Clayoquot Action's Dan Lewis, protest against Kinder Morgan, Burnaby Mountain, BC. Marnie Recker Photography

Ready for Clayoquot 2.0

By approving the Kinder Morgan pipeline, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has either failed to understand who voted for him and why, or he would appear to be a fraud.

During the election he presented himself as an alternative to Stephen Harper—a leader who had weakened environmental regulations, vilified environmentalists as ‘enemies of the state’ and pulled Canada out of the Kyoto Treaty. Justin spoke of the need to restore environmental protections, for true reconciliation with First Nations, to address the climate crisis for the sake of young people, and a return to science-based decision-making.

How could he betray all this? Why would he go to the Paris climate talks and boast “Canada is back”, then accept Harper’s carbon targets as his own? Why would he agree to a pipeline which was approved by a flawed NEB process which he had promised to fix? Why would he spend his summer vacation in Tofino, then put the beautiful west coast of BC at risk of a major oil spill?

I am reminded of King Solomon’s threat to cut a baby in half in order to find out who the true mother was. The Alberta oil patch is gloating over his decision to approve Kinder Morgan, while people who care about the future of their grandchildren and the fate of the Earth are outraged.

Trudeau has seriously underestimated the will of the people of British Columbia to protect this beloved coast. This isn’t Korea. We won’t be divided North coast from South coast.

Halfway to victory
Trudeau’s decision to kill Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat is a major conservation victory. Putting the Great Bear Rainforest at risk was a dumb idea. But what about Clayoquot Sound—the Last Great Rainforest on Vancouver Island? Does this rainforest coast not also deserve to be protected from the risk of a major oil spill? What about the cities of Victoria and Vancouver, where the bulk of BC’s population lives?

The Northern Gateway victory shows that the Kinder Morgan pipeline can be stopped. Northern Gateway had the approval of the federal government as well. It was overturned by the courts. We are halfway to victory!

Kinder Morgan Pipeline protest on Burnaby Mountain, BC. Clayoquot Action.

Climate crisis is the real challenge
Trudeau’s Kinder Morgan compromise forced me to think long and hard about why I am concerned. There are several components: the pipeline itself; the risk of a major marine oil spill; and the world’s ability to reduce emissions enough to survive the climate crisis.

The pipeline itself is a serious concern—the risk to rivers and salmon across BC is reason enough to not approve this pipeline. For many people the bigger concern is the possibility of a major marine oil spill. We do not know what diluted bitumen would do in the event of a marine spill. After the Kalamazoo River catastrophe, a report from the US National Academy of Sciences found that if dilbit spills, the diluents evaporate, leaving behind a tarry goo that sinks in water and is very sticky.

According to Transport Canada, building the Kinder Morgan pipeline would increase the risk of an oil spill to ‘very high’. And the consequences of such a spill are unthinkably high—definitely not worth the risk.

But at the end of the day, what really scared me was Trudeau’s pronouncement that “There is not a country in the world that would find 170 billion barrels of oil and leave it in the ground”. This flies in the face of the latest science which shows that if we were to burn all known fossil fuel reserves, the Earth’s temperature could soar as much as 4.5 degrees. This is real. Even Stephen Harper rejected such a doomsday scenario as unfair to future generations, not to mention bad for business.

Addicted to oil
Trudeau sounds like an alcoholic who admits he has a problem and needs to fix it, but pours himself a drink while telling you that no alcoholic in the world would quit before emptying the liquor cabinet. This is the new breed of climate denier.

The idea that we are addicted to oil is not new—ten years ago in his State of the Union address, Texan oilman George W. Bush said that “America is addicted to oil”, insisting they needed to “break this addiction” and “move beyond a petroleum-based economy”.

Trudeau’s decision has forced me to reckon with the reality that the climate crisis is the biggest glitch in his decision. If it could be shown that the BC coast needed to be sacrificed in order to save the Earth’s climate, any reasonable person would be willing to look seriously at that tradeoff. But that’s not what’s going on here.

Where’s the plan?
Despite the spin that Kinder Morgan is a step towards transitioning to a low-carbon economy, it is indeed quite the opposite. To make the necessary transition away from fossil fuels, there needs to be a plan.

Trudeau could have announced such a plan. For example, he could have cut all subsidies to the fossil fuel industry—and freed up $3.3 billion a year to invest in renewable energy development. Adding solar and wind capacity provides more than seven times the employment from an equivalent investment in oil and gas extraction.

When you’re in a hole, stop digging
A recent report from Oil Change International highlights the fact that there is no way to meet the goal of reducing carbon emissions while increasing fossil fuel production, stating “if emissions are to be reduced, total fossil fuel consumption must be reduced, which in turn means that total fossil fuel extraction must be reduced as well”.

The report outlines three scenarios for the future of fossil fuels. Under a “Managed Decline” scenario, no new extraction permits would be issued, and no new infrastructure permitted. This would result in the steady reduction of carbon emissions while giving time for a major shift in energy production to greener sources. The “Stranded Assets” scenario would be the result of continued fossil fuel development, causing destruction of capital and large job losses if governments are eventually successful in restricting emissions. Under a “Climate Chaos” scenario new resources would be developed, none stranded, and the resulting emissions would take us well beyond 2°C of warming, with resulting economic and human catastrophe.

Poking the heart of Blockadia
When a progressive government is elected, progressives go back to sleep. We assume that after the evil empire is voted out, the good guys we voted in will do the right thing.

Had Trudeau killed Kinder Morgan, the BC climate movement could well have gone back to sleep. That is no longer possible. Now, people will protect the BC coast. Trudeau has poked the hornet’s nest of a province which gave birth to protest movements such as Greenpeace, Clayoquot Summer 1993, and Occupy Wall Street. Indeed, BC is one of the global nerve centres of what Naomi Klein calls Blockadia.

The Standing Rock Sioux have demonstrated what courageous and peaceful defence of the water, land and air looks like. There is no doubt in my mind that if Kinder Morgan proceeds, we will see a ‘Standing Rock North’ form up. Indigenous peoples have consistently and repeatedly rejected the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker project, including the arrest of UBCIC President Grand Chief Stewart Phillip on Burnaby Mountain in November 2014. The Federal approval is a violation of their inherent Indigenous Title and Rights, and a violation of the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous leaders can answer the question ‘you and what army?’ with names like Burnaby Major Derek Corrigan, Vancouver Councillor Adrienne Carr, and federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May. Not to mention the nearly twenty thousand people who have already signed the Coast Protector Pledge to stop Kinder Morgan. If you haven’t already, you can sign the Pledge here.

This will be Clayoquot with a bus stop. Clayoquot 2.0. We won’t be organizing by faxing posters to health food stores this time. We have the Internet. And three generations of people who understand that the climate crisis is a game-stopper if we don’t act swiftly.

If need be, BC is ready for Clayoquot 2.0.

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.

Girl protesting Kinder Morgan pipeline on Burnaby Mountain, BC. Clayoquot Action

No pipelines, no tankers, no problems!

The Carnival Marching Band was belting out tunes last Saturday as we began marching from City Hall. Five thousand people flooded the streets of Vancouver in advance of Prime Minister Trudeau’s decision on Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion plans. As we crossed the Cambie Street Bridge a massive chant rose up: “Hey hey, Trudeau, Kinder Morgan’s got to go!” It was exhilarating to be together with so many people who are determined to ensure that this pipeline is never built.

Coastal communities on the frontline
A Clayoquot Action contingent made our way down from Tofino to join this massive pipeline protest—because coastal communities like Tofino, Esowista, Ahousaht, and Hot Springs Cove are on the front lines. Long Beach is less than 50 kilometres from the proposed tanker route. This places Clayoquot Sound outside of K-M’s designated Enhanced Area of Response, which means if a spill were to occur, no assistance would be coming for the first 72 hours. Continue reading

MiningWatch heads into the Williams Lake court

Legal action over Mount Polley disaster

On October 18th, Clayoquot Action joined MiningWatch Canada in Williams Lake to support their launch of private prosecution against Imperial Metals and the BC government for the 2014 Mount Polley Mine disaster.

This legal action is supported by more than a dozen non-profit organizations including Wilderness Committee, Amnesty International, First Nations Women Advocating for Responsible Mining (FNWARM), Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake, Kamloops Area Preservation Association, and Sierra Club.

Largest mining disaster in Canadian history
The 25 million cubic metre spill near Likely was the largest in Canadian history. The sheer volume and velocity of the spill instantly killed fish, destroyed a 9 km section of Hazeltine Creek, filled both Polley and Quesnel Lakes with tons of toxic slurry mine waste, triggered drinking water bans, and significantly affected downstream livelihoods. Continue reading

Big summer for wild salmon!

It was a big summer for wild salmon. Captain Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society donated their vessel, the R/V Martin Sheen, to BC biologist Alexandra Morton. Operation Virus Hunter was launched! The goal was to track farm salmon viruses and audit salmon farms along the Fraser wild salmon migration route.

Things ramped up in August when the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw chiefs (pictured above at a Vancouver rally) issued an eviction notice to all salmon farms in their territory, including Cermaq, the same Norwegian company operating in Clayoquot Sound. The Nation has been opposing salmon farms in their territory for decades. This summer Band Councillor Melissa Willie instructed by Chief Willie Moon to climb aboard a salmon farm to request a sample of the farm fish for testing. Their request was denied. Continue reading

Mining threat looms over Kamloops

(Editor: Imperial Metals, of Mount Polley infamy, is considering two mines in Clayoquot Sound. If they ever actually apply for a mine development permit, the clock begins ticking—local communities would have 6 months to participate in an Environmental Assessment process, which in BC has never refused a mine permit. Clayoquot Action invited Kamloops resident Dr. Ross Friedman to describe her experience with the EA process.)

KGHM Ajax Mining Inc. (a Polish-owned corporation) wants to dig a huge, noisy, dusty open-pit copper and gold mine near Kamloops, BC, a city of 90,000 people. The mine would be within 1.4 kilometres of the nearest residences, and within 2 kilometres from the nearest elementary school. Continue reading

Tore Bongo presents Alexandra Morton petition to King of Norway

Alta reflections

The indigenous people of northern Europe are called Sami. They are known for herding reindeer on the tundra. What we learned while in Norway is that the coastal Sami culture centres on wild salmon, much like coastal Natives in what is now called British Columbia. These two species, with their predictable migration patterns, provided the protein on which a rich culture was founded—the Sami.

The Alta River in northern Norway is famous. The stretches downstream of Northern Europe’s biggest canyon teem with big salmon, and have been a mecca of sports fishing for many years. The reindeer herds also come to the banks of the headwaters to calve in the rich pastures.

A major dam on the Alta River?
Back in 1970, the Norwegian government announced plans to build a major hydroelectric dam on the Alta River. Questions about the reindeer, the wild salmon, or interference with Sami rights were not even considered. What became known as the Alta Controversy began as a conflict between the Sami and the Norwegian government. The Sami village of Masi was to be flooded, and people rightly feared extensive disruption of the environment. Eventually the resistance morphed into a People’s Movement which became a nationwide flashpoint for a growing awareness of the need to protect the environment and uphold indigenous rights. Continue reading

Mass die-off at Clayoquot farms

The call came in at the end of a busy day last week: ‘Cermaq is experiencing a mass die-off at two of their farms in Clayoquot Sound’. By early morning the next day we had assembled a volunteer boat driver and photographer, sourced a donated water taxi, and raised the funds to fuel the boat and hire a videographer complete with drone. We set off in anticipation.

The first farm we got to didn’t seem to have any unusual activity, other than the whole Herbert Inlet was a weird murky turquoise. An employee boated over to photograph us, and a polite exchange followed. ‘We’re not sure what this colour is’, he said. ‘We’ve been seeing it for six weeks—could be Chryso’ (shorthand for Chrysochromulina, a species of algae).

The second farm we reached was the Millar Channel farm, just kilometres north of the site evicted by Ahousaht First Nations, after it was occupied by the Yaakswiis Warriors last September. There was a hum of activity: workers tossing dead salmon into totes, which were lifted and dumped into semi-trailers designed to haul away animal remains. The tubes sucking the dead fish (morts) from the pens were getting plugged up with the sheer numbers, and divers were in the pens unplugging them. Continue reading

Break Free 2016!

When I heard the call-out for Break Free 2016!—a global day of action against fossil fuels—I knew we had to go. The plan was to surround Kinder Morgan’s Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, with marchers on land and ‘kayaktivists’ on the water.

Kayaking is the whole reason I am an activist—a 1990 circumnavigation of Vancouver Island shocked me into realizing how little old-growth forest was left, and that Clayoquot Sound is the Last Great Rainforest on Vancouver Island. This led to my involvement in organizing the Clayoquot Summer 1993 blockades—and the rest, as they say, is history. Continue reading

BC Auditor General slams mining

Auditor General Carol Bellringer issued a scathing report after completing a two-year audit of mining regulation in British Columbia, writing “Almost all of our expectations for a robust compliance and enforcement program were not met. The compliance and enforcement activities of both the Ministry of Energy and Mines, and the Ministry of Environment are not set up to protect the province from environmental risks.”

Bellringer’s report identified water contamination as the major risk to the environment from mining activities. This is especially critical in British Columbia, where water often supports populations of wild salmon. While government enforcement has been declining, the risk can only increase as lower grade ore bodies are mined, creating larger quantities of waste rock, which must be stored safely in perpetuity. Continue reading

Salmon farm slaughters 15 sea lions

Norwegian-owned Cermaq Canada conducted a marine mammal massacre at a Clayoquot Sound salmon farm last December. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) recently released their Authorized Marine Mammal Control Activities data, showing that between October and December 2015, fifteen California Sea Lions were shot by Cermaq at their Binns Island salmon farm. The wildlife was threatening Cermaq’s open-net pen facility. Continue reading