Barbara Stowe: The unexpected benefits of getting arrested protesting against Kinder Morgan

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      On March 19, my brother Bob and I were arrested for locking ourselves with zip ties to the fence surrounding Kinder Morgan's pipeline-building site in Burnaby, B.C.

      No one in our family had ever been arrested before. Despite marching in protests with our activist parents and original Greenpeace cofounders, Irving and Dorothy Stowe, we've never committed civil disobedience. But our belief that the Kinder Morgan pipeline project is wrong, for so many reasons, is so strong that despite the fear of consequences, we decided to put ourselves on the line.

      After signing a promise to appear in court in June, we were released, and I was travelling home on the ferry to the Gulf Islands when I experienced the most surprising result of our actions. I expected support from friends but kept a low profile when it came to strangers. So when a stranger—who turned out to be a chef—saw a biography of Julia Child on my table in the ferry cafeteria and said, "That's a good book," I said nothing of my protest activities and instead enjoyed talking about food.

      The conversation widened to include her husband (a burly, retired coast guard search-and-rescue volunteer) and a nurse nearing retirement. It wasn't until the end of our trip that I outed myself as a criminal and asked for their opinion of the Kinder Morgan project. The chef literally leaped out of her chair and hugged me. The other two nodded approvingly.

      Back on Pender Island, word had gotten around and I was hugged outside the Tru Value grocery store by someone I barely knew. The owner of the bakery refused to let me pay for my cappucino. That night, when I dropped into the pub for a quick beer, a man I'd never met—not a hippie; he had short, straight hair and an ironed shirt—said, firmly, "Well done," as he passed my table. On social media, other "shorthairs" expressed approval.

      My brother (a neurologist), meanwhile, received universally positive and supportive responses from physicians, pharmacists, nursing, and cafeteria staff at several hospitals where he works, many of whom had seen Global TV and CBC media coverage of our arrests.

      This unexpected response, even from people we didn't know, and some of whom it might be expected would oppose our stance, is anecdotal evidence of a far larger opposition than the federal government expects.

      Expect tomorrow's National Day of Action (March 23), which includes a protest at MP Jody Wilson-Raybould's office, to be bigger than anyone expects.