Nearly 200 youth from a number of Metro Vancouver municipalities walked out of class Wednesday afternoon to protest the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
“This is a chance to show our elected leaders and Kinder Morgan that our lands, livelihoods and future are more important than a pipeline,” said Ta’Kaiya Blaney in a Facebook livestream before her friend rallied people to get up and leave their high school drama class at Sentinel Secondary in West Vancouver.
The event was organized by Blaney and fellow high school student Eden Reimer in response to the recent political tangle over the expanded pipeline’s future and the commitment from Ottawa to help fund the project, following an ultimatum from Kinder Morgan.
The pipeline company is looking for certainty that the twinned pipeline will be built and has set a deadline of May 31 for political assurances on this front.
Blaney and Reimer said they are also concerned about the lack of Indigenous consent for the expansion.
More than 40 First Nations have signed financial benefit agreements with the pipeline company, but opposition from within those communities and other nations like Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish and Coldwater, remains strong.
‘Reminding our leaders to remember us’
“Walking out of school was a great way for the youth to show Justin Trudeau, Kinder Morgan, our elected leaders that the youth really do care in a way that is impactful and shows that we really prioritize our future,” said Reimer when asked why they decided to take action in the form of a walkout.
Blaney said it’s important for the youth to raise their voices and to be heard by leadership on this issue.
“The youth will be around to experience repercussions of any environmental catastrophes such as an oil spill, or the long lasting legacy of climate change,” she said.
“We’re reminding our leaders to remember us.”
Using the taglines “walkout” and “warrior up,” Blaney and Reimer explained that the event was largely inspired by the call to action from Ta’ah (Amy George), a grandmother and matriarch from Tsleil-Waututh who called for people to “warrior up” to stop the pipeline.
“Let’s show Ta’ah that we can do this!” they wrote on the Facebook page for the event.
Heiltsuk youth hold walkout in Bella Bella
The walkout in Metro Vancouver was scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. but started earlier in other parts of the country.
At around 10 a.m., Jess Housty an elected councilor with the Heiltsuk Nation, posted that more than 50 Heiltsuk youth were holding their own walkout in Bella Bella.
Hope you hear this loud and clear, Feds. Divide and conquer doesn’t work anymore. We stand with our relatives in their fight against Kinder Morgan the same way they stood with us against Enbridge Northern Gateway. No consent? No project. #Heiltsuk #solidarity pic.twitter.com/Rr6ZRZvdnF
— Jess Housty (@heiltsukvoice) May 23, 2018
Housty posted that the youth were joined by hereditary and elected leadership from the nation with support from community members who cheered them on for taking action.
It’s not yet clear where other walkouts may have taken place.
‘Youth can often make huge moves’
In Vancouver, youth, performers and speakers showed up at the Vancouver Art Gallery at around 3 p.m. People CBC spoke to in the crowd said they had come to the gallery after walking out of high schools in West Vancouver, Vancouver and Richmond.
Katerina Szulc came to the rally with a group of teens from Little Flower Academy.
“We’re using our voice for what is right, what we think is right,” she said.
“Youth can often make huge moves.”
The afternoon at the gallery drew the attention of dozens of other people passing by, as performers like hip-hop artist JB The First Lady and Vancouver’s newly minted poet laureate Christie Charles took to the stage.