It came to me in response to a biased question from a Sun News reporter in Toronto. The question, playing into the warped world of Ezra Lavant, prompted me to explain what "protesters" might do to block Enbridge. I am sensitive to the right-wing propagandists and new species of spin-miesters, social media "trolls." They hope to mischaracterize the opposition to Enbridge as radicals. Former natural resources minister Joe Oliver tried it back in January 2012 when he denounced anyone opposed to tearing through our wilderness to put hazardous and toxic shipments on supertankers through even more hazardous waters. Watch for it on Twitter. I get it all the time -- attacked as hashtag "ecoterrorist." So the pro-pipeline narrative would want Canadians to believe that the legal and economically necessary, responsible corporate citizen Enbridge, is challenged by "protesters."
With the Sun microphone in my face, I suggested that "protester" wasn't quite the right word for the government of British Columbia, nor for the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, nor for the two-thirds of British Columbia's citizens who say "no." In particular, it is absurd to call residents of Kitimat radicals -- the one place in all of British Columbia where one could make a case for the project's economic benefits, where the voters in a plebiscite said "no" to Enbridge.
I have worked on environmental campaigns for decades -- fighting pesticide spraying, uranium mining, mega-hydro dams, nuclear power plants, wilderness destruction. I have been part of campaigns that won against impossible odds and did so most of the time. But I have never been part of a coalition as broad, as deep and as imbedded in establishment voices as those arrayed against Enbridge's mad scheme.
And what of Enbridge? Denounced by the U.S. regulator following the Kalamazoo, Michigan spill as a bunch of Keystone Kops with a "culture of negligence;" lambasted by Harper's own ambassador to First Nations, Doug Eyford, and by Alberta's likely next premier, Jim Prentice, as having wholly mishandled its engagement with First Nations through monumental conceit and a failure to build any foundation for trust.
We all know one thing about Enbridge -- it has money to burn sponsoring every cultural, charity and sporting event it can get its corporate mitts near, as well as an apparently inexhaustible budget for television and print advertisements extolling our beautiful wilderness. Every Enbridge ad should remind us why we will never trust that corporation, whether through its creative use of pastel line tv ads or the disappearing islands of its webpage.
So who are the radicals in the real narrative of how we stop Enbridge? It is Stephen Harper and his unquestioned allegiance to the Fossil Fuel Masters of the Universe. It is not Canada's economy that he serves. Not when oil sands are three per cent of the GDP. Not when more jobs and more value-chains and more wealth will come from a diversified energy mix, a clean-tech revolution and (yes, even keeping the oil sands pumping along in the context of an aggressive climate plan) ensuring the bitumen is processed and not merely stirred into toxic fossil fuel condensate to be shipped abroad. Putting an end to Harper's plan to boost production to levels more than three times more than current levels is key to having anything that could be considered feasible and still reduce GHG to the levels required by science.
So back to how we stop Enbridge. Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations, had it right. "Unfortunately Ottawa didn't get the message that they're approving a dead project." (Globe and Mail, June 18, "What's Next, Major hurdles face Enbridge").
We stop Enbridge by working together. NDP, Liberal and Green B.C. MPs are united. In Victoria, opposition MLAs need to encourage an unnatural ally, premier Christy Clark, to maintain a clearer "No." When asked to support First Nations, we have to be prepared to open our wallets and help with what will be staggering legal costs to defend their constitutionally enshrined rights -- and our coasts and environment.
And we need to re-write this story. The radical element is led by Stephen Harper. The threat of lawlessness is found in his disrespect for the rule of law. The repeal of the environmental assessment law, evisceration of the Fisheries Act, removal of endangered species legislation along any pipeline route, and the removal of 99 per cent of Canada's rivers, streams and lakes from the Navigable Waters Protection Act were acts of legislative vandalism to clear the way for bitumen pipelines.
Those of us who wish to protect our climate, our coast lines, our whales and our salmon and respect First Nations, recognizing that we live on their territories -- we will prevail. Our strength lies in a shared resolve and firm commitment to non-violence, the full exercise of our rights as citizens, and our faith, even in this corporatist state, in democracy. All together now.
Originally published in Island Tides, June 18, 2014
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