Join the discussion to explore the social and legal ramifications of Site C July 5 at Douglas College Aboriginal Gathering Centre.
The social cost of moving forward with Site C, the third major dam on the Peace River in northeastern BC, goes far beyond the obvious cost overruns and rearguard economics. The tension cracks in the river bank where BC Hydro and the BC Government plan to blast aren’t the only cracks that pose a danger. The project will shatter the entire ecosystem of the Peace River Valley.
We’re All Treaty Peoplewill welcome special guest Chief Bob Chamberlin of the Union of B Indian Chiefs and eature Dr. Gordon Christie, Inupiat/Inuvialuit ancestry, UBC specialist in Aboriginal law (bio attached) and Julian Napoleon Dane-zaa and Cree (bio attached) from the Saulteau First Nations, dedicated to raising awareness around Indigenous issues of land, water, food and community. Other guests will include Adrienne Peacock, a Douglas College Professor emeritus who was a member of the BC Utilities Commission when it rejected Site C in the early 80’s and Reverend Emily Smith the Parish Priest at St. Barnabas Anglican Church in New Westminster.
On the value of land to culture and survival, Mr. Napoleon does not mince his words, “In its destruction of invaluable farmland, waterways, and ecologically rich and abundant biocultural heritage areas, the Site C dam endangers all of our long-term resilience, sovereignty, and food security.”
Dr. Christie will bring clarity to the evening by presenting Treaty 8, its legal ramifications and who is responsible for its adherence. The West Moberly and Prophet River cases as well as the Blueberry River case will be explained in accessible language. But he will also discuss how every British Columbian has a responsibility to ensure that Treaty 8 is respected. Dr. Christie emphasizes that, “Canadians are treaty partners within the treaty 8 regime, and so should be concerned that promises made in the treaty—on their behalf—are being upheld.”
Each guest will be asked to answer the following questions:
Why should the Site C Dam be halted?
What can we do to stop it.
The evening is a fundraiserand pay-what-you canwith food, videos and a chance to meet people working on-the-ground to stop Site C. All proceeds of the evening will go to three court cases: West Moberly and Prophet River Bands injunction request, the Blueberry River Bands Treaty 8 case and the Peace Valley Landowners Association whose members are the farmers and ranchers whose farms fall within the 140,000 square kilometers of land targeted for flooding for the Site C Dam. That territory is equal to the land between Maple Ridge and Hope. Just think about it.
The event is sponsored by Aboriginal Services, Douglas College and Fight C.
Information: Mae Burrows 604-526-1956 (h) 604) 916-9026 (c)
The BC Supreme Court Judge (Affleck) who, on Kinder Morgan’s request, first ordered the injunction limiting protestors to stay five metres away from the gates and waters surrounding the Burnaby Mountain Site, has ramped up the initial injunction.
As of last Friday, June 1, 2018 protestors are forbidden from getting closer than 10 metres of the gates to Kinder Morgan, must keep the roads clear, must obey all the signs and broadcasts — wherever they are claiming Kinder Morgan territory. And if we don’t do what they say, it will be off to jail for 7 to 10 days.
Canada, get ready!
I was part of a group of 20 within the first 240 people to who under the guidance of our lawyer Chilwin Cheng, Ascendion Law, plead not-guilty. It was a technical, but important step in attempting to clarify the confusion around civil contempt, which folks up until the end of March were charged with by the RCMP, and criminal contempt. Judge Affleck, with the agreement of the Attorney General of BC’s office, upgraded the pre-April charges to criminal contempt. What makes it criminal you ask! Oh, you are in criminal contempt apparently when you disobey publicly rather than quietly, I guess, like corporate disobedience — do it quietly, I guess and they’ll be nice to you — no matter what.
Lawyer Cheng and his associates working with the group of protestors I was involved with is of the opinion that the contempt charges should be just that and that the punishment should be dictated by something more than public view especially in this day and age where the public part of your disobedience might actually be ‘beyond your control” given all the digital media present. In addition, Chilwin argued that violence should be considered when sentences for contempt are handed over. The group I went to court with was proven guilty and we were each given sentences of either $500 or 25 hours of community service. My service with 411 Seniors Society has already started.
The Travesty of it All
I read an interesting editorial in The Guardian today about how Canada has become a country known for its apologies, particularly under the “teary-eyed” Justin Trudeau. Apologies without substance, of course as Canada continues to impose colonial practice on Indigenous Peoples right across the country, continues to condemn those of us who support Palestinian sovereignty.
This Monday, June 11 the next wave of protests will begin. Just to be clear, not that they have ever stopped. Lead by our Coast Salish sisters and brothers not one day has gone by when there has not been some action, ceremony or celebration of the resistance to territorial destruction.
But on Monday a new wave will begin. With the new boundaries for protest and proposals that fines will now be replaced by jail time the long, hot summer of 2018 is about to begin.
The Watch House for Burnaby Mountain and the Tiny Houses being built right along the line where the Justin Trudeau Pipeline is threatening to be built through Indigenous Territories both First Nations and settlers will be telling the world that it is time to stop the destruction coming from Canada’s “tar sands” — territorial home to the Lubicon Cree and other Indigenous Nations and Métis Communities who have lived in the territory for many, many, generations some, before contact, and have been fighting against the “tar sands” project since the 1970’s.
The new Fight C website https://witnessforthepeace.ca has recently been established by the Vancouver group working tirelessly with First Nations — specifically the Prophet River and Blueberry First Nations — and the Peace Valley Landowners Association in the hopes of bringing the BCNDP/Green Coalition to its senses with regard to stopping the Site C Dam.
The resistance to this dam has been going on for almost 30 years. Until the BC Liberals pushed forward with work on a new dam slated to flood another 140 km of prime agricultural land the battle was almost won.
The BC NDP, in opposition for many of those years expressed contempt for the Liberal government’s decision to push forward with Site C. John Horgan, Michelle Mungall and other members of the current government even bought $100 stakes to support the fight to stop Site C.
Yet shortly after forming government the NDP and their partners despite being in a very tenuous position in the BC Legislature and against the advice of hundreds of scientists, economists, and importantly Treaty 8 First Nations and farmers who live and work in the Peace River Valley.
Like many others who live in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia I’ve never been to the Peace River Valley. I knew nothing of the people who have lived in the area for hundreds if not thousands of years. People in my own family went to work on the first damming of the Peace River known as the W.A.C. Bennett Dam after the B.C. Premier who promoted the dam. No consideration was given to the people whose lands were flooded to create the first dam. Not until 50 years later when in 2017 BC Hydro apologized for the pain and harm brought about by the dam’s construction. But that did not stop BC Hydro or the newly minted coalition government from proceeding with a new dam, the Site C despite strong arguments that it will destroy farm more than it will create well being.
“I want Canada and BC to honour their Treaty obligations and respect the rights of Indigenous peoples. I will follow the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nation court case to protect the Peace River Valley and speak out whenever the federal and provincial governments dishonour their obligations or disrespect the rights of Indigenous peoples. We are all Treaty people.”
Check out the facebook pages for the Peace Valley Landowners Association. They’ve been fighting against the destruction of this land for a long time and could use help in paying off the debts accumulated in their work in preparation for the BC Utilities Commission Report. This was the report that the NDP promised to take seriously before and during the election, then abandoned when they approved going ahead with Site C.
Take a look too at the facebook page for the Peace Valley Environmental Association
Watch for the recently published book that gives you the full story of one of the most important river valleys in British Columbia and in Canada. Breaching the Peace: The Site C Dam and a Valley’s Stand Against Big Hydro (UBCPress, Spring 2018). by Sarah Cox, an award winning journalist.
I also recommend the online publication DeSmog Canada although the publication name will be changing in the near future.
Muskrat Falls in Newfoundland, Keeyask Dam in Manitoba and Site C all follow the devastating and destructive path of the James Bay Power project. The billions of dollars being spent on these massive projects of destruction have done little to promote truly green energy for Canada. They have all proceeded over the objections of peoples who have lived on this land for thousands of years.
There is much to answer for.
If you are in Vancouver on any given Friday afternoon join the water protectors at the office BC Attorney General, David Eby. 12 til’ 2 every friday. Its at 2909 W Broadway, Vancouver.
Thanks to Rita Wong for permission to publish an early draft of the following piece. The final revised article will be published in an anthology on climate change planned for publication in the fall of 2018.
Rita Wong is a teacher, poet and water and land activist. (@rrwong)
This spring, I’ve spent many hours volunteering and keeping watch at Kwekwecnewtxw, the Coast Salish watch house set up to protect land and water from the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline (https://protecttheinlet.ca/structure/). A place of prayer and ceremony, the watch house was and is also used to watch for enemies.
Accusations of “national interest” fly through the corporate media, and recently the “we love this coast” banner at nearby Camp Cloud was defaced. Despite all the moneyed noise and roughly 200 arrests** of water protectors at the nearby entrance to the Kinder Morgan tank farm, here at this sacred space, I feel the calm and commitment that comes with a community voicing deep love for home, for each other, and even for the relatives who don’t understand or don’t care why humanity needs to stop fossil fuel expansion.
Water protectors come in waves day after day, singing songs like:
People gonna rise like the water, gonna shut this pipeline down I hear the voice of my great granddaughter, saying stop Kinder Morgan Now
Moon after moon, people keep the camps going, with sacred fires, kitchens, workshops, open houses, steady activity both mundane and magical. It’s humbling and uplifting to feel part of a much larger movement asserting connection and responsibility to land and place, remembering the limits of the earth we call home and mother.
I hold immense respect for the Tsleil Waututh community members and allies who are determined to protect mother earth, so courageous and stalwart in their love for this land. They teach us so much through their sacrifice and their honesty, generosity of spirit, and wisdom. I seek to be a good guest on these Coast Salish homelands that I have had the good fortune to live in for the past two and a half decades.
For the past two years, I along with many others have spent much time trying to protect the living Peace River from being choked and killed by the Site C dam, a third dam on this river in Treaty 8 territory (northeast BC) that has already been devastated to provide BC with electricity. Previous dams were effectively attempted genocide on the Indigenous peoples of the river, and Hydro’s recent apology for the violence and trauma rings hollow as it prepares to inflict more violence and turn the sacred, fertile Peace Valley into a sacrifice zone for a capitalist economy that knows no bounds, no humility, no respect.
The past few months in particular have been devastating because of the provincial NDP’s betrayal of its base, the everyday people, but we have continued nonetheless voicing how crucial it is to protect what is left of the free flowing Peace River, a key migration corridor for remaining wildlife and abundant in sacred sites for Treaty 8’s Indigenous people. We hold weekly actions every Friday outside BC Attorney General David Eby’s office to urge him to ensure the province acts honourably on Treaty 8.
The Peace teaches us that those who live down south owe a huge debt to the north. It also offers the possibility of a future economy based in food security (with rich farmland) and respect for land. As places in the US are decommissioning dams, it is not too late to stop the Site C dam debt bomb.
Dams like Site C, Muskrat Falls and Keeyask are examples of ongoing colonization under capitalism, a new wave of hydro colonization, that will run us to the point of mass extinction, if people allow them to be pushed through despite bankrupting and harming us, big governments, and land. They are basically examples of how colonial governments are set up to benefit large corporations at the expense of the land’s health and the well-being of those connected to the land.
The dams greenwash the short term, disconnected greed that misses the bigger picture of what truly matters in life – for example, how the natural cycles like the waxing and waning of the moon teach us a rhythm of coexistence rather than exploitation to the point of destruction.
Many current struggles are connected through valuing the health of the water, respect for land and the land’s Indigenous peoples. There are so many contradictions under capitalism, but the truth remains clear as clean drinkable water: as a species, we cannot afford either the pipeline expansion nor the mega dam if we want to become better relatives with the earth and each other.
What links mega dams and pipelines are the growing inequities that arise with mega projects at a time when community economic development models provide more participatory and just possibilities for economies that fulfill the practical needs (not fleeing desires) of our loved ones.
At the end of the day, the night teaches us that we need to rest and respect our bodies as well as the earth. When the time is right, the moon gives us just enough light to navigate the paths to the watch house and the river. Each river, each place, is special and specific. But under capitalism, everything is reduced to profit and contracts that enforce submission to the banality of evil. I’m struck by Aaron Mills/ Waabishki Ma’iingan’s essay, “What is a Treaty? On Contract and Mutual Aid,” where he states “life under contract is a zombie horror” (215)… “beneath contract’s fiction…is carefully contained violence, always threatening to irrupt the artificial peace…”
Contracts attempt to replace the intimacy of trust built through relationships, through the processes of helping one another. They turn the natural cycles of place and time into endless business 24-7, restless to the point of collapse.
So the capitalist machinery needs to wane, like the moon. It needs to follow and respect existing natural cycles instead of wrecking them.
When we have a fever, we need to rest and sleep, drink lots of liquids and slow down. That is where we are today, from a planetary perspective. Whether we can achieve such a reprieve will depend on the people on the ground, working for their ancestors and the ones yet to come, in each of the places I’ve mentioned, and many more than I can name here.
**To donate to support the legal fund, go to https://stopkmlegalfund.org/ – I am also serving on the Board of this fund with the aim of ensuring that those who are poor can equitably access legal support.
The headline above is for a piece posted by Sarah Beuhler, campaigner for the Coast Protectors. Sarah was s a guest editor to the online blog The South Lawn. (see below)
As someone whose SFU Masters Thesis focused on the importance of creativity in resistance I find it exciting and hopeful to see the Carnival playing out right here, in British Columbia. People’s resistance taking place in so many venues — Indigenous rights and consent, housing affordability and availability throughout the province, pipelines, fracking, massive hydro power dams, fish farms and more. British Columbians and Canadians right across the country are speaking up and doing so with creativity.
In the Lower Mainland of British Columbia the battle to stop the Kinder Morgan Pipeline is heating up. This piece by Sarah Beuhler gives an excellent overview of the strategy involved in mobilizing and fighting this project.
Against the power of governments who were falsely elected on the basis of new, community driven strategies with collusion from corporate driven mainstream media, the Kinder Morgan pipeline battle in BC, as well as the Fight against Site C and ocean-based fish farms and fracking are examples of mobilizations to protect land and water and the beings who depend on them. They are led by Indigenous leaders from the BC Union of Indian Chiefs to hundreds of small communities whose lives and livelihoods are historically and legally tied to the unceded territories. And settlers are following — finally.
Across Canada, in North and South America and throughout the colonized world, Indigenous Communities are fighting back with vigour and great creativity and are being joined by thousands, millions of settler communities who have learned to respect and understand that without the full and prior consent of the Indigenous in traditional territories , the land’s truth keepers — sustainable progress will not ensue.
Sarah’s piece invites the public to understand the story of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline currently in an expansion mode that could increase the flow of Bitumen by 7 times what is currently transported via pipeline from Alberta.
It would then be loaded onto huge tankers 7 per week and carted off to who knows where. Bitumen is described in Cambridge English dictionary as “a black viscous mixture of hydrocarbons obtained naturally or as a residue from petroleum distillation. It is used for road surfacing and roofing.” Thin that out for easy flow with toxic chemicals and imagine what is travelling through the mountains across the lands, under the rivers and under the inlet and could increase to the point of danger.
Sarah’s Coast Protector story is the full story of the project and the strategies that have been developed, used, set aside and re-considered.
I hope you find it as instructive as I did. As for the Carnival, think of the massive strategically organized resistance against the Dakota Pipeline, of the thousands of actions organized by Indigenous people against Canadian and other mining companies in their territories and the demands to stop massive dams, stop polluting rivers, stop exploiting for profit without thought of human survival. Think of all the tiny houses being built along the Trans Mountain Pipeline route, think of the years and years of protests ongoing against the Site C Dam. The songs, performances, cyber actions, public arrests, the displays of respectful resistance are all marks of the carnival.
In my brief look at carnival I examined resistance against a backdrop of social and political movements whose histories were linked to the carnival through their disdain for power from above and their creative means of subverting that power.
At Kinder Morgan, Site C and throughout the world of resistance, let the carnival continue with thanks.
April 18, 2018 — As we arrived for our court date in the ongoing battle of the people vs Kinder Morgan, Justin Trudeau and the rest we were greeted by the cadence-like movement of of Will George’s characteristic feathered head dress. He was accompanied by a circle of drummers and participants in dancing the words and prayers of his ancestors.
Today, it was in honour of those of us attending court. Their voices and rhythm filled the concrete tunnel linking Vancouver’s Smithe Street Law Courts entrance despite the sound and fumes of the passing cars. The vibration even through the concrete was powerful.
What a difference then walking through the door and confronting the black and white costumed legal bees buzzing throughout the first floor of the Supreme Courthouse and all the way up to Courtroom 55 where the drawn-out proceedings of the Canadian Legal system were shown to be as confusing as ever.
During the approximate three hours in the courtroom the court was silenced twice, at separate intervals, by two Indigenous people who took space in the court to berate the Canadian legal system for its unfairness in daring to seek punishments and to criminalize people who are fighting to save the land and the water and who are acknowledging the principle and the law of free, prior and informed consent required in the use of Indigenous held lands. There were no media reports either of the morning greeting nor the episodes of drama in the courtroom.
Those two courtroom episodes, (I apologize for not being able to credit them personally) stopped the court in its tracks. There was silence as each of those people spoke of long term injustice and growing strength in the face of it. One spoke in her Heiltsuk language. The other speaker presented with the power that comes from centuries of resistance.
And they gave rise to searing applause and shouts of support from the hundreds in the room who are in the process of submitting to the harsh reality of a legal system that does not accept dissent in any meaningful way! The judge listened without cautioning or commenting.
But none of the above was deemed to be news by mainstream BC or Canadian media.
But what was the news media highlight of the day?. CBC and other news outlets shouted from the roof tops that Angus Reid that “trustworthy” pollster owned by “no” corporate interests, they say, has stated that based on their most recent on-line poll it’s clear that British Columbians want the pipeline to go ahead. That was the a.m. news and nothing changed about the top story all day. While callers to the noon-hour BC Almanac mostly berated the polling results and questioned the notion that so much credence is given to polls, the methodology and outcomes and issues reported from the poll were credited as fair by host Angela Sterritt.
But in, fact no other activities, no counter polls, hardly a mention of the complex sovereign ownership of the land and sea complete with wildlife and resources that are threatened were counted or reviewed by Angus Reid. No discussion of free, prior and informed consent related to Indigenous People’s rights.
So today a group of primarily settler resistors, in the courtroom, backed by some powerful Indigenous voices both inside and outside were, once again, ignored by Canadian mainstream media.
For resisting settlers, it is not so much a brand new experience as a reminder of how long Indigenous Communities in this country some of us call Canada have been resisting. It is a lesson in time.
Time flies, they say, when you are having fun. The time, for Indigenous sovereignty, respect and learning exactly what those will mean for all who live in this territory, has come! It is not fun to be in a constant battle over truth and only truth can lead to healing in this territory.
Its up to every one of us, settlers in particular, to both change and ignore those polls and join the resistance in forceful but peaceful resistance.
On March 22, I became the 140th person to be arrested standing at the gate to the Kinder Morgan disaster that is happening on Burnaby Mountain. Although i’ve been involved in many and various activities during my more than 50 years as a feminist, labour and cultural activist, I’ve never been arrested before.
Tomorrow about 170 of us have been summoned to court to find out how the system will deal with our refusal to accept Justin Trudeau’s order to let the Texas-based Kinder Morgan proceed with completing a pipeline to transport dirty, heavy and chemical-laden bitumen through forests and neighbourhoods to the Fraser River and beyond.
I’m proud to have taken a stand. I will continue to do so. I’m grateful for the leadership of the Indigenous Coast Protectors (@coastprotectors), for all the Indigenous Matriarchs and for the thousands who have stood up for First Nations rights and the rights of all people to live and breathe without being poisoned.
Thanks to Arthur Manuel for encouraging so many in the settler communities on this journey.
Many thanks to Ta’ah Amy George, Tsleil=Waututh Matriarch, UBCIC Grand Chief , Stuart Phillips with Naomi Klein (@NaomiKlein) and Chief Bob Chamberln (@ChiefBobbyc). This is national and international leadership!