Pipeline protest impacts multiple BC Ferries sailings
Published Monday, January 20, 2020 7:19AM PST Last Updated Monday, January 20, 2020 7:11PM PST
VANCOUVER -- A crowd of pipeline protesters impacted traffic heading to BC Ferries' Swartz Bay terminal Monday, leading to major delays on multiple sailings.
BC Ferries told CTV News that the 7 a.m. sailings out of Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen were held at the docks. All traffic getting into the Swartz Bay terminal was blocked by protesters.
"Sidney RCMP are on site discussing the situation with the protesters, however no traffic is getting into the terminal at this point," Deborah Marshall, executive director of public affairs told CTV News Vancouver shortly before 8 a.m.
At about 9 a.m., BC Ferries said traffic was flowing normally again but travellers should continue to expect delays.
In fact, the blockade led to ripple effects throughout the morning as the 7 a.m. sailing out of Tsawwassen left 70 minutes behind schedule and the 9 a.m. sailing was cancelled. Another sailing between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen left 2 ½ hours late and the 11 a.m. sailing out of Swartz Bay was cancelled.
Three other ferries were also held at Pender Island, Mayne Island and Swartz Bay.
Stacey Leggett was one of those who was told she couldn't board a ferry.
"I have a medical appointment I've been waiting a full year for, and now they're telling me they're shut down and we can't go," she told CTV News.
Kolin Sutherland-Wilson, media spokesperson for the protest, told CTV News Vancouver the protesters are made up of Victoria-area community members who are concerned with the situation in Wet'suwet'en territory, in connection to Coastal GasLink's 670-kilometre pipeline being built from B.C.'s northeast to Kitimat.
They chose BC Ferries because of its links to the liquefied natural gas industry.
Five of BC Ferries' ships now run on LNG. To get that gas out of the ground, protestors point out, it must be fracked, and they say it's bad for the environment.
"While it is a fossil fuel, it is cleaner than diesel," said Marshall. She said BC Ferries was moving towards cleaner energies, including LNG and smaller, hybrid-electric vessels.
Coastal GasLink signed agreements with 20 elected First Nation councils along the pipeline's path, but the hereditary clan chiefs who are leaders under the traditional form of governance say the project doesn't have authority to go ahead without their consent.
"To us it's completely unacceptable how B.C. is handling the situation because Premier Horgan should be talking to the hereditary chiefs as they are the rightful decision makers for that territory," Sutherland-Wilson said.
"What's happening here pales in comparison to what the Wet'suwet'en people are dealing with in the RCMP exclusion zone on their own territory," he said. "Overall my heart goes out to anyone that we may have severely inconvenienced but ultimately we've got to look at the big picture."
The conflict led to rallies across the country last year when RCMP enforced an injunction and arrested 14 supporters of the hereditary chiefs.
On Dec. 31, the B.C. Supreme Court expanded the injunction. The hereditary clan chiefs responded with an eviction notice to Coastal GasLink, which led to a new standoff along the remote Morice West Forest Service Road.
"We certainly respect the rights of individuals to protest a decision that they don't agree with, but our concern is allowing our customers and employees safe and unimpeded access to the terminal," Marshall said. "Our service is essential to connect communities and commerce."