My heart was pounding as I took the microphone to speak to the crowd of two hundred rallied at the foot of Burnaby Mountain. Not because I was nervous about speaking, but because of the great emotion welling up inside of me—I was about to be arrested.
Arrested for something that has weighed heavily on my heart and mind for decades—the climate crisis. This is an overwhelmingly huge issue, one that is hard to get a handle on, hard to act on. We all do what we can, but at the end of the day systemic changes are needed to overcome the most pressing challenge of our time.
The Burnaby Mountain protest against Kinder Morgan’s proposed tripling of their TransMountain pipeline provided an opportunity to take a stand for that change.
Clayoquot Summer 1993 organizers united again
I was to be arrested with four other organizers of the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history—the 1993 Clayoquot Sound blockades. What an honour to stand united again with my colleagues Valerie Langer, Karen Mahon, Jean McLaren and Chris Hatch. Person after person spoke from their hearts about why they had come to take a stand. We then rallied on the road, and began to march up Burnaby Mountain.
Marching with us was a Vancouver choir—with six members intending to be arrested. Earl, their leader, led us all in song as we slowly made our way to the police line. We sang with all our hearts, “We shall not be moved” and other songs of Freedom and Justice.
The force of history was with us as we marched up Burnaby Mountain. Although I am a seasoned activist, that day I felt most like a citizen, one about to solemnly break the law in order to speak truth—this pipeline will not be built—to power. Not in my name, nor on behalf of the thousands who came to Burnaby Mountain during the two-month protest.
There is a tremendous freedom in living out that truth. It is an antidote to the despair brought on by the knowledge of what the climate crisis is doing, both to people and to the planet.
Once 87 year-old grandmother Jean McLaren caught up, it was time to cross the line. The five of us held hands and ducked under the police tape. And so we found ourselves on the wrong side of the yellow police line, confident that we were on the right side of history.
The choir was singing in full harmony, “If you’ve been to jail for justice, than you’re a friend of mine”, invoking the spirits of those who fought to end slavery, who stood for civil rights, and who gained the right to vote for women.
One river rising
These movements all flow together like one river, and I could feel the power of that river rising now as we stood face to face with the police. An RCMP officer made his way down the line, explaining to each of us in turn that we were in Kinder Morgan’s restricted work area, and we must move or be arrested.
I tell him “no”, I will not move and I will not walk. We are all carried away, except for Jean who is escorted to a waiting police cruiser. It’s like Clayoquot Summer all over again.
Crossing the line for climate justice
We were put in a paddy wagon, joined shortly by the arrested choir members. Our hours in the paddy wagon and jail were filled with harmonious songs, laughter and much strategizing.
The following day Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, called supporters and media together on Burnaby Mountain. Chief Stewart spoke, saying “This war is a consequence of the Harper Government…in a very clumsy and aggressive way, pitting dirty oil against clean water, provoking a conflict between the environment and the economy. I stand on the side of clean water. I stand on the side of a clean healthy environment. And I’m here because I’m gravely concerned about the future wellbeing of not only my grandchildren—but all of our grandchildren’s grandchildren.”
Tsleil-Waututh Chief Rueben George, whose territory the mountain is in, said, “It is so touching and beautiful to see our elders leading the way to make sure that we all have a better future.”
Phillip, George and elder Amy George then led hundreds of people down to Bore Hole One, where Chief Phillip and Amy George crossed the line with the utmost dignity. (View video here) The arrests that day brought the total for the week up to 120.
Round one of People vs Pipelines goes to the People!
That same day in court, it was determined that Kinder Morgan had bungled the GPS coordinates, and therefore the line where police had been arresting people was in the wrong place. All charges were dropped! The next day (Friday November 28) we arrived at Burnaby Mountain to see Kinder Morgan’s helicopter removing their drill rigs. They had thrown in the towel!
Clayoquot Action’s six days on Burnaby Mountain were an incredible experience. What an honour it was to stand united with people of all ages and all colours, and to send Kinder Morgan packing.
Listen to Bonny’s live interview on CFAX Radio from November 27, 2014, with Pamela McCall. Starts at 33:00.
Check out Tofino photographer Marnie Recker’s powerful portraits from Burnaby Mountain.
Bonny Glambeck is Clayoquot Action’s Campaigns Director.