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Thousands march in Canada to protest pipeline expansion project

Thousands of Canadians have staged a protest rally against a US-based company’s pipeline expansion project, expressing alarm at the risk of oil spills and detrimental impacts on the local environment and wildlife.

The mass protest, led by indigenous leaders, environmental groups, activists, and local residents, gathered the opponents of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby on Saturday.

The organizers of the rally called on people to raise their voices to stop the 5.7-billion-dollar pipeline expansion project, which could nearly triple the flow of oil from Canada’s tar sands in the western province of Alberta to the Pacific Coast of British Columbia.

The 1,150-kilometer pipeline project by the Canadian division of Texas-based Kinder Morgan would raise the flow of oil products to 890,000 barrels per day up from 300,000 bpd, dramatically increasing the number of oil tankers traveling across the area, which is mostly inhabited by indigenous communities and Native American tribes.

Marching toward a site near Kinder Morgan’s storage tank farm in Burnaby, the protesters beat drums and carried signs that read, “’No consent, no pipeline,” and “Keep it in the ground.”

Critics say the expansion of pipeline capacity and boosting the number of ships transportinh oil products would pose serious threats to the environment, worsen climate change, and increase the risks of oil spills and potentially adverse effects on fish, orcas, and other animals.

The project has drawn legal challenges and opposition from local municipalities, Native American tribes, and indigenous communities such as Squamish First Nations, Tsleil-Waututh, and the Musqueam.

“We cannot sit idly by and let this project go with the way it would threaten our livelihood, our lives, our territories, our waters and our culture,” said Dustin Rivers, a Squamish Nation leader.

Rueben George, of the Tsleil-Waututh, told the crowds on Saturday that it would take more rallies and protests to stop the project.

“It’s going to take gatherings such as this… [to] make sure the environment is not laid to waste and taken away from future generations. This is what we stand for today,” George said.

A day earlier, British Columbia’s Supreme Court had granted Kinder Morgan an interim injunction aimed at preventing anti-pipeline activists from protesting construction at two terminals in Burnaby.

The injunction restricts protesters from coming within 50 meters of the facilities until March 14, when a hearing on the matter will be held.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the project in late 2016, saying it was in Canada’s best interest.

Supporters of the pipeline capacity expansion, which has operated since 1953, argue that the project will give Canada access to new global markets and provide jobs and millions of dollars in economic benefits.