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First Nations paddle to Mothers’ Day water ceremony at pipeline terminal

Several boatloads took to the waters Sunday, crossing the Burrard Inlet to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain dock to pray.

Three ocean-going canoes from Tsleil-Waututh Nation and a small flotilla of kayaks paddle towards Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline terminal and oil tank facility in Burnaby, B.C. to conduct a water blessing ceremony on Sunday, May 14, 2017.

David P. Ball / Metro Order this photo

Three ocean-going canoes from Tsleil-Waututh Nation and a small flotilla of kayaks paddle towards Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline terminal and oil tank facility in Burnaby, B.C. to conduct a water blessing ceremony on Sunday, May 14, 2017.

A flotilla of nearly 100 people in ocean-going canoes and kayaks took to the waters of the Salish Sea on Sunday afternoon, paddling across the Burrard Inlet to the shipping terminal for Kinder Morgan’s 1,200-kilometre Trans Mountain pipeline to hold a “water blessing” ceremony just metres from the facility.

The event was hosted by Tsleil-Waututh Nation on the inlet’s North Shore who have long opposed the pipeline’s proposed $7.5-billion expansion, set to increase oil tanker traffic through the waterway sevenfold — tripling the flow of diluted bitumen the company said has moved safely along its existing route for decades.

The project received provincial and federal blessings last winter, and if the Texas-based company meets regulators’ safety conditions plans to begin construction this fall.

But that didn’t stop the paddlers from singing what they called a traditional “celebration” song offshore, believing they can still stop the pipeline’s expansion from going ahead.

Three ocean-going canoes from Tsleil-Waututh Nation and a small flotilla of kayaks paddle towards Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline terminal and oil tank facility in Burnaby, B.C. to conduct a water blessing ceremony on Sunday, May 14, 2017.

David P. Ball / Metro

Three ocean-going canoes from Tsleil-Waututh Nation and a small flotilla of kayaks paddle towards Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline terminal and oil tank facility in Burnaby, B.C. to conduct a water blessing ceremony on Sunday, May 14, 2017.

“It’s been years since we’ve been able to go out into our clam beds,” said Ta’ah, also known as Amy George, daughter of renowned Tsleil-Waututh Nation Chief Dan George. “The water has turned poison.

“I have known and loved this land my whole life … I want my great-grandchildren to know these waters and these lands the way I did.”

Indigenous allies from beyond B.C.’s borders attended the ceremony, too, including several Pacific Islanders on a tour across Canada who spoke of the devastating impacts burning fossil fuels is already having on their way of life.

“Climate change affects us in numerous ways from cyclones to sea level rise to salt intrusion to the security of our food,” said Raedena Savea, from the 200,000-resident island of Samoa. “The reason why we’re here today is because we're the first to disappear if expansions like the Kinder Morgan” proceed.

Three ocean-going canoes from Tsleil-Waututh Nation and a small flotilla of kayaks paddle towards Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline terminal and oil tank facility in Burnaby, B.C. to conduct a water blessing ceremony on Sunday, May 14, 2017.

David P. Ball / Metro

Three ocean-going canoes from Tsleil-Waututh Nation and a small flotilla of kayaks paddle towards Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline terminal and oil tank facility in Burnaby, B.C. to conduct a water blessing ceremony on Sunday, May 14, 2017.

Two of the B.C. New Democrats’ newly elected MLAs attended, and said if the upcoming absentee ballots and recounts hand power to their party they would reinstate the province’s Climate Leadership Team within 100 days, and make “every effort” to reverse B.C.’s approval of the Trans Mountain expansion and stop the project.

“It means a lot to me that my first official act in the Legislature is to be here in solidarity with you,” Burnaby North MLA Janet Routledge told Tsleil-Waututh leaders on the beach.

From south of the province, at the other end of the Salish Sea which includes the Burrard Inlet and Strait of Georgia, former Barack Obama advisor Deborah Parker said the timing of the ceremony on Mothers’ Day was significant.

“On Mothers' Day there's no greater honour than to go out on the water with my children to protect it,” said the former elected councilor of the Tulalip tribe in Washington state.

Ta'ah (Amy George) gives thanks as she speaks before leading a Tsleil-Waututh Nation ceremony on the waters offshore Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline terminal and oil tank facility in Burnaby, B.C., pictured in background, on Sunday, May 14, 2017.

David P. Ball / Metro

Ta'ah (Amy George) gives thanks as she speaks before leading a Tsleil-Waututh Nation ceremony on the waters offshore Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline terminal and oil tank facility in Burnaby, B.C., pictured in background, on Sunday, May 14, 2017.

Her face painted with red cedar dye, Ta’ah led a ceremony and prayers near the terminal offering cedar into the waters.

“If you love where you live, if you learn something from this whole thing, take care of it, watch out for it,” she said. “Would you throw trash in your mother’s face? Well don’t do that to Mother Earth.”

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