PORT COQUITLAM:

  • Katerina Anastasiadis — Conservative
    • We are committed to the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline with high environmental standards that will provide safe, efficient, and cleaner transport of our natural resources as we work towards alternative energy solutions. The economic benefits of this project will provide vital jobs and tax revenue to our communities. 
  • Kimberly Brundell — People's Party of Canada
    • The PPC supports the building of pipelines that are crucial for our economic development and growth.  We need more innovation in our natural gas industry to make sure we protect our environment without compromising our resource industry which benefits all Canadians.
  • Laura Dupont — NDP
    • I want to be very clear that I oppose the TMX pipeline — and so does Jagmeet Singh. Compare that with Justin Trudeau, who bought the pipeline, and Erin O’Toole who just announced the Conservatives would prioritize building the Northern Gateway pipeline. The NDP will deliver real climate action now. 
  • Ron McKinnon — Liberal
    • I am committed to a net-zero Canada by 2050 and over-performing on our Paris Climate Accord targets which we are on our way to accomplish while completing TMX. It was approved under the most rigorous environmental review, and revenue raised by TMX will be reinvested into our transition toward a green economy.

PORT MOODY-COQUITLAM:

  • Will Davis — Liberal
    • “Climate action is a top priority. We have implemented a world-leading, comprehensive climate plan - including the first national price on pollution. But we cannot leave thousands of energy sector workers behind. With an ambitious and inclusive plan, we can lead the world’s transition to a low-carbon economy.” 
  • Desta McPherson  People's Party of Canada
    • As of this publication (Sept. 4), McPherson has yet to respond to our question. We will update this article when information becomes available.
  • Nelly Shin — Conservative
    • While I respect the diversity of views on this situation, the Conservative Party supports the building of the Trans Mountain pipeline. I look forward to continuing conversations with residents about our local environmental issues and the enforcement and accountability measures surrounding them. 
  • Bonita Zarrillo  NDP
    • Jagmeet Singh and I oppose TMX. We need urgent climate action, and the Liberals and Conservatives want to take us backward. Justin Trudeau came to the rescue of big corporations when he bought the pipeline. It’s time to elect a leader who puts our planet, our kids and grandkids first. 
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