Politics

'You have no right to do this': Indigenous protester interrupts Trudeau speech in Vancouver

'You have no right to do this': Indigenous protester interrupts Trudeau speech in Vancouver

Anti-pipeline protesters dogged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he appeared at a fundraiser in Vancouver, interrupting a speech to supporters Wednesday.

The interaction happened at the Opus Hotel as the prime minister attended one of two scheduled events with federal Liberals in the city.

Inside, the prime minister found himself in a terse exchange with a Tsleil-Waututh Nation member, Will George, who accused him of being a “liar and a weak leader.”

“Our waters, those are our spiritual highways. You have no right to do this to us,” George said.

Trudeau responded by arguing that not all First Nations are opposed to the project.

“I have heard from some of your fellow Indigenous leaders who are in favour of resource development, who want to be a part of (this),” Trudeau said.

George responded: “Why don’t you sit down with my people? Why don’t you talk to them? You talk to everybody that wants to sign off on this.”

“I heard you. I hear you today, I understand your concerns,” said Trudeau as security ushered George out of the room.

WATCH: Justin Trudeau responds to question from Wet’suwet’en nation member

Demonstrators with Protect the Inlet also vowed to follow the prime minister as he travelled between fundraising events Wednesday with a jumbotron mounted on the back of a truck.

The vehicle, bearing the message “Trudeau, no pipelines in a climate emergency,” turned up outside Trudeau’s lunchtime appearance at the Opus Hotel, where a group of pipeline opponents staged a protest.

A jumbotron truck with an anti-pipeline message passes in front of a protest at the Opus Hotel on Wednesday, May 22, 2019.

Global News

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation, whose traditional territory encompasses a large portion of the Lower Mainland, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, warning of potential ecological damage to salmon and orca populations.

It was one of the B.C. nations whose legal challenge saw the pipeline’s approval quashed in the Federal Court of Appeal last summer, forcing the government to conduct a new round of consultation with First Nations.

Not all Indigenous groups oppose the pipeline, however.

At least two coalitions representing bands from B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan have been raising capital with the hope of organizing a bid to buy the project, which is currently owned by the federal government.

Ottawa has until June 18 to complete consultations with Indigenous groups before making a final decision on whether to proceed with the plan to twin the pipeline.