The Trans Mountain pipeline [Kinder Morgan] expansion project will never see the light of day.
-Grand Chief Philip Stewart, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs
If you live anywhere in Canada other than British Columbia, you’re probably convinced that the Kinder Morgan (Trans Mountain) pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, BC will be built, since no less than Prime Minister Trudeau says so. Well, you may get a shock with this candid advice but you’d best accept the fact that this pipeline will never, ever be built, period.
Many much wiser and more powerful British Columbians than I will tell you the same in even stronger terms.
In light of the domination of the mainstream media by the oil industry, with dedicated lackeys running our governments, you may not have heard the British Columbia side of this story. Here it is.
Might my story not be biased? Of course that conclusion’s an option since there is no more loyal British Columbian than I, but remember that we who will fight Kinder Morgan have only one interest: the beautiful land and water we hold in trust for those as yet unborn. We have no Tar Sands to flog, no political payoffs owed, no juicy House of Commons seats to covet, no faraway investors to enrich, no personal ambitions to fulfill, no face saving to be done – all that’s at stake for us is the salvation and preservation of our home.
Energy expert quit “fraudulent” review
Let’s start with the proposition that the product of the tar sands in Alberta is viciously poisonous, whether spilt on land, in the ocean, or put into the atmosphere. To talk of “world class cleanup” methods for bitumen (dilbit) is a cruel oxymoron. To pretend that massive accidents – carefully called “incidents” – are minor risks insults the intelligence.
The pious suggestion by government and industry that the undertaking underwent a “rigorous scientific investigation” is pure bullshit! It underwent (if that’s the word), a disgraceful National Energy Board hearing, the process Trudeau ran against in 2015 and, for fairness, was on a par with Soviet Union show trials. A process so egregiously biased that Marc Eliesen (former CEO of B.C. Hydro, former chair of Ontario Hydro, former chair of Manitoba Hydro, deputy minister in seven different federal and provincial governments, with 40 years’ executive experience in the energy sector, including as a board member at Suncor) withdrew as an intervenor, calling the proceedings “fraudulent”. So much for the “rigorous scientific examination” that Prime Minister Trudeau and Kinder Morgan tell British Columbians to rely upon for the security of Burrard Inlet, Vancouver Harbour, the Salish Sea, the Gulf Islands, the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the rest of our pristine coast.
Trudeau breaks promise to the world
Let’s also remember that Prime Minister Trudeau made himself an international hero of the environment by stating clearly, beyond a doubt, at the Paris conference in November 2015, that fossil fuels must be phased out and that Canada was back in the game and raring to go. The principal concern was and remains climate change, he noted, and Canada would enthusiastically resist putting more fossil fuels into the atmosphere – in fact would both reduce them substantially and help other countries do the same.
Not unnaturally, people in British Columbia, concerned about their own environment as well as that of the world in general, were relieved at this unwonted leadership. The newly elected Prime Minister was seen in a new light as a forthright, dedicated environmentalist and not the weak dissembler we originally took him for. Sometimes, alas here, one is right the first time.
What pipeline boosters don’t get
Our main environmental concern – and it is huge – involves our rivers and oceans, over which we have control. Of particular interest but of no apparent concern to Trudeau and other Canadians, are the creatures that live in those waters.
This special and growing concern isn’t, for us, some abstract “Free Willy” reverie but a critically important reality that has never been understood by the federal Liberal party, as evidenced by their ongoing ill-treatment of the Pacific fishery from Confederation until today, when, in addition to the usual neglect, the Pacific salmon is being diseased and killed by federally-sponsored and approved, foreign-owned Atlantic salmon fish farms.
Our 5 commercial species of salmon are extremely important as a basic food for First Nations, as well as critical to their economy and to other important commercial and sports fisheries. Most Canadians to our east don’t seem to understand how strongly we feel about these issues nor have any appreciation of our values.
The Federal government, in Wilde’s words, “knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing”. To British Columbians, the sacred symbol of our province is the Pacific Salmon, all 7 discrete varieties.
Respect for First Nations
This leads us to First Nations, both in terms of individual tribes and united peoples, not only in British Columbia but right across the country. I have don’t know how other Canadians feel on this issue, however, there’s solidarity of the general British Columbia community behind First Nations, who’ve been leaders in environmental protection for far longer than most of us care to admit.
Stewart Philip, Grand Chief of the British Columbia Union of Indian Chiefs, is very highly regarded, not just as an Indigenous leader, but as a general community leader as well. He is hardly alone as he shares this respect with numerous aboriginal leaders of both sexes. If that basic reality is not understood, the BC position can’t be understood either.
Are British Columbians bad Canadians?
British Columbians are being painted as “bad Canadians”. As a lifelong (85 years) British Columbian, I tell you that BC is different, even though most outsiders prefer to see it as part of “the West” – shorthand that does no service to other western provinces any more than it does to BC.
British Columbia is unique geographically, historically, demographically, in terms of resources – with a very strong sense of that uniqueness and the set of values it produces. Not that we haven’t had some very careless times when it seemed that there was always another valley to log and river to destroy.
In 1993, the forces for change coalesced at Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, remembered by esteemed journalist, Stephen Hume:
People came from all over the country and beyond. Teachers, artists, musicians, university students and their professors, working folk, soccer moms, dentists, doctors and First Nations elders descended on the West Coast to put a stop to clearcutting by blockading a road. What followed was the largest mass arrest for civil disobedience in the province’s history.
There was no turning back. Was it a collective, troubled conscience that just required some youthful idealism and energy? Whatever it was, it took hold deeply and quickly. Suddenly it wasn’t “tree-huggers” who were the unfashionable outsiders, it was the people calling them “tree huggers” – the elite suddenly, badly reduced in numbers and importance.
The genie was well and truly out of the bottle. No one believed industry leaders and supportive politicians anymore and just a moment’s reflection made it clear that based on their track record, they weren’t entitled to credibility. Things the long haired pot smokers had predicted had come true. Perhaps the very late realization that solemn, science-backed assurances that smoke from burnt coal “just went up there” was not just bullshit, but deliberate bullshit; the black crud London was removing from the Houses of Parliament had caked their lungs; and all those doctors smoking Camels were trying to quit.
In any event, fewer and fewer British Columbians believe what Trudeau, his National Energy Board, raw, uncaring political hacks such as Ministers of Environment or anyone connected with Kinder Morgan, the tanker companies who serve them or trained, clapping seals at Chambers of Commerce have to say. Time after time, they had been proven wrong, over and over the public saw that safety measures had to be compelled and that truths that diminished profits were hidden. Clearly, profits trumped all.
We’re not going anywhere
Hence, there’s no way British Columbia will obey Trudeau except by actual force and if that’s applied, the damage done to national unity will be irreparable. We’re told that Trudeau and Premier Notley of Alberta have the law on their side. I wish those who think that would pour themselves a glass of relaxant and think about it awhile.
It’s an exhausting subject, but ask yourself if the top court in the nation will put monetary profits from the world’s worst polluter in one province ahead of the natural and clean resources of a neighbour, causing enormous harm to both that neighbour and to others while at the same time further ruining the badly polluted global atmosphere Trudeau promised to make better? In the name of God, is that the essence of this country that dares preach to us about principles? Profit, however destructive, trumps all!
A whole new ballgame
Has the hubris of self-serving hymns of praise so dulled the national brain that no one has noticed an army of First Nations going to the Court of Appeal, thence to the Supreme Court? Have our “betters” not yet noticed that since the Calder case, then the 1982 Constitution, the entrenching of aboriginal rights and that aboriginal rights are, in the vernacular, “a whole new ballgame”, as summed up thusly by the Canadian Encyclopedia?
Aboriginal rights, like treaty rights, are recognized and affirmed by Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Supreme Court of Canada has held that this provision protects a spectrum of different kinds of rights, including legal recognition of customary practices such as marriage and adoption, the site-specific exercise of food harvesting and other rights that don’t involve claims to the land itself, and assertions of an Aboriginal title to traditional lands.
At this writing, there are at least a dozen discrete First Nations challenging Kinder Morgan, each of which will presumably go to the Court of Appeal thence to the SCC. There seems little likelihood many, if any, have sufficient in common to be united for trial. Given that none of the First Nations have a sense of urgency, how long do you think these cases will take? How long will Kinder Morgan have to be promising investors “soon”?
Only then will the workers on the pipeline finally be able to trot out their first front-end loader to be met by repetitive Civil Disobedience by ordinary folks, with associated court actions sending our friends and neighbours to jail for contempt of court, as happened in Burnaby in 2014. For what little it might matter, every ounce of my aged being, including freedom, will be with the protesters in the fight for justice for all British Columbians.
I recognize that many will take what I have written as defiant threatening. It is defiant because, I believe, that word accurately sums up the attitude of me and my neighbours. It’s not written to threaten but to lay before you my judgment of what will happen if matters continue as they are and beg you to understand us if you can’t lend us your support.
This evil project has, most unhelpfully, sharpened the divisions in Canada – but one can hardly blame British Columbians for that when their sole purpose has been not to make money, not to visit harm on anyone or anything, but simply to support the highest scientific and moral principles as we protect ourselves and the world’s atmosphere. I have much difficulty seeing how such defensive conduct could ever be seen as bad Canadianism.
Who of you, living as I do on Howe Sound, would sacrifice the killer whales, humpback whales, seals, sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, crab, shrimp, oysters, clams, abalone, salmon runs, herring runs and other sea life and bird life that thrive there in order that elements of certain destruction would cause serious harm to them, to say nothing of human beings, whilst being transferred elsewhere to do harm to everyone?
I should tell you that we speak from graphic experience. We once lost a good deal of all this due to industrial pollution but after the mill shut down in Squamish and Britannia Mine closed in 1974, people of the area and the government thoroughly cleaned up Howe Sound and it came back to life. If the people didn’t deeply care for these values, however esoteric they may appear to others, they would scarcely have gone to all that trouble and spent all that money, much of it private, to clean up Canada’s southernmost fjord, nor be so prepared to fight hard to see that it stays that way.
No longer Left v. Right
The environment is no longer a left v. right political proposition in British Columbia but a mainstream issue of vital importance to everyone. People have all learned that when industry or government talks of safety and respect for the environment, the truth is not in them and that citizens and they alone must protect it.
It has not been my purpose, by being frank with you, to make you angry or get your backs up – I simply want the rest of Canada to know that our basic values are being challenged by Kinder Morgan, the province of Alberta, and the Government of Canada and that doing so is not a good idea. Since this entire coast, right to the Alaska Panhandle, is under threat and it is the Canadian West Coast, it puzzles most British Columbians why Canadians generally do not want to protect it just as we do, if not as strongly.
If, as it appears, they do not wish to do this, I must tell them frankly that we who live here will do it for them, irrespective of who wants to spoil it. Yes, we respect the rights of Alberta, but we must accept what wise people know will be certain and serious damage to the natural beauty and resources that we intend to protect, not only on our own behalf but for the entire country.
One cannot serve the God Mammon by sacrificing one’s common heritage on his altar and still retain one’s soul. And isn’t this very wise question posed so very long ago even more appropriate than ever? “For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?”
And if that answer doesn’t suit those who would make money with someone else running all the risks – not risks but certain calamities – how about this?
Don’t go away mad – just go away.