The umbrella group Defend Our Climate said demonstrations were held in about 130 communities to send a clear message against oilsands expansion and accompanying pipeline projects.
The biggest gathering appeared to be in Vancouver, where a rally against the Northern Gateway pipeline proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge (TSX:ENB) drew dozens of environmental groups, First Nations, and families opposed to tankers that could pose the risk of an oil spill.
The 1,200-kilometre pipeline would carry 550,000 barrels of heavy oil a day from Alberta to a port in Kitimat, on the north coast of B.C., for shipment to lucrative markets in Asia.
An oil spill from tankers plying coastal waters could have disastrous consequences, said 33-year-old Ryan Sieber, who carried a placard saying: "Alberta's pipedream is B.C.'s nightmare."
"I feel fairly strongly about not having a pipeline in our backyard," said Sieber, who moved from Ontario eight years ago.
Sieber said he did not have faith in safety protocols proposed by Enbridge in case of a spill although the company has said it's committed to a response capacity that's beyond what's required under Canadian law.
Will Horter of the Dogwood Initiative, a group opposed to increased oil tanker traffic off the B.C. coast, said a spill is inevitable with the amount of traffic that would come with the project.
Protester Andrea Walker-Collins said she's fearful of her future and that of her nine-month-old daughter Eleanor.
"I just became a mother this year and I grew up on the West Coast and I think it's a wonderful, beautiful place and I want that for her. That generation needs to be remembered."
Retired teacher Yvon Raoul played the bagpipes at the rally and said that while energy is needed for future generations in Canada and elsewhere, investing in infrastructure worth billions of dollars may not pay off in the long run.
In Toronto, dozens of protesters at one point lay on the ground to form a "human pipeline" to illustrate their spirited opposition to pipeline projects, including the proposed reversal of Enbridge's Line 9 to carry oilsands crude through Ontario and Quebec.
Bruna Nota, 74, called the development of the oilsands "reckless" and says the environment is at risk wherever the crude bitumen is extracted or transported.
She said extraction of Alberta crude must stop because it is wreaking havoc on water sources, wildlife and affecting the health of First Nations communities.
"There is no safe way of doing tar sands exploitation," she said.
Ken Ferguson, 29, said that there is no guarantee an oilsands extraction project or pipeline won't leak or spill, adding the resulting damage can't be fully undone.
Several demonstrations were also staged in Quebec, including the Mohawk community of Kanesatake, near Montreal, which also protested against the proposed Enbridge pipeline.Suggest a correction