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Enbridge Northern Gateway Protest Rallies Held Across B.C.

Hundreds of people rallied in downtown Vancouver against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, just hours after it received conditional federal approval.

Dubbed "The Answer Is Still No," Tuesday's protest brought together First Nations, environmental groups and other people who oppose the pipeline, which is proposed to link Alberta's oilsands to a port in Kitimat on B.C.'s coast.

"B.C. still says 'No' to the Enbridge pipeline — the battle has just begun and it will be taken to the streets, the blockades, and the courts," said a news release announcing the event.

The evening protest across from the main Vancouver Public Library spilled into the CBC Plaza and blocked traffic.

Story continues after slideshow:

Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Protest, June 2014

At least two other rallies were held in Kitimat, the city where the 1,200-kilometre pipeline would end. B.C. Premier Christy Clark was in the region Tuesday to announce a land deal with the Haisla First Nation.

Douglas Channel Watch rallied at the "Downtown Kitimat" sign on Tuesday morning, as well as that afternoon after Ottawa's announcement, reported Northwest Coastal Energy News.

A protest was also organized in downtown Victoria.

The Harper government's decision is contingent on Enbridge satisfying 209 conditions set out by a federal review panel and embarking on more consultations with affected aboriginal communities.

The Sierra Club B.C. called the approval a "slap in the face" for British Columbians.

"But ultimately, it changes nothing: the Enbridge pipeline will not get built," said spokeswoman Caitlyn Vernon.

During the Vancouver rally, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs not so subtly hinted at the rocky road ahead: "It's official. The war is on," he told the crowd.

Phillip's union is part of a coalition of aboriginal groups in B.C. that announced it was going to court to "vigorously pursue all lawful means to stop the Enbridge project." The statement was signed by 28 individual bands and the three main aboriginal organizations in the province.

"This project, and the federal process to approve it, violated our rights and our laws. We are uniting to defend our lands and waters of our respective territories," they said on Tuesday.

Several First Nations and environmental groups have already filed applications with the Federal Court to review the federal panel report that recommended approval.

B.C.'s premier has said the project still has not met the five conditions the province has set out for approval. Those conditions include strict environmental protections, adequate consultations with First Nations, and that B.C. receives a "fair share" of the benefits.

Clark has pointed out the project will still need about 60 permits from the province for construction to proceed.

A coalition of groups announced Monday that they will help organize a provincial citizens' initiative — similar to the campaign that forced B.C. to revoke the unpopular harmonized sales tax — should the province issue those permits. If successful, the petition would force the B.C. government to respond either with a vote in the legislature or by holding a non-binding province-wide plebiscite.

With files from The Canadian Press

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