by Rafe Mair
Those who think that the feds and Alberta have got the only quiver with arrows in the Kinder Morgan fight are very sadly mistaken indeed.
The overriding factor is the deep resolve of an angered British Columbia to keep out what are seen as almost foreign despoilers of their land. Damned near everyone is a British Columbian whether born here like I was or recently arrived, a dedicated convert of which there are thousands. The love of the British Columbian for the West Coast is very deep indeed and Kinder Morgan can’t be just counted as were environmental outrages of the past. We’re not talking here about beehive burners, leaky sewer pipes or distasteful, unhealthy and stinky garbage dumps. We are talking about something that is the heart and soul of British Columbia much like St. Paul’s Cathedral is to Londoners. If you think this is a stretch, please bear with me.
One could say that St. Paul’s is simply a church dome and not even as big as St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and nowhere near London’s oldest building.
Tell that to the Londoner who sees this fairly recent icon as the soul of his city, indeed an effort to destroy a beautiful edifice for a development would bring inconceivable reactions from a normally peaceful people – at least when they are civilians.
But the current apple in Notley/Trudeau eyes isn’t an iconic building. In fact Howe Sound, Burrard Inlet, the Salish Sea, the Gulf Islands, Juan de Fuca and the entire west coast have a deep seated meaning because, for many reasons, we’ve just really begun to see them for the rare, precious, indeed environmental icons they are. Those of us who have been here for so long don’t need to ponder long and hard to remember that the enormous changes started shortly after World War II when it seemed as if the world had suddenly arrived. “Business is moving to BC” said the BC Electric signs on their streetcars, first there was the Alaska Highway at war’s end, then the Hart Highway, the Hope Princeton, the arrival of Social Credit and highways everywhere; just before that Kitimat and Alcan destroyed all in their way even reversing the flow of a large river; then there was WAC Bennett and huge dams and, seemingly, everywhere was a developing mill with a stench described as the “smell of money”.
Then two things happened and the dots were joined. We had been shown, but finally started to see, what all this development had done to Indians in scores of bands around the province. Very belatedly the European population could actually see “these people” and their distinctive culture. They were there before our eyes and so were their homes, villages and the graveyards we had destroyed. Well into adulthood I learned that the creek on the Musqueam Reserve I fished as a child, unlike almost all local streams, still had its healthy Coho Salmon run thanks to the care the Band administered.
And by God they now had the vote. And they discovered lawyers, very good ones like my classmate Tom Berger, QC. And they got a tie in the Supreme Court of Canada in the Calder decision, a decision that moved Pierre Trudeau to open land claims. (Frank Calder was an Anglican priest, the first Indian to sit in the BC Legislature and for a time a Caucus colleague.)
Now called First Nations, the Indians went back to court with Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, a huge win and flowing therefrom, win after win in the Supreme Court of Canada with consequent constitutional changes.
With the First Nations victories came huge wins for nature and wildlife and sea life. And young people joined in and fought, for the most part successfully, to protect forests. The attitude of White British Columbians toward First Nations and Conservation underwent a sea change because, you see, as all this was happening, the public came out of a long slumber. Suddenly what had always been taken for granted was being destroyed at an alarming rate.
Yes, what had been done was done and some of it, like hydroelectric power, was necessary and mills provided jobs. But, dammit, there were values to be protected. People saw, really for the first time, sights and natural phenomena that had always been there. First Nations had always known they were there and they smiled at us, not nearly as mockingly as we deserved.
A mine and a mill closed in Howe Sound and residents cleaned it up physically as well as by ponying up the money. Damned if there weren’t killer whales, and porpoise and sea lions and once nearly decimated salmon runs right off the beach at Lions Bay! Where the hell did they come from? And on a ferry crossing the Straits of Georgia which had smoothly become called the Salish Sea, almost always you saw whales. Dolphins and porpoises swam alongside pleasure-craft again. And in what seemed like overnight, environmentalism was no longer a left wing preserve but a mainstream, middle class issue. People in my small “c” village of Lions Bay, along with Horseshoe Bay, Squamish, Grantham’s Landing were holding seminars on civil disobedience to stop an LNG plant in Squamish. They were inspired by the 2006 “fur coat and three piece suit” demonstration against the widening of the Sea-To-Sky highway at Eagleridge near Horseshoe Bay.
Sadly, saddled with a political system that emasculates ordinary MP’s and MLA’s and gives all power to the premier and prime minister, the people are far, far ahead of governments and the gap widens.
Playing with a 25 year-old playbook, Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau came to town to build a huge pipeline complex carrying deadly bitumen and which will increase tanker traffic seven-fold. They try the old propaganda, the old one-liners, carefully mixed with the same old bullshit. The usual doctored statistics are trotted out, collisions become “incidents”, statistically certain disasters become minor risks, non existent “world class cleanup processes” are promised to take care of that which cannot be cleaned up and the Alberta Tar Sands become oil sands and little changed, the “smell of money” is back.
But the bullshit of the past now so thoroughly demonstrated to be such, peddled by discredited politicians and totally disbelieved business moguls, now has few listeners, none amongst the young..
And two new elements have entered the scene – a new class of protester and First Nations, scarcely slouches at protesting but armed with books full of new, very helpful lawsuits, a bevy of the nations’ best lawyers, judges at the highest level bound to follow the precedents and a general public now mostly on their side, not just out of sympathy or justifiably stricken consciences, but because of deeply held personal convictions that their case is just. Not only that, the “smell of money” crowd have discovered that they’re losing what they thought would always be there. Overnight, it seemed, there wasn’t one more valley to log, one more river to dam and lots of fish in the ocean.
There are those who haven’t noticed, don’t care to look or fear losing their jobs by joining the 21st Century.
Rachel, Justin, you haven’t a prayer of winning this fight.
British Columbians will never give in. The great Churchill maxim is ours now – never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
We have no intention of giving in and we won’t.
You see, we’re fighting for our home.