Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong’s constituency office in Saanich will be the site of a protest this morning (Oct. 24) intended to drive home opposition to the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipeline proposals.
The protest comes on the heels of Monday’s demonstration at the B.C. legislature where thousands of people organized by Defend Our Coasts, a loose coalition of First Nations, unions, environmental organizations and others, voiced their opposition to the project.
Celine Trojand, coalition spokesperson, said that protesters will link arms in front of Chong’s office to show an “unbroken wall of opposition” to Enbridge. “She’s the minister for Aboriginal affairs and this is important to them (First Nations people),” said Trojand.
The demonstration at Chong’s office is one of a series of demonstrations targeting MLAs offices across the province today.
Organizers want the protest to draw attention to Chong’s role and responsibilities regarding Aboriginal affairs.
“It’s a swing riding (Oak Bay-Gordon Head) that was won by a very narrow margin,” said Trojand. “She (Chong) has to know that … the way she handles this issue will make a difference in the next election.”
Chong says that she and the B.C. Liberal government share the group’s concern.
“They’re saying what we’re saying. It’s a matter of risk/benefit and right now there’s nothing but risk.”
In July, the provincial government outlined its position on the pipeline proposals by listing five points that needed resolution before the projects could proceed, including one that requires that aboriginal and treaty rights be addressed.
“There are some 20 B.C. First Nations groups at the (federal joint review panel) hearings. Not one of them support the project. That tells us something,” said Chong.
“If there is no support that develops from First Nations, I would have to go to the premier and say ‘we haven’t met that point and can’t proceed.’ I would have to oppose the project on those grounds.”
For Chong to be successful it begins with listening, said Geraldine Thomas-Flurer, the coordinator of B.C.’s Yinka-Dene Alliance.
“We haven’t seen her do that yet. She hasn’t even addressed our community yet.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Keith Henry of the B.C. Metis Federation.
“We have grave concerns,” said Henry. “We still haven’t seen them (the province) clarify what (its) position is on First Nation rights and titles. They say it’s an issue, but what’s their position?”
Both Thomas-Flurer and Henry’s organizations took part in Monday’s protest and will be a part of today’s demonstration at Chong’s office.
“These protests are just the beginning,” said Henry.
Chong said that her office is monitoring First Nations opposition to the project.
“I ask my staff every week if any First Nations peoples are (supporting) this project. As of now we have none. That means I can’t support it.”