by Michael Potestio / Kamloops This Week
Secwépemc protesters have settled in for the long haul in a bid to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project from being completed in Kamloops.
On Saturday (Oct. 3), a group of about 20 people set up what they call a permanent camp along the shores of the Thompson River, off Mission Flats Road and near a pipeline worksite.
The encampment is located in the same area where a Secwépemc man held a vision quest and fast in protest of the pipeline at the end of August.
Miranda Dick, a spokesperson for the camp, told KTW the sole goal of the encampment is to stop the pipeline twinning project.
Asked what protesters are prepared to do to achieve that, Dick replied: “Everything.”
Dick was also involved in the vision quest protest and was present when another Secwépemc woman chained herself to a fence near a Trans Mountain worksite at Kamloops Airport in September. That woman was arrested, charged and released.
Some of the protesters gathered at the permanent camp plan to remain there around the clock, while others have morning or night shifts, Dick said, noting Secwépemc elders, youth and a couple of teachers are among the group.
There were three vehicles and a motorcycle parked off Mission Flats Road west of Domtar on Monday morning, near where the encampment has been set up. KTW observed three people moving firewood from the end of the road back to camp, which this newspaper was not permitted to visit.
Photos of the encampment online show a few tents and canopys along the shores of the river.
The encampment is blocking the pipeline route, but so far no one from Trans Mountain or the RCMP has made contact with the protesters, Dick told KTW.
Trans Mountain has a B.C. Supreme Court injunction prohibiting the obstruction of access to the company’s worksites.
Dick said the protesters are not violating that court order as it only applies to impeding work. Asked if protesters are impeding the work, Dick replied: “Not right now.” Asked if they plan to do so, Dick said she did not know.
“I can’t incriminate myself,” she said.
Dick said the question that should be asked is what action is Trans Mountain willing to take toward the people?
“What means and necessity would they need to be putting this pipeline through our territory? There’s no consultation and no consent,” she said.
Secwépemc elders, youth and a couple of teachers are among the group at the camp. – Michael Potestio/KTW
Work at the Trans Mountain site on Mission Flats Road, which is about 500 metres from the protesters, appeared to be ongoing without disruption on Monday morning.
During the vision quest protest, the company said it was not taking any action as construction activity was not being obstructed. Trans Mountain noted it respects the right to peaceful, lawful expressions of opinions.
The encampment is located near where a portion of the new pipeline will be pulled underneath the river using a drilling process.
Trans Mountain did not make a spokesperson available Monday, but said drilling work across the Thompson River has begun, and stressed the company’s court injunction.
Dick said the protesters speak for all Secwépemc people, arguing their lands cannot be surrendered or ceded by anyone.
Asked how they can speak for all Secwépemc people when there are those among the Secwépemc in favour of the pipeline twinning project — including individuals and elected band councils — Dick said there are those who have been “bought and paid for through Indian Affairs” who must support the project as some bands have signed benefit agreements with Trans Mountain.
One of those bands includes Tk’emlups te Secwépemc, which has a $3-million deal with the company.
Online, the protesters invited all supporters to join them at the camp to help stop the project.
“We love our land our water our wild salmon our people, ourselves and we defend what sustains us and what will sustain our future generations,” stated the Facebook page We the Secwépemc: Virtual Unity Camp to stop Trans Mountain Pipeline.
The post stated the RCMP, province and “any other agents of the state or court” have no jurisdiction on unceded Secwépemc territory and no injunction has been issued that applies to the ceremonial occupation site on the river.
“No one can own the river, the water way and we move ahead with the full force of our ancestors and with love for the land,” the post states.
Dick said the group is not affiliated with the Tiny House Warriors — a number of Secwépemc members opposed to the pipeline expansion project. They are now based near Blue River, where they are building tiny houses they plan to place in the path of the pipeline expansion route.