As the new B.C.-Yukon organizers, we are extremely excited to be joining the Council of Canadians team. And what a marvelous time to be joining. While the West Coast faces increasing threats to the land and water with companies going to ever-greater lengths in a massive resource rush, people power is also gaining strength.
After more than two decades of struggle, the Tsilhqot’in have stopped New Prosperity Mine, which would have had devastating environmental impacts on the land and water, as well as impeded their Indigenous rights. The proposed gold-copper mine, which would have been located at the headwaters of the Taseko, Chilko, Chilcotin and Fraser River systems and would have caused irreparable damage to Fish Lake, Little Fish Lake and Nabas, has been rejected once again by the federal government. Hopefully this will be the end of a 20-year effort on behalf of Taseko Mines Limited and the B.C. government to turn this sacred area into an open-pit mine disaster. Many thanks to the tireless and courageous efforts of the Tsilhqot’in Nation and to those who have stood with them in this struggle to protect the land and water, from protesting at Tasko’s AGM to participating in the Federal Review to protesting at Williams Lake City Hall. It is an exciting reminder that organizing and mobilizing to stand in solidarity with frontline communities is not only important — it works. The Council of Canadians continues to stand in solidarity with the Tsilhqot’in Nation and support their legal case for a ‘declaration of title’ to their territory in British Columbia.
Coast Salish Winter Gathering
On Friday, February 21, we took part in the Coast Salish Winter Gathering organized by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust (TWN). In total about 2750 participants attended! At many different events throughout the weekend, folks came together to honour Tsleil-Waututh culture, land and water in the face of a proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, and to rally support for a Salish Sea Treaty to stop tar sands pipelines and tankers. The weekend events included a Friday Solidarity Night and Dinner, the Sacred Fire, Traditional Paddle to the Kinder Morgan Terminal, Walk, and community feast on Saturday, and two sold-out absolutely incredible Tribe Called Red Concerts! On Friday night, TWN invited the Council of Canadians, along with other ally organizations to speak. Leila Darwish expressed solidarity and introduced herself as the new organizer with the Council, and local Vancouver Chapter activist Eric Doherty and Delta-Richmond Chapter Bob Ages stood behind her.
Creative activism training
That same weekend, Brigette attended and helped organize a Creative Activism Training for ShitHarperDid. Over 30 people came together to learn about NVDA at SFU’s Woodward World Art Centre in Vancouver for ShitHarperDid’s Creative Action training this weekend.
We heard from speakers and trainers with years of experience around non-violent direct action, helping us to determine key elements that make a non-violent direct action campaign successful. Certainly, all NVDA is different, and there is no one-size fits-all answer, but those who came before us have important lessons to share. As we face massive threats in terms of the Harper agenda and extreme energy, from coal port expansion, to new fracking proposals, to pipelines, they helped to inform us on how we can organize effective non-violent direct action.
Escalate strategically says Rhiannon Benette from Musqueam Action
We heard from Rhiannon Bennett about Musqueam Action to protect sacred burial grounds. Her community had tried everything to protect her the bones of her ancestors from industrial development, like petitions and planning a day of action where they protested at the cemetery. But the province refused to meet their demand to stop issuing permits to developers. So they creatively shut down the bridge. It took doing that kind of action to get the much-needed mainstream media attention on the issue. This action, part of a much larger campaign, successfully protected her Nation’s sacred burial site.
Organize protests that grandma could attend key strategy says Valerie Langer of Friends of Clayoquot Sound
Valerie Langer, a key organizer during Clayoquot Sound as part of the group Friends of Clayoquot, shared about her organizing during Clayoquot Sound. Friends of Clayoquot had two key strategies: one was targeting the pocketbooks, and trying to stop other countries from buying Clayoquot wood. The second was to create a media controversy through non-violent direct action-makers that would embarrass decision-makers and force them to stop logging.
She said that for a while, they had been taking part in high-risk actions, like chaining their necks to equipment. This was important for a while, but was not meeting their goal of stopping logging, they needed to get the masses involved somehow. They realized that in order to do this, they needed to organize protests that even grandma could attend! So, they made clear community agreements. If someone broke the agreements, for example swearing at the loggers, they would be asked to leave. They had non-violent direct action training twice a day, and three meals each day. Each person participating in the blockade had to get training. The protests were hugely successful, being the largest blockades in Canadian history, and stopping the majority of logging there.
Concurrent Indigenous rights and environmental struggles reinforce one another says Ananda Lee Tan
Ananda Lee Tan shared about his arrest during Clayoquot Sound and the simultaneous legal strategies for Indigenous title recognition. He spoke about the importance of the two simultaneous and interrelated struggles: one to stop logging at Clayoquot Sound, and the related struggle for acknowledgement of Indigenous title and self-determination. What we don’t often hear about in the narrative about Clayoquot is that during that time, there was also a powerful legal battle which recognized free prior and informed consent around logging and mining, through the precedent-setting case of Dalgamuukw v. British Columbia.
One of my favorite parts of the day was hearing about Ananda’s journey, and how he ended up as a 24-year old in jail for 50 days. A student of UBC, he was moved to take part. A friend of Valerie’s, Ron, took him up to the protests in his Pontiac. He was arrested there. He was incarcerated for his actions. While in jail, he read texts like Malcolm X and a book about two Jesuit Brothers resisting war in Vietnam who burned ID cards to stop people from having to fight in the war. These revolutionary texts validated his choice to do this act of civil disobedience.
Don’t forget the “Create” in Critique, Confront, Create says Mel Bazil with reference to Uni’stot’en Camp
Mel Bazil, from the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en Nation, spoke about solidarity with the Unist’ot’en clan, whom he supports. The Unist’ot’en are facing seven proposed pipelines on their territories: Chevron’s PTP pipeline, the Enbridge pipeline, Spectra, TransCanada, Pembina (to piggyback on the PTP), Kinder Morgan, and EOG Resources. He explained the critical framework of Critique, Confront Create. He explained that movements often get stuck in the first two of critique and confront, but sometimes forget to create. He shared the very creative initiative of the Uni’stot’en to build a camp on the routes of the various pipeline projects threatening their community. Rather than waiting for their Right to Free Prior Informed Consent to be given or acknowledged to them, they are embodying it through the creation of this camp. Their camp this year is likely to take place in May, and they invite allies to join them. There are also pipelines being proposed through Gitxsan territory and Mel is looking to support grassroots resistance to those pipelines as well.
Choose strategic public moments to highlight human rights abuses says Nicole Raycroft
Nicole Rycroft shared about the importance of using strategic moments to raise the profile of human rights abuses. A former Olympic athlete, she had a clear motivation for hanging outside of a building as part of a banner drop during the 2008 Olympics, an action with the Students For a Free Tibet, to raise the profile of the Tibetan struggle.
We’re excited for what’s coming up this month, including ArtShift BC, a fracking/LNG town hall event happening co-hosted by the Vancouver-Burnaby Chapter on March 4, Rising Tide’s Non-violent Direct Action Trainings in the first week of April, and our regional meeting. Stay tuned!
Photo: Warrior Up Walk and Feast at Coast Salish Winter Gathering. Credit: Jennifer Castro/flickr