A wall of opposition rises

Photo credit: Dan Pauls


Welcome to the battle for B.C.

There’s an old saying about the relationship between B.C. and Canada that goes like this: Victoria is 3,500 kilometres from Ottawa, but Ottawa is 5,000 miles from B.C. It’s a truism with a habit of proving itself with each generation’s passing.

Today, as events surrounding the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline unfold at a dizzying pace, an unprecedented alliance of British Columbians and Indigenous communities is emerging. Their goal to defend B.C.’s culture, economy and environment is finally being championed by the decision makers who represent them. In response, Alberta launched a punitive trade war against B.C. wine (they have since walked back).

The blame for this conflict can be laid squarely at the feet of the Prime Minister’s Office, which has not only underestimated the extent to which both provinces would rise to defend their interests, but lied from the beginning about the intentions for — and ramifications of — Kinder Morgan’s expansion. The consequence is an ever-widening rift between B.C. and Ottawa – one that is antithetical to the “national interest”. So how did we get here?

Place & Culture

Cultures vary because they must be compatible with their environments. This simple fact is why polar opposite reactions can occur within a federation and a land mass as large as Canada. Different climates and different ways of life evoke different cultural responses.

If you live east of the Rockies, you might not get worked up when Catherine McKenna says things like “the environment and the economy go hand in hand”… To justify a project Jim Carr says was only approved after a “very rigorous review”… While Prime Minister Trudeau maintains it “was always a tradeoff.” But in B.C., the economy and the environment aren’t meaningless rhetoric, nor do they go “hand in hand”. The former depends squarely on the health of the latter.

A project with too many tradeoffs 

At the highest level, we refuse to add further risk to environmental and cultural values already threatened by existing development, never mind adding a 20-fold increase in the volume of diluted bitumen traversing the Fraser — the longest river in BC. The salmon who fight their way up it, feeding commercial and traditional fishermen each leap of the way, face warming water and unpredictable flow in addition to myriad other threats.

At the most basic level, we’re not debating climate change anymore — we’re trying to protect our jobs, homes and wallets from it.

Between the Rocky Mountains and the coast, we spent a record $563 million on forest fire suppression last summer. We’ve also lost $57.3 billion dollars in GDP to the pine beetle. Vancouver and its neighbouring municipalities will need to spend $9.5 billion to address rising sea levels along about 250 kilometres of shared coastline.

Feeding families

In the most recent maritime incident highlighting Canada’s inadequate spill response regime, the Nathan E. Stewart ran aground on the reefs off the coast of Bella Bella, disgorging its fuel oil. The fallout drove this point home: in the real world, marine spills are rarely recovered and their impacts are persistent.

The consequences of that spill are not limited to the food supply of the Heiltsuk Nation, whose shellfish beds are still closed more than a year later. Rose Osmond, a clam grader from Union Bay, and Terry McKay, an Oyster grader from Zeballos, work for a small company processing shellfish both for restaurants and export. “All our supply came from Bella Bella. We’ve had to cut a shift back and we lost a big part of our distribution business. It’s been more than a year and there is no sign it will reopen anytime soon.”

Oyster industry workers

McKay and Osmond are part of a twenty person processing team supplied by forty harvesters who work off one dock on the edge of Baynes Sound. They are a dot on a map, a microcosm of the tens of thousands of jobs that depend on B.C. as we know it: wildlife guides, ski instructors, geoduck divers, resort owners, realtors. British Columbians run commercial fishing boats, kayaking businesses and waterfront restaurants. People move their businesses here from around the world, and tourists arrive by the hundreds of thousands. People work here, from the land and sea, right now. These are the people who now feel compelled to defend the place they live and the livelihoods that feed their families.

A dark history

When you live in a “sacrifice zone”, resistance becomes a part of your DNA. In 1935, thousands of workers boarded trains ‘On to Ottawa.’ The movement started in the Port of Vancouver and in B.C.’s remote labour camps used by the federal government to remove unemployed labourers from the political process – effectively denying them a say over their future.

Denying citizens a voice in matters critical to their welfare is a recipe for backlash. In the fight over Kinder Morgan’s bungled oil tanker project, Ottawa has once again pulled those tactics down off the shelf. What they’ve done to ignore, undermine, weaken and disenfranchise Indigenous nations could fill a library – start with Arthur Manuel’s Unsettling Canada (2015). Safe to say, no nations have forgotten the egregious crimes Ottawa committed against citizens in British Columbia as they methodically worked to separate people from their land.

The post-trust present

British Columbians draw upon their culture and history when responding to threats, and we draw upon our experience when we make decisions about our environment and economy. Despite a desperate misinformation campaign by the oil industry, local politicians and everyday British Columbians aren’t fooled. For the first time in memory, governing MLAs, mayors, MPs, citizens and Indigenous nations are all on the same page.

If the most recent Insights West poll commissioned by Burnaby MP Kennedy Stewart is correct, 400,000 of us – a stunning percentage – are so committed to stopping Kinder Morgan’s pipeline and oil tankers, we are willing to consider civil disobedience. And in the most recent Angus Reid Poll, it’s the next generation of voters who most vociferously oppose the project. Both the possibility of a messy “scene” and losing young voters should make Trudeau nervous.

I’ll end with this final truism. Ottawa understands it cannot force projects like these on close to home jurisdictions like Ontario or Quebec. When this is over, they will have to add our province to that list.

If you are just tuning in, welcome to the battle for B.C.

39 Responses to “A wall of opposition rises”

  1. jbmcnevin says:

    Very articulate. Well done.

  2. Gary says:

    thank you for this informational history. Yes, we BCers do fight to keep our province clean and functional.. as we always will

  3. Dianna K. Goneau Inkster says:

    Very insightful!

  4. Mike Summers says:

    Long live a free BC.

  5. Bernard Hink says:

    The tanker collision near Japan turns out to be a bigger disaster now that the diesel and oil has beached

  6. Heath Purdy says:

    In solidarity thank you. Kinder Morgan must be STOPPED!! BC will not be bullied by Alberta and Ottawa. This is our coast and we plan to protect it. Whatever it takes.

  7. Denise olson says:

    I am one of those many willing to risk civil disobedience to save the Coast and Salish Sea from the Dilbit Fiasco.

  8. Donna DesBiens says:

    Thanks for coming back on message. It helps maintain critical thinking in the public discourse – and shines a light on how fight-bytes, name calling, and belittling others involved in the issues goes nowhere to solve the problems

  9. whycheck yourfacts says:

    you might want to do some fact checking: abalone harvesting has been closed for the entire BC coast for a number of decades now……there is a huge poaching problem, and when a widely read social media post makes an inference by mentioning “abalone divers” the problem will only get worse….

    • Lisa Sammartino says:

      Thanks for this note! You are correct and we’ve edited this piece to that effect. Thanks for your fact checking! I believe Dave e-mailed you directly to thank you as well. – Lisa

  10. Karla Forgaard-Pullen says:

    Peaceful protests in BC are historically met by RCMP violence. Labour unions Dukhobors environmentalists and First Nations all are witnesses to that. Most of BC has RCMP as their civil force. Prepare for civil rights eat.

  11. Angie Belanger says:

    I live east of the Rockies and I do get worked up. Many Canadians like myself support indigenous rights, support environmentalists, and support science. I see this becoming a Canadian issue not just AB vs. BC, not Canada vs. First Nations, not oil vs. rights. Many like myself across Canada are getting involved in one way or another – whether it’s social media, letters to government, signing petitions, etc. Being in Ontario, please don’t think Ottawa doesn’t do things in their own backyard – they already have and do all the time. I’m a Canadian first, who cares about our country – its beauty, its resources, its fresh water, its legacy to future generations and the world. The Rockies are not a wall, please don’t be biased, I’m not. Please don’t do east vs. west – I don’t. Great article but make it more about Ottawa, not Ontario & Quebec please?

  12. What a fabulous piece of writing, Dave! Thank you for saying this so clearly and articulately.

  13. Delete the second “projects” in the last paragraph. I agree and continue to support you. I am also one of the many who will be looking for classes on civil disobedience.

  14. Sally Allan says:

    Dave Mills, thank you for an excellent article. You have articulated so well what I feel about this horrific project. The battle for B.C. How true that is.

  15. Bill Eadie says:

    The NEB engaged in a fraudulent review process for Trans Mountain Pipeline.. Evidence submitted by the proponent was not tested in oral cross examination, a hallmark in any system of natural justice. The NEB review was certainly not rigorous. Questions put to Kinder Morgan were very often disallowed. Risk assessments and spill cleanup plans were largely kept secret from the City of Vancouver, and incredibly, the scenario of a catastrophic dilbit spill in the coastal waters was not examined.. Can’t happen? Really….Up to 950.000 barrels of toxic condensate spilled from the double hulled, state of the art navigation system equipped Sanchi, after a collision with another vessel in the South China Sea recently. B.C. Ferries Queen of the North sunk in B.C. waters. Oh, I forgot . these disasters were caused likely by human error. Trudeau campaigned on a solemn promise to redo the broken review process of the NEB regarding Kinder Morgan. The Ministerial Panel that followed was a sham with less investigative powers than the NEB. Promise broken. Incredibly, green house gas emissions from the life cycle of this bitumen product were not included in the rigorous vetting.They were in liberal vote rich Quebec. Kinder Morgan Pipeline will produce 125 MT/annum of CO2. Altogether Trudeau’s CO2 mitigation strategies will reduce CO2 by only 35 MT. This includes $50.00 ton tax on carbon and reducing coal burning. Come on. Who is kidding who here? Are we going to stand by and watch this unbelievable folly unfold endangering our people and our land. Are we going to stand by while thousands are arrested. Are we going to stand by while a fickle federal government hides behind corporate civil ( SLAPP) suits in an effort to intimidate further protest.This is a sell out of monumental proportions. We will not stand for it.

  16. Marvin Haave says:

    This octogenarian is one of the 400,000 ready for civil disobedience over Kinder Morgan.

  17. Kristi says:

    To Angie, I am from BC but yes! I believe most canadians, even if they aren’t aware, appreciate our beautiful environment and when it is threatened in such a profound way will say something. This pipeline hits this cord hard here in BC but in no way should pit one provence against another. We need support from all Canadians and note it hasn’t gone unnoticed the huge support we received from Quebec and back east when BC wines were banned from AB.
    Thank you for your thoughtful words and support. Only together can we stop this.

  18. Caroline Maloney says:

    Thank you, Dogwood, Dave Mills, for this informative history and current update of the “good fight” for BC! It is so heartening that there is finally a political party in place that will work along with the people of B.C. against the insane corrupt drive to destroy the land, livelihoods and environment of the beautiful B.C. coast!

  19. Lissa Knott says:

    True that!

  20. Lissa Knott says:

    Fantastic article that so clearly articulates the issues at hand and the feelings of so many people in British Columbia. Thank you.

  21. Barry Faires says:

    I am so thrilled by the stand that Fist Nations are making! I stand with them. Saying, NO!”, to Trudeau and Notley and Kinder Morgan Is saying, “YES!” to a more healthy British Columbia and the rest of Canada! I definitely say, NO!”. I say, NO!”, to Mr. Trudeau’s neocolonialism, as well! Thank you, profoundly, for this essay.

  22. Wayne Choquette says:

    Two points to add: First, the news makes clear that the Federal Liberals do not know what the definition of a terrorist is, given that they consort with convicted attempted political murderers. They can have NO justification for labelling environmental activists as “terrorists” and we must all publicly identify ourselves as guardians of Gaia and our grandchildren, and as patriots “standing on guard for … the true north strong and free”. Otherwise Junior and his gang will claim public support to sic the military on us.
    Second, we just recognized a day for anti-bullying, this time, cyber-bullying. We also have the need to stand up to corporate bullies, Kinder Morgan being a classic example, what with their attempted SLAPP over crossing a park, their blatant disregard for the law in damaging spawning beds and their razor wire barricade on Crown water.

  23. George MacLeod says:

    Enjoyed reading your article; Just tired of the lies and deceitful practices of the Conservatives and Liberals; they both feed out of the same troughs. Our future generations depend on us to do what is right. This should be the end of these two party’s. We have reached a point where the multi national corporations and 1% are crushing us like bugs on a sidewalk. If police and military are brought into this for Kinder Morgan’s protection and not for the rights of Canadians, the gov’t should resign.

  24. Nancy Lowe says:

    I am from Ontario, but I am right on board with No More Tankers. Trudeau needs to be accountable to his promises. Enough of the Lieberals. Thanks and keep on fighting.

  25. karen fox says:

    YES and don’t forget if a spell happens,
    CANADIAN taxpayers get to pay for the clean up NOT Kinder Morgan ! Who agreed to that.

  26. William Prestwich says:

    It is time the media stopped referring to non existent Alberta oil sands. The Alberta tar sands are no more oil sands tha California’s tar pits are oil pits. Getting the tar involves wasting the natural gas reserves. Getting the tar to flow in pipelines requires adding carcinogens and toxins.

  27. Jen Couture says:

    Wasn’t it Harper who used the “terrorist” label for anyone who took a stand for the environment, against harmful developments? I like your idea of identifying as “patriots of our beautiful Canada, and guardians of Gaia”; has a more positive connotation than “protesters”.
    How can the RCMP whose contracts are paid for by the Canadian people, then turn around, and step on their grandmother with their govt-issue boots, and become the private body-guards for corporations, when the little toadie taxpayer gets out of line? They can and they have, and they will.

  28. SUSAN EYRE says:

    It’s time to identify the ‘Econo-terrorists’, as opposed to the ‘Guardians of Canadas’ environment. We Guardians need to be pro-active, we are honorable, we are standing up on behalf of the existing economy, and the environment that sustains the economy. The ‘Econo-Terrorists’ have been less than truthful in their reports, they do not honor the First Nations treaty rights and UNDRIP, they are willing to minimize the devastating damage that a dilbit spill would cause in the Salish Sea, and they are actively denying the consequences of climate-change. The econo-terrorists must be identified by name and company, as enemies of planetary health.

  29. Jean Jordan says:

    It’s a relief to see so many real Canadians joining in to support the beautiful coast of British Columbia.

    And if you are really tired of the Liberals take a look on-line at the complete policy manual of the Green Party or the book on Climate Change written by Elizabeth May many years ago. She has been recognized as Parliamentarian of the Year, Hardest working MP, and as best debater in Ottawa. On Vancouver Island some of us are privileged to have her as our MP.

  30. Karl says:

    Understand the strong emotions about this, and a lot of good factual points made about risks to existing BC jobs. But (as some others have commented) name-calling and demonizing Albertans, Ontarians, politicians, and the Prime Minister in particular, makes more enemies than allies. We are not dealing with Stephen Harper as PM anymore. And Rachel Notley is not Jason Kenney.

    We do live in Canada, not just in BC, and we need each other. We do not live in a “sacrifice zone”, and no one is being denied a say over their future by removal to a remote labour camp. We all get to vote, and will vote again next year. Governing a country is tough and there ARE trade-offs. A country whose leader is not doing what some of us want and who has broken some election promises is bad, but a country where the rule of law – including Indigenous rights – are ignored is worse.

    Language matters. This is not a battle, much less a war. Anyone who calls it that has never been in one.

  31. Nan says:

    Thank you to Angie. I am from Victoria and appreciate your words.

  32. Nan says:

    Go Marvin!

  33. Nan says:

    I agree with George. The liberals and conservatives have served their time and served our parents time well. It is past time to consider voting in the Green Party. They have come a long way since just being tree huggers. They have incredibly talented people who don’t want to sell out our environment or our economy. Elizabeth May, and Andrew Weaver are brilliant people who can see what’s coming our way if we keep continuing down these destructive pathways. We have to get the 40 and under age group voting! And btw, I’m in my late 50’s.

  34. Shirley Swift says:

    The Conservative party has got a poor environmental record that is ingrained in its members. If
    elected leader you would be working against an immovable object if you have a true belief in
    environmental protection good luck.

  35. Gary Markotich says:

    As an Ontarian, I stand in full solidarity with British Columbians in opposing Kinder Morgan. The Feds have to stop promoting the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure now! Propping up a dying oil and gas industry only prolongs the transformation to a low carbon economy (time we don’t have), notwithstanding the industry’s failure in managing their toxic wastes and spills and that pipeline expansion poses a significant risk to BC’s delicate marine ecosystems.

  36. Well articulated Gary!

  37. Marie Angel says:

    Hi all, you can add me to the list of people that will stand against Kinder Morgan.

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