Under the stewardship of several British Columbia indigenous First Nations, close to 5000 people from all over the Canadian province came together on October 22 to demand the planned Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines be stopped.
For the past few months, people all over BC had been recruiting people to join the rally and to engage in peaceful civil disobedience.
The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would cross British Columbia. The pipelines would bring tar sands crude to be shipped to international markets. Oil produced from tar sands emits more greenhouse gases than conventional crude oil, and the mining process is highly environmentally destructive.
More than 4000 people pledged online to risk arrest either at the Victoria rally or at local events in their community. Protesters put up a 245-metre-long banner on wooden posts, representing the length of one of the proposed supertankers.
By staking the posts into the ground on the lawn of the legislature protesters were breaking the law and risking arrest. But the Victoria police department allowed this to go unmolested and no one was arrested.
Jolan Bailey, one of a host of event organisers, had this to say: “This is about demonstrating that British Colombians are willing to do anything to stop these projects.
“To me this was never about getting arrested, it’s about showing Premiere Clark and Prime Minister Harper just how far regular Canadians are willing to go to stop tanker and pipeline expansion.”
“The power in a movement is at that moment when people are willing to get arrested,” Bailey said. “We’re putting the politicians on the defensive. What happened today was a powerful thing ― people from all walks of life came together and committed to taking a stand … everything that usually divides us didn’t today.”
The protesters and speakers represented a diverse cross-section of the people of BC. As well as the First Nations people were members of the BC Federation of Teachers, the Communication, Energy, and Paper workers union, the Canadian Auto Workers, and other unions had their banners and flags there.
From the stage, Art Sterritt, a Coastal First Nations leader, asked: “Who is willing to lay down in front of the bulldozers to stop the pipeline?” The crowd replied “We will!”
He asked: “Who is going to change the BC government if they don’t stop putting our coast up for sale?” The crowd replied, “We will!”
The speakers talked about the incredible solidarity that brought together so many First Nations, environmental groups and trade unions. They talked about the devastation facing us when these pipelines and tankers have a spill. But they also noted the climate damage we are already experiencing and that will only get worse if we don’t stop oil extraction in the tar sands.
[Abridged from Canadian Socialist Worker. For more information visit DefendOurCoast.ca.]