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

EDITORIAL: Managing wildfires

Wildfires have the potential to cause significant damage within our province

Peach Fest celebrates royalty with cruise

The Peach Fest Queen and Royalty made an unannounced cruise down Penticton’s Main Street

Okanagan, Creston cherry and apple farms in need of workers

The worker shortage is due to the COVID-19 restrictions on international travel

‘It’s just my job’: Off-duty Peachland paramedic saves choking girl downtown Penticton

Family vacationing in Penticton assisted by off-duty paramedic, who helps save 13-year-old

Opening night lineup for online Roots & Blues festival released

The first night of the festival on Aug. 14 will be stacked with favourites from previous years

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

North Okanagan ranch needs support to stay afloat

Founded in 1867, a fundraiser has been launched for the Historic O’Keefe Ranch

Video: Enraged man terrifies staff and customers at Shuswap restaurant

Video on Facebook shows the man hurling profanity at workers during the dinner rush on Aug. 7.

Pup stolen from Vernon temporary shelter reunited with owner

Nicola Sanders says her son’s puppy was ‘overjoyed’ to see her owner again

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Number of Kelowna-linked COVID-19 cases grows to 159

Interior Health reported four new cases region-wide on Friday, 18 remain active

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

Most Read