Kinder Morgan began their TransMountain pipeline expansion last fall—without permits. The company quickly demonstrated their lack of care for the environment, when they illegally laid down plastic snow fencing in salmon streams to prevent spawning, in anticipation of work being done early this year. They received a letter from the National Energy Board which stated “The Board reminds Trans Mountain that construction of the pipeline shall not be undertaken until such time that Trans Mountain receives the applicable approvals…”
This spring a team of Clayoquot Action volunteers gathered to plan an event for the April 29 National Day of Action. Most of the team were graduates of our in-house Doing Democracy course back in November, so had a handle on concepts like the 8 stages of social movements and the 4 roles of activists (Citizen, Rebel, Reformer, Social Change Agent), and were thus equipped to think strategically about what to do.
Nobody had an appetite for marching down Tofino’s 3-block main drag chanting ‘hey hey Kinder Morgan’s got to go’. It’s different in a small town—we needed something fun and inclusive! We began by looking together at the Beautiful Trouble website, and the team quickly settled on the tactic of a human banner.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action. Photo by Marnie Recker Photography.
It’s time to draw the line
Pundits have been saying that Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project will be the ‘Clayoquot’ of our times. No wonder. There is no more pressing challenge facing our planet and thus humanity than the climate crisis. It’s time to draw the line.
I suspect Prime Minister Harper has no idea that he will be unable to build a pipeline from Alberta to the Great Bear Rainforest. I totally get why he will try to do it—under his leadership Canada has become a petrostate, and doubling tar sands production is the only vision he has for our country.
Clayoquot Action campaigner Bonny Glambeck is a survivor of the Nestucca oil spill.
The 1989 Nestucca spill hits Long Beach
Her yellow rain gear smeared with crude oil, Valerie Langer is standing on the red carpet in the BC legislature lobby. In her gloved hand is a dead oil-soaked seabird. Flecks of oil hit the freshly painted wall as she gesticulates.
A distressed commissionaire scurries about wiping up spots of oil, while explaining that the Environment Minister is not in his office today.
What an amazing day we all had in Tofino on April Fools Day! The sun was shining, the skies were blue, there were smiles all round and spirits were high. There couldn’t have been a better day to stage what I will assume is the most interesting April Fools trick yet for Tofino.
Dan Lewis is a founding director of Clayoquot Action.
Happy Fossil Fools Day!
Thanks to everyone who checked out TofinoOilSpill.com! Imagine if this had not been a prank—how would you feel if you heard there was an major oil spill near Tofino—for real? We staged the mock oil spill in Tofino to show the ridiculous reality the fossil fools are pushing.