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‘The war is on’: Protesters set sights on Harper after Northern Gateway decision

Demonstrators protest on the streets following the federal government's approval of the Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline in Vancouver, British Columbia June 17, 2014.

BEN NELMS/REUTERS

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be the focus of newly intense protests whenever he shows up in B.C. due to his cabinet's Northern Gateway decision, a provincial native leader says.

"There's been a lot of chatter about that today. Given the fact that, in our view, Harper has declared war on British Columbians and First Nations, he will absolutely not be welcome into this province in the future," Grand Chief Stewart Phillip told reporters during a major anti-Gateway rally in downtown Vancouver on Tuesday night.

"It means more protests and demonstrations and rallies wherever he speaks and wherever he visits," said the president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

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During a January visit, a pair of climate-change activists managed to get through Mr. Harper's security cordon to within arms length of the prime minister as he took questions from the head of the Vancouver Board of Trade onstage at a hotel. The activists held signs to highlight their criticism of the federal Conservative government.

Mr. Phillips' comments came as hundreds of anti-Gateway protesters rallied in central Vancouver, blocking an intersection then gathering for speeches and chants in front of the regional headquarters of the CBC. Activists then peacefully marched through downtown streets, channelled by Vancouver police.

"It's official. The war is on," Mr. Phillip told the crowd, rallying them to a path of protest ahead against the $7.9-billion pipeline between the Alberta oil sands and the B.C. coast.

Amid cheers, whistling and chants, Mr. Phillip said there will be battles ahead in the courts with several lawsuits immediately looming, but activists have to be ready to stop project proponent Enbridge Inc. from doing basic development work on the pipeline site.

"There will be the need to go out onto the land and onto the waters and physically stop any effort on the part of Enbridge to do preparatory work, site preparation, surveying while this matter is in the courts," said Mr. Phillip.

"Some of us here are going to jail because that's what it's going to take."

At the back of the crowd, musician Scott Archibald said he rarely attends protests, but attended the boisterous gathering because he was struck by the Gateway decision, which he sees as bad for B.C.

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"If (Gateway) goes through and there's an oil spill, the coast is ruined for generations to come," said Mr. Archibald, 39. "The probability of an oil spill is very high."

Mr. Archibald, who said he grew up fishing and swimming on the Gulf islands said he could see the decision coming, but was taken aback by the reality of the pipeline coming closer to reality. He said he was prepared for further activism.

"I know people in my family who voted for Harper and they're against this because they grew up on the B.C. coast."

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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