LONDON—The explosive debate around the Trans Mountain pipeline followed Justin Trudeau to Britain’s capital on April 18, as environmental activists confronted the prime minister with calls to cancel the contentious project.
The activists from Greenpeace UK sought to make their point with an elaborate protest that included erecting a fake pipeline around the Canadian High Commission next to iconic Trafalgar Square that was labelled “Crudeau Oil.”
Rappellers also scaled two of the diplomatic mission’s Greek-style pillars and unfurled large banners with the same words as British police and high commission staff stood passively on the sidewalk below and watched.
The 30 activists had simply hoped to make their message with Trudeau in town, but they actually saw him—albeit for only a few quick seconds—when he departed the high commission for a women’s rights event at city hall.
Trudeau didn’t stop to make small talk while walking briskly to a waiting car as the activists yelled “Climate leaders don’t build pipelines” and “Leave the tarsands in the ground,” but he did thank them for coming out.
Pat Venditti, campaigns director at Greenpeace UK and who originally hails from Niagara, Ont., said the activists wanted to show their objections to the Trudeau government’s plan to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline.
“Many, many people oppose this, including First Nations, the province of British Columbia, the residents of Vancouver and Burnaby,” said Venditti, whose organization did not ask permission for the banners or fake pipeline.
“And we’re here to support them and to say if Mr. Trudeau wants to be a climate leader, he has to leave pipelines out of it.”
Climate change figured prominently in Trudeau’s visit to London, where he met with Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Theresa May before attending a Commonwealth leaders’ meeting on April 19.
Venditti said it was “very hypocritical of the prime minister to be here in London talking about climate change while building a climate-wrecking pipeline that can only lead to more fossil fuels being burned.”
Trudeau has been struggling to resolve a veritable war between B.C. and Alberta over the Trans Mountain pipeline, which he supports in the hopes of increasing oil exports to Asia and decreasing Canada’s reliance on the U.S. market.
B.C. Premier John Horgan has said it opposes the pipeline over environmental concerns, despite what Trudeau says are historic investments in ocean protection and other measures to mitigate against environmental damage.
The prime minister convened a meeting with the premiers of the two provinces on April 15, prior to his trip to France and the U.K., after which he asserted that the pipeline would get built.
While the Greenpeace activists in London were clearly trying to make a splash, not everyone was impressed.
“I don’t think anything about the context, but this type of protest is narcissistic,” said bypasser Ares Nikolle, who was not aware of the Trans Mountain pipeline debate.
“Why don’t you get a lawyer and politicians to get the message through. Go through policies and make a meritorious argument that’s intelligent, researched, and cited that actually weighs the pros and cons.”
From The Canadian Press