Members of the Squamish Nation were among a large crowd gathered on Burnaby Mountain Thursday morning as Burnaby RCMP moved in to arrest protesters blocking Kinder Morgan pipeline survey crews.
Fourteen protesters had been arrested by mid-afternoon for defying a B.C. Supreme Court injunction banning anyone from interfering with Kinder Morgan’s survey work for a new pipeline route.
Among those arrested was Sot-lot, a Squamish band member who arrived at Burnaby Mountain with her sister Clarissa Antone Thursday morning.
Observers described an emotional moment as the two women arrived drumming and singing on Centennial Way, then marched under the yellow police tape and into the protesters’ camp.
Antone said she went to Burnaby Mountain because “I am a guardian of the Earth. Kinder Morgan wants to dig right where we are. It shows on our map that this is our territory.”
Antone said she has been coming to the site every day for the past two weeks. “It’s important that we save our sacred land,” she said.
Later in the afternoon, Antone said her older sister — who goes by the native name Sot-lot — was arrested after refusing to move from a totem pole that has been carved inside the area covered by the injunction.
Antone said her sister was arrested after she lay down on the pole to prevent it being moved. “It was very hard. I was crying,” she said, speaking by cellphone from inside the protest camp. “The mood is very intense right now.”
Antone planned to stay beside a “sacred fire” that Aboriginal women had lit inside the protest camp until it burned out. She said she planned to come back to Burnaby Mountain on Friday, but would stay in the area where protesters are legally allowed to gather.
Other members of the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations have also joined the protesters in recent weeks.
Khelsilem, a member of the Squamish Nation, gave a speech on the mountain on Monday — in the Squamish language — asking other protesters to join them.
Later in the afternoon Thursday, survey crews for the pipeline company turned up to begin work, while a tense standoff continued between police and protesters.
Kinder Morgan had no comments or statement for media on the situation on Burnaby Mountain Thursday morning.
Janice Edmonds, spokeswoman for the North Shore NOPE group opposed to the pipeline project, said she understands why protesters are willing to be arrested.
“They are saying that’s the only thing they can do,” she said. “The (National Energy Board) process is not fair. It’s not hearing what the people have to say. It’s not responding to the questions people are asking.”
Edmonds said her group has asked about how air quality would be monitored in the event of a spill and about evacuation plans and has not received satisfactory answers.
Edmonds also pointed to a recent report by Simon Fraser University that concluded far fewer jobs will be created by the project than the company has estimated.
“There are no jobs,” she said. “Maybe 30 between B.C. and Alberta, which is nothing in the big scheme of things.”
“There’s nothing for the North Shore,” she added. “When people think there are economic benefits, there are none.”
— with files from Jennifer Moreau, Burnaby Now