Fears of an inevitable spill should the Enbridge pipeline be built across B.C. prompted a Kamloops teacher to join some 6,000 protesters on the lawn of the legislature.
“Any kind of spill would be detrimental to the coast,” said David Komljenovic said during a phone interview Monday.
Komljenovic stood alongside other members of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. As far as he knew, he was the only teacher from Kamloops to attend.
However, Kamloops-Thompson Teachers’ Association president Jason Karpuk was tweeting from the rally.
Various unions including the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, the Canadian Auto Workers, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union have endorsed the Northern Gateway protests.
“We have to stand beside our union brothers and sisters,” said Komljenovic, a member of the BCTF executive committee.
First Nations drumming could be heard in the background while Komljenovic talked. At one point a loud cheer almost drowned out his words.
“It’s a very peaceful protest here,” he said. “People have come to send a message.”
That message was directed at provincial and federal governments about the plan to pipe crude from the Alberta oil sands to a tanker port in Kitimat.
While organizers had said they wanted a peaceful protest, some people were lining up at a Greenpeace tent to sign legal forms to participate in what the group’s officials said could become an act of civil disobedience.
Peter McHugh, spokesman for the group Defend Our Coast, said demonstrators do not take such action lightly.
“We mean to deliver a message to Christy Clark and the federal government that British Columbians oppose these tar sands, tankers and pipelines,” McHugh said.
Greenpeace is known for using attention-grabbing methods that include placing huge banners on whaling ships or business headquarters to highlight their causes.
McHugh said he hopes the protest shows that opponents of the project run the gamut from grandmothers to business owners.
Not specifically an educational issue, the pipeline will impact future generations, said Komljenovic. This means teachers need to stand by First Nations and environmental groups in protest.
“It does relate to children and the future,” said Komljenovic, adding teachers need to advocate on behalf of their students.
Celebrities such as actor Ellen Page, singer Dan Mangan and filmmaker Michael Moore are also backing the cause, as are activists including David Suzuki and Stephen Lewis.
About 4,500 people have signed an online pledge promising support for the protest in Victoria and another provincewide protest planned for Wednesday at MLA offices in 55 communities.
The Northern Gateway pipeline would carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands through northern B.C. to a tanker port in Kitimat in one pipe, and condensate from Kitimat east to Alberta in another pipe.