Canada's environment minister briefly met with dozens of anti-pipeline protesters in downtown Victoria during a photo-op with a local cycling club.

Catherine McKenna was greeted by inflatable killer whales and about 50 protesters in Centennial Square on a bike tour of B.C.'s capital.

McKenna stopped to speak with the group as members confronted her with signs and megaphones.

"I totally appreciate your passion," McKenna told protesters over shouts of "cancel the pipeline!"

The conversation ended when she was asked whether she could guarantee no oil spills off B.C.'s coast.

Earlier this year the government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline project, which would twin an existing pipeline from Alberta to a shipping terminal in Burnaby.

The National Energy Board's approval of the project was then struck down by the Federal Court of Appeal due to lack of consultation with Indigenous people and the board's failure to review impacts on the marine environment. It has gone to a new review process that the federal government says will address both issues.

Opponents say the increase in marine traffic brought about by the pipeline expansion would have disastrous consequences on the endangered orca population.

They have been demanding the federal government issue an emergency order to protect endangered southern resident orcas off B.C.'s coast.

"I think the big thing is this is the minister of environment, not the minister of getting oil to market," said Torrance Coste of the environmental advocacy group Wilderness Committee. "The southern resident orcas are critically endangered. We need an emergency order to protect them, not bringing hundreds more tankers into their habitat."

The government has resisted such pleas, saying it has already taken measures to ensure the recovery of the endangered whales, which number just 74.

McKenna was on a tour of the Capital Region's bike trails with the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition. She later tweeted her thanks to the City of Victoria for showing climate leadership. It was her second day in Victoria.