Will George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation spoke out against the Trans Mountain pipeline. (Protect the Inlet)

Pipeline protester chimes in on Justin Trudeau’s B.C. fundraising speech

The government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project for $4.5 billion

An Indigenous protester opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion interrupted a speech by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a Liberal fundraiser on Wednesday.

Will George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in North Vancouver stood up and called Trudeau a liar and a weak leader.

“Climate leaders don’t build pipelines. So many of our elected leaders in B.C. oppose the pipeline. The mayor of Vancouver got arrested opposing this pipeline,” he said, referring to Kennedy Stewart, who was arrested last year while still a New Democrat MP.

“I’m from Tsleil-Waututh Nation and we say no,” George added. “Are you going to push this pipeline through?”

Trudeau greeted George by name and thanked him for being a strong voice for his community. As the protester continued to talk over him, Trudeau calmly asked if he could respond before saying his government is protecting the environment, including by bringing in a $1.5-billion plan to protect Canada’s oceans.

“There are strong Indigenous voices like yours, speaking up very strongly against this pipeline and against various projects. There are also, however, very strong Indigenous voices speaking up in favour of this project. I know you don’t mean to delegitimize their voices as well,” Trudeau said.

He said there are a broad range of perspectives and his government’s approach has always been to listen to diverse views and try to respond the best way it can.

“We’re never going to get to unanimity,” Trudeau said.

George asked Trudeau to meet with his people and accused the prime minister of only sitting down with groups that want to “sign off” on the project.

“What do you tell your children?” George asked. “I honour my ancestors, my children, by protecting my lands and waters. You threaten our lands and waters. How dare you bring that through our waters? Those are our spiritual highways. You have no right to do that to us.”

Trudeau said George was welcome to stay if he wanted to listen, but he was eventually ushered out of the Opus Hotel in downtown Vancouver by a manager and an RCMP officer.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the event, singing and chanting anti-pipeline slogans. Activists drove around the block in a truck with a billboard that read “Trudeau: No pipelines in a climate emergency.”

As George was leaving the event, Trudeau asked him to give his best to those gathered outside, saying their voices are very important to the next election.

This isn’t the first time George has spoken out during an event with the prime minister. In January, he called Trudeau a liar during a town hall meeting in Kamloops, B.C.

He was involved in launching a protest “watch house” near the Trans Mountain terminal in Burnaby, B.C., where he stayed for about a year. He was also arrested while protesting the project on a nearby bridge, he said.

Outside the hotel on Wednesday, George said he and another protester paid $250 each to attend the Liberal fundraiser and it was worth it to get inside to voice his concerns.

He said Trudeau didn’t answer any of his questions.

“It is frustrating. There are a lot of emotions when I go into these rooms and address him on such a serious matter,” he said.

George added that he understands why some First Nations support the Trans Mountain pipeline project.

“You’re looking at nations that can’t hunt or gather any more. They have to take these deals,” he said.

Trudeau’s speech was the first of two Liberal fundraising events in Vancouver after he announced that 18 new ships will be built to renew the Canadian Coast Guard fleet at a cost of $15.7 billion.

He told the audience at the lunchtime event that climate change is a real and pressing issue and Conservative politicians don’t believe it’s important to take action.

“There is unfortunately still a debate going on as to whether or not we should be fighting climate change. That sort of blows my mind,” he said.

The government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project for $4.5 billion. Construction was put on hold last August after the Federal Court of Appeal struck down the federal permit for the project.

The project would triple the existing capacity from the Edmonton area to Burnaby, B.C., and increase the number of tankers in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet seven-fold.

READ MORE: More gasoline, less bitumen in Trans Mountain pipeline, B.C. premier asks Trudeau

READ MORE: Protester climbs into tree at Trans Mountain pipeline terminal in B.C.

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Upper Clearwater naturalist helps name national lichen

The votes are in for Canada’s proposed national lichen and the Star-tipped… Continue reading

Celebrations continue for Tsilhqot’in Nation after court victory against Taskeo Mines Ltd.

Supreme Court of Canada upholds 2014 decision rejecting New Prosperity mine on May 14, 2020

38 ladies had plenty of room to social distance

A couple of years ago hubby and I purchased 600 (yes, 600)… Continue reading

Invasive Mussel Defence program launches in B.C.

Boat inspection stations are now open at various locations throughout the province… Continue reading

B.C. man with Alberta plates gets car keyed and aggressive note

Some out-of-province people are finding hostile reception due to COVID-19 worries

B.C. drive-in theatre appeals COVID-19 concession rules, 50-car limit

With 50 cars and the removal of concession sales, drive-in owner says theatre might have to close

COVID-19: B.C. grants aim to stabilize sexual assault recovery programs

$10 million fund not yet ready to take applications

B.C. mom’s drug-pricing petition on behalf of son garners thousands of signatures

Petition geared to gaining access to new medicines drew support of Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl

‘Paralyzed by fear’: B.C. woman details anxiety, grief at Italian relief hospital

Sheila Vicic spent two months in Italy as the country grappled with COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry given new name in B.C. First Nation ceremony: ‘one who is calm among us’

The provincial health officer was honoured in a May 22 ceremony at elementary school in Hazelton

CAMH survey looks at binge-drinking, financial anxiety during COVID

Alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism for those whose careers may have been sidelined due to the pandemic

Half of Canadians say governments are hiding something about COVID-19: poll

More than a third of people believe the virus was created in a lab

Most Read