Traffic piles up over Nanaimo pipeline protest

NANAIMO - Standing Rock solidarity protestors block traffic on Terminal Avenue.

An anti-oil pipeline protest proved vexing for rush hour commuters on Terminal Avenue Thursday evening.

Protestors staged in Maffeo Sutton Park’s Lions Pavilion late Thursday afternoon where speakers from local First Nations and other supporting groups voiced their opposition to the recent government approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in B.C. and displayed their solidarity with the ongoing protest to halt construction of the North Dakota Direct Access oil pipeline route under the Missouri River.

Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog, who spoke at the rally but left before those who attended marched to Terminal Avenue, estimated the crowd at about 150.

“There’s a strong depth of feeling in British Columbia about the expansion – not so much even the pipeline as it is the tanker traffic in the Salish Sea,” Krog said. “I think that’s the guts of the issue, plus I mean a fair number of people obviously just saying, ‘Look, it’s the 21st century. It’s time to switch from oil to alternate energy.’”

Patrick Aleck, one of the organizers of the rally, said the decision to block traffic on Terminal Avenue was spontaneous, not something that was planned before the rally.

“Yeah, we wanted to really take a stand, I guess, and to be heard,” Aleck said. “This is a humanity issue. I know a lot of people are saying this is a First Nations issue, but I think it’s a human issue. It’s not about race. It’s about the health of the earth … and that’s what we were trying to say.”

Aleck said the protestors blocked traffic on Terminal Avenue for about five to 10 minutes and were already beginning to return to Maffeo Sutton Park when police arrived. The protestors concluded with a prayer in the park and then went home.

“We still wanted to be kind of considerate of other people, right? But we wanted to prove a point too,” Aleck said.

Aleck and Nanaimo RCMP confirmed no one was arrested.