People lined the sidewalks in front of the gymnasium where the Prime Minister of Canada answered questions from students and attendees. Some of the people in the crowd were happy to see Justin Trudeau, while others were there in protest.
Alexis Harry, traditional name Pipipe7ewele, was one of many Indigenous people at the event protesting Trudeau on the basis of the Trans Mountain expansion plan.
“I’ve worked in the oil and gas industry. I’ve worked in the mining business for five years. We can’t let these multi-billion dollar companies take the land,” Harry, who has been Peace War Chief for the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc since 2016, told the Omega.
“The earth is dying. Whether or not you know it,” he said. “Whether or not you believe it, the earth is dying from the inside out. The salmon are dying. The coral reefs all across the planet are dying. And once the salmon are dead, what can you eat? You can not eat oil.”
Trudeau’s visit to Kamloops is part of a series of discussions he is engaging in across Canada. He has invited people to come see him in town halls and given them the opportunity to ask questions.
The tour has undoubtedly been a way for him to campaign and speak about his policy and plan for Canadians in advance of the upcoming federal election. Trudeau has said that this is an important part of Canadian democracy. Despite this, videos have surfaced of Trudeau side-stepping questions and being heckled by crowds.
The Trans Mountain pipeline has likely been one of the most contentious issues that his government has faced. The expansion plan, which would twin an already existing pipeline delivering heavy crude to the Lower Mainland, has led to provincial premieres battling each other and eventually required the government to purchase the pipeline from energy giant Kinder Morgan.
The pipeline is an issue that many local residents have strong feelings toward, both positive and negative. In May of 2018, there was a spill at a pump station 80 kilometres north of Kamloops in Darfield. As such, the no side is largely concerned about the ecological impact.
“You have to ask yourself, what will my grandchildren have? I fight for them and not only them but for your grandchildren too,” Harry said. “I fight for the future of everyone and for seven generations of our children.”