Community Corridor, Part 3: Expanding mutual aid networks to challenge oil and gas industry

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Vancouver rally against Pacific Trails Pipeline.

If 2012 was about one thing in British Columbia, it was the explosion of shale gas and pipeline projects on the northern map. The long-time-coming Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP) and Kitimat LNG (KLNG) project came to light in a significant way in the orbit of radical grassroots organizing after months of NGO Northern Gateway darkness.

In addition to PTP, a slew of other huge LNG processing terminal/shale gas pipeline projects have come to surface including LNG Canada/Coastal GasLink, BG/Spectra, and Petronas/Progress after help from the free trade hungry, deregulation-happy Harper government.

Of all these projects, LNG Canada/Coastal GasLink is currently the largest, most probable, and most threatening. The Harper conservatives have turned over a good part of the Turtle Island territory to not only resource-hungry corporate industry, but also open to ecological devastation and the violation of indigenous community sovereignty. In a November 2012 essay, Russell Diabo paints a clear picture of the Harper government's First Nations termination policies.

Coastal GasLink is a prospective shale gas pipeline that would link to a proposed LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) processing terminal in Kitimat, BC. The pipeline would initially carry 1.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Montney formation in northeastern British Columbia over 700 kilometres from Groundbirch, near Dawson Creek, to Kitimat, on the west coast. The project is owned by a consortium of Companies called LNG Canada led by Shell Canada Limited, including Mitsubishi Corporation, KoreaGas (KOGAS), and, not insignificantly, Petrochina. TransCanada corporation is contracted by LNG Canada to build Coastal GasLink, the same company trying to force through the notorious Keystone XL Pipeline.

PetroChina is a subsidiary of the parent company and oil giant China National Petroleum Company (CNPC). China is now featuring prominently on the Canadian scene with the recent FIPPA deal, the Canada-China version of the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, and the Nexxen foreign takeover deal. The deal saw the the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), the third largest national oil company in China, swallow up Canadian oil company Nexen Inc., one of the biggest players in Alberta's Tar Sands.

The LNG Canada/Coastal GasLink project with Shell's reputation and CNPC's power have the largesse and experience that Apache Corporation and the Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP) lack. What PetroChina and LNG Canada's Asian connections provide is contract clout and access to lucrative Asian market contracts where Apache and other smaller LNG project operators are having difficulty securing higher Asian prices.   

The LNG Canada project in Kitimat has been estimated to be in the $12 billion range, while the Coastal GasLink pipeline is estimated at $ 4 billion, and according to BC Energy Minister Rich Coleman is slated as "one of the largest, if not the largest, investments ever in B.C." The pipeline dimensions are projected at 48" (1.2 meters), six inches larger in diameter than PTP. In short, everything about this pipeline is big.

On October 16, 2012, after a presentation to District of Kitimat Council, North West Coast Energy News reported that "Rick Gateman, President of Coastal GasLink Project, told council that the project is now at a 'conceptual route' stage because TransCanada can't proceed to actual planning until it has done more detailed survey work and community consultations."

The Grassroots Wet'suwet'en and Unist'ot'en camp, however, will tell you that a conceptual route is all it will ever be. On December 10, 2012, Lihkts'amisyu clan chief Toghestiy was being interviewed by Focus Magazine. When asked what the future of the pipelines was and what the future of the camp was, he replied, simply, "The Pipeline is not happening. The camp is going to be here forever." He was referring more specifically to the Pacific Trails Pipeline, but the grassroots community of the Wet'suwet'en have made it unanimously clear that whether PTP, Enbridge Northern Gateway, Coastal GasLink, BG/Spectra or any others, oil and gas pipelines period will not be allowed through their territories.

What is amazing is that the model being developed is grassroots-resourced community resistance that is standing up to 6, 8, 12 billion dollar industry investments, standing up to some of the biggest, most expensive, and most threatening energy infrastructure projects in the history of Colonial canada.

What is significant about this recent upsurge of resistance communities is the awareness that their effectiveness and sustainability lies in building long-term, radical alternatives. A few of these such communities are the Anishinabek Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp in Southern Ontario, the Anarchist Treetopia village defending old growth in Humboldt County, California, the Nuu-chah-nulth Sovereign Housing Project in Ahousat, near colonial Tofino, the Gitksan Unity Movement beginning cabin building on their traditional territories, and dozens of others across Turtle Island. The Community Corridor, which is currently being developed, aims to do exactly what these communities are doing, but to combine their efforts in an organized, integrated support network across Turtle Island. Many of these current communities are Indigenous, but the Community Corridor will be inclusive to those and farming, anarchist, and permaculture communities alike.

The structure should be a very well-organized and well-coordinated network, akin to a federation of collectives that each remain very much autonomous while working very closely with each other. The collectives, communes, and communities engaged in this effort should work very closely not only in land defense and resistance, but also in terms of trade and mutual aid. All of these communities should be autonomous in terms of their territorial sovereignty, their decision-making processes and governance structures, and their means of production for food and otherwise. In resisting the system and dependence to industrial consumerism these autonomous communities will need to create networks as alternatives. First they will need to develop networks of mutual aid; collective systems of support to compensate and protect from the resource and capacity vulnerability of operating outside of industrial civilization. This network would serve as a collective safety net for inter-cooperation in security, resources, and capacity between communities. Call this mutual aid support network ‘alternative social security’.

Alternative governance is also a primary component. Communities will each need to determine their forms of autonomous decision-making processes and social organization, and how these can effectively link together across collective networks or a structure of decentralized federated communities. Lastly, these collective communities will require the creation of well-organized trade networks to efficiently exchange food and resources across territories and regions, an alternative economy that should be grounded in mututal aid, collective support, and reciprocity.

The Unis'tot'en camp is now a major resistance front in the battle against the expansion of oil and gas infrastructure and pipelines in North America. The Pacific Trails Pipeline and Coastal Gaslink are strategic pieces of the international infrastructure of the capitalist economy, and the Unist’ot’en resistance camp stands to impede that strategic expansion.

As Brett Rhyno outlines in a separate Community Corridor analysis piece, "It's time for grassroots networks to boldly unite together in an integrated effort to stop the East, West, and South pipeline corridors with the ultimate goal of shutting down tar sands and fracking at the source." East, West and South means a comprehensive allied network, and a continent-wide strategy that covers all of North America. The nature of the industrial oil and gas infrastructure is such that it aims to cover vast distances, and so ecological resistance must respond in kind to beat pipelines at their own game.

The Community Corridors must match industrial capitalism's regional strategies with integrated continental efforts and organization, carefully calculating industry's plans and projects and responding with countermeasures like pieces in a chess game. However, it is pivotal to understand that resistance in this context will mean not only frontline resistance to extraction and industrial infrastructure, but also the active building and creation of sustainable autonomous alternatives. The strength of this project lies in its ability to build its own power by generating capacity in self-reliance. Federated communities can aim to achieve this together through collective systems of localized, decentralized production and trade. Let communities depend on each other instead of depending on the system that aims to keep them divided and competing.

Community Corridor is a long-term project, and one that is going to be very challenging to carry forward. It is an ambitious plan, but a plan that gives us a legitimate chance at overcoming material and social dependencies to the industrial system. In other words, dependence is captivity and slavery, and self-reliance will be our freedom. Sovereignty is an important condition, but it is relevant to the whole of life, and not just to politics.

We must have sovereignty economically, socially, sovereignty over our media and our information, food sovereignty to be the owners of our own health and nutrition. Imagine a world where local and regional mutual-aid networks of communities begin to substitute globalized industrial production. We can make it a reality. It is a very comprehensive project and will take years and decades to carry out, but it is not complicated in nature. It is a plan that can conceivably be carried out in our lifetime and one that keeps the future, and those who will inhabit it, firmly in mind. A friend and fellow organizer, Anton Bueckert, reflects that a plan and strategy that does not hold future generations as the crux of what we are doing today is not a strategy that is going to bring about the type of change we are looking for. He is absolutely right. Let us build a strategy inherent of systemic change and long-term possibilities that puts human and ecological substance as central to a free, healthy, and sustainable future.

For more information on LNG Canada/Coastal Gas Link and other shale gas and pipeline projects in BC, please visit

Julien Lalonde is a writer and community organizer who focuses on ecological justice, horizontal organizing, and creative resistance. He is currently organizing with the Unist'ot'en Resistance Community on traditional Wet'suwet'en Territory. Julien blogs at and will be travelling the west coast and northwest U.S in January/February to develop the Community Corridor project with various communities. Please contact [email protected] for information, comments and suggestions.


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