Crude language

There’s only one way to deal with intimidation and violent rhetoric

“We don’t threaten, Premier Notley’s government doesn’t. We just do.”- Shannon Phillips, Alberta Environment Minister

“Canada can and will do what it takes to exert its authority to have the pipeline built.” – Jim Carr, Energy and Natural Resources Minister

Ministers in a provincial NDP government. Liberal members from the ‘Sunny Ways cabinet.’ Conservative media personalities.

These are some of the people fuelling an alarming escalation in Canada’s political debate, with intimidating rhetoric aimed at First Nations and British Columbians who oppose Kinder Morgan’s expansion project.

When pressed on the violent nature of his comments Brett Wilson (formerly of CBC’s Dragon’s Den) doubled down: “I didn’t say kill the protesters. I said hang the morons. A subset of protesters.” He also referred to drowning environmental campaigners: “Cement boots work…”

These messages from political and business leaders, amplified by the media, give cover for a whole horde of online commenters to hurl abuse our way.

Twitter follower Dave Gillis who hails from Grand Prairie chimed in, “Don’t worry about killing the protesters just run the ones over that get in the way of the progress of the pipeline. Jail all the eco-terrorists that take money from foreign entities.”

British Columbians, who up to now have been intimidated and insulted, are now facing open threats. It’s ugly and it’s dark, and it asks of us to choose: do we shine some light on this and figure out how to respond? Or do we pretend it’s not happening?

I choose sunlight.

It should come as a shock to Canadians that people in positions of power and authority like Phillips, Carr and Wilson seem perfectly comfortable borrowing from the playbook of authoritarian strongmen. Their us-versus-them rhetoric dehumanizes the real people standing up to this project, trying to cast us as un-Canadian, illegitimate, even deserving of harm.

Those themes are readily embraced by people who feel their economic security slipping and want an outside scapegoat they can blame. Albertans aren’t just competing with temporary foreign workers: now the big oil companies are cutting staff and testing autonomous self-driving haul trucks.

Those same companies lobbied for royalty rollbacks that shortchange the treasury, while successive Alberta governments failed to diversify the economy or even add value to most of the raw crude shipped out of the province. Meanwhile they’ve spent down the province’s rainy day fund. Alberta is painfully unprepared for a future without high oil prices.

People want an outlet for their anxiety, and politicians are giving it to them: blame British Columbians.

Premier Notley was asked what would happen if a judge agreed with British Columbia that it has the right to restrict diluted bitumen shipments to the West Coast. She replied: “B.C. would trigger an internal Canadian trade war that would make what’s going on with the United States today look like a tea party.”

If you are starting to worry about the consequences of this overheated rhetoric, perhaps even for your personal safety, I hear you. Bullies succeed when people back down. Now is the time to stand up and show the country the strength of our movement in B.C.

If you need some inspiration and courage to battle through the negativity directed our way I know some people from whom you might draw it. They are our neighbours. The ones who have been here all along, weathering far worse. People who despite being shelled from gunboats, driven off their land, persecuted for generations by police and politicians and priests, still don’t hesitate to stand up to the state.

We could lie down and become the doormat the oil industry wipes it’s polished shoes on as it strides up to the bank. Or with a deliberate and powerful breath find the space, in our heads and in our hearts — where the true nature of what it means to be a British Columbian lives — and call it up. To resist as one.

11 Responses to “Crude language”

  1. Gentle reminder that the website requires all participants to agree with the peaceful protest plans, including respect for the organizers and the land; no violence; and no drugs or alcohol. The numbers of concerned citizens in itself will make the statement.

  2. Carol McLeod says:

    I wish I lived closer

  3. Marie-Hélène Bourret says:

    If being part of Canada means we can be bullied, threatened, that our lands and coasts be polluted, that the livelyhood of so many people endangered. … Well. …Maybe we should not be part of Canada anymore !

  4. Eronne Foster says:

    wondering if ‘run over the protesters’ or suggesting killing them is not a criminal offence in Canada. You cannot threaten to kill someone and by targeting a specific group ‘protesters’ it is a hate crime.

  5. Bob Moser says:

    Are we Canadians now fighting amongst our selves? We should be working together to remedy the Problem. What is the solution?

  6. Oh Canada, our home and native land. We are a federation. Respect the constitution. Help or get out of the way. The NDP did not win the last election. AND for certain they will experience a resounding defeat at the next time time the writ is dropped. HELP OR GET OUT OF THE WAY.

  7. Sandy Budd says:

    Pretty obscene that people in government would threaten taxpaying public with death ,we have our rights ,and we will stand up for our Province and protect our water ,our fish ,and our livelihood and the future of everyone’s grandchildren.

  8. Business as usual, when money grubbing anti environmental iconoclast subhumans get their backs against the wall they react in the only way they know how. Their bullying, abusive behavior is a given. In behooves all of us to get together and stand up to these criminal actions. As far as I understand we live in a Democracy were standing up for your beliefs and your children and grandchildrens environmental rights and privileges are a legal immutable Constitutional right. We must stand up together to defend those rights or our futures a doomed. Translate your anger and disgust for these blathering fools into positive reactions to put them back under the feces from were they crawled.

  9. Daniehl says:

    Wonderful and peaceful protests. It shows how bankrupt the country is after allowing both foreign and domestic thieves to make off painlessly with the bounty of Canada’s land and resources. Now they want to threaten anyone brave enough to oppose their depredation of BC’s beautiful and already scarred landscape. Maybe this is why those in charge are having so much trouble prosecuting individuals caught red-handed after killing Indigenes.

  10. Nancy Beach says:

    Your comment sounds about right, thank you, Eronne! Can we start a class action suit &/or make use of the Human Rights Tribunal?

  11. pnwbrett says:

    Thanks for writing this article Kai. I’ve been observing a lot of violent threats in the comment sections of various pipeline related news articles. I’ve yet to see one that is coming from the ‘NO’ side of the debate. I fear that things are going to get ugly when this project is cancelled (and it will be – the Coast Salish nations have such a solid case and KM is showing signs of bailing on the project). Sadly, the situation has all of the preconditions necessary for violent terrorism. Specifically, disenfranchised young men from AB who feel they have no hope or purpose and focus their rage on what those they see to be their ‘enemy’. Scary stuff. If CSIS isn’t monitoring the situation, they should start. I feel for these guys. I know there will be short-term pain. I have family in tobacco country in the Carolinas who lost their jobs in the 1970s when the science was really coming down on cigarettes. Support systems need to be in place to help folks during this big societal shifts. Hopefully my forecast is wrong.

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