An estimated 3000 people converged on the lawns of the legislature in Victoria Monday for the first phase of the Defend Our Coast protest. Phase two runs in communities throughout the province Wednesday with protesters in Kelowna set to convene at MLA Steve Thomson's constituency office.

Local student plays key role in pipeline protests

Kelowna lead for Defend Our Coast action campaign says she knew thousands of others were equally horrified by the environmental threat

  • Oct. 22, 2012 6:00 p.m.

UBCO human kinetics student Danielle Prins is on the road trip of a lifetime to reduce the sorts of environmental impact cars, and more specifically the oil and gas industry, has on this world.

Monday afternoon, she took part in the provincial Defend Our Coast day of action against “tar sands, pipelines and tankers” in Victoria, and on Wednesday she is expecting 150 to 200 people to join her in a similar protest in Kelowna.

Danielle Prins“It’s all about defending Canada’s coastline and…this is just my passion,” she said, noting it has no connection to what she’s studying in school.

Prins started with a poster-board protest on campus against oil pipelines and was eventually noticed by UBCO’s Environment and Sustainability Club, which connected her with the provincial campaign organizers as a go-to person for the Central Okanagan.

“We’re really trying to raise awareness and publicity against the FIPA agreement,” she said in a telephone interview Monday, making referencing to the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement.

FIPA, as it’s known, is a complex trade agreement set to layout at least 15 years of trade negotiations between Canada and China and will, among other things, pave the way for Chinese takeover of the Calgary-based oil and gas company Nexen Inc.

The Nexen deal highlights the larger national pipeline issue—with the Enbridge Gateway pipeline front and centre—as getting oil from Alberta to British Columbia’s ports requires a means of moving product out for shipment to foreign markets.

Kinder Morgan is also proposing to double its Trans Mountain Pipeline from Alberta to boost capacity to 750,000 barrels a day, but Prins says the protest isn’t really about targeting specific companies, like Enbridge or Kinder Morgan, so much as it’s directed at stopping the transportation of oil and gas altogether.

She believes there is plenty of support for the cause and a good chance the protest will turn the tides for those opposed to the pipeline, drawing enough attention to spur political debate.

“I’ve learned that I was right; there are a lot of people against this,” Prins said from the legislature lawn where Monday’s protest was staged.

Surrounded by screaming protesters, some decked out in oil spill costumes, black smears over their faces, she said thousands had come out for the issue and was impressed with how many people were willing to stand out in the cold for hours to raise awareness of the federal and provincial governments’ activities.

“This is about power to the people and the people should be the government,” she said.

The Kelowna protest is timed to occur along with community-based protests across the province, all coordinated using a Facebook event page entitled Defend Our Coast BC-wide Community Actions.

The Defend Our Coast campaign has seen widespread uptake on social media and garnered the support of artists like Dan Mangan, a Vancouver-based musician, and actor Mark Ruffalo, a resident of California.

“As the world inevitably transitions away from fossil fuels, a small group of corporate radicals is dead set on accelerating climate change in the biggest land grab and property rights infringement in history,” Ruffalo’s quote in the campaign posters states as he critiques the way the pipeline projects are allegedly being pushed through.

The Kelowna protest will take place at MLA Steve Thomson’s office, 102-2121 Ethel Street, and will be followed by a protest on the UBCO campus from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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