I’m used to singing the national anthem at hockey games, not while watching an RCMP officer put a grandmother in handcuffs.
Yesterday, a couple dozen of us walked slowly up Burnaby Mountain behind 74-year-old Della Glendenning, a woman whose worst prior offence, she told us, had been a library fine.
We sang a capella as the rain dripped off the maple trees. “With glowing hearts we see thee rise, the True North strong and free.”
The sound of the drilling rig grew louder as we approached. “From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.”
A line of Mounties stood waiting. Two officers lifted the yellow tape marking the injunction zone. “God keep our land glorious and free.”
Della stepped forward, her head held high. “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.”
The police led her away. Some people cried, others chanted her name: “Dell-a! Dell-a!” She didn’t look back.
What drove her to that point? Why are others doing the same? Scientists, authors, grandmothers and children are all making that walk up the mountain – day after day.
If I can find a common theme in their statements and interviews, it’s that right now this is the most powerful way to register how they feel about the Kinder Morgan proposal.
After all, public hearings are no longer part of Ottawa’s pipeline approval process. Oral comments and questions are gone. And free speech outside the review is threatened by Kinder Morgan’s abusive lawsuits. So every day, a few more citizens are choosing to make a different kind of statement.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
British Columbia shares jurisdiction over this pipeline. Like every province, our government has the power to hold an independent assessment. But in 2010, Premier Christy Clark signed away our powers of review to Ottawa, agreeing to accept the outcome of the federal process as our own.
Luckily the decision is reversible. Nothing binds us to that rotten deal except political inertia. We could give Ottawa 30 days’ notice today and be free of the farce that is the NEB process by Christmas.
The Union of BC Municipalities supports the plan for a B.C.-led review. So do both provincial opposition parties and experts like Marc Eliesen (the former BC Hydro CEO who quit the Kinder Morgan review, calling it “fraudulent”).
The government of Quebec just announced its own independent review of the Energy East pipeline. British Columbia can do it too.
For 7 in 10 British Columbians this is a no-brainer, regardless of where one sits on the political spectrum. The alternative is to do nothing and let Ottawa’s process grind on. As its last shreds of public legitimacy fall away, British Columbians will take matters into their own hands. If that happens, Della Glendenning will hardly be the last grandmother in handcuffs.