On Burnaby Mountain, activists say no to Kinder Morgan
Alishia Fox left the comforts of home for the muddy ground of Burnaby Mountain.
Since arriving a few days ago to join protests against Kinder Morgan’s plan to expand its oil pipeline, the 30-year-old woman from Ucluelet on Vancouver Island has been camping in the rain-soaked woods.
“It was a long trip but well worth it,” Fox told the Georgia Straight on November 24 on Centennial Way, where police officers had blocked a portion of the road as workers for the pipeline company did surveys and drilling work in the conservation area.
One of Fox’s rewards is the thought that at least one member of the police line was also wishing for the project to go away.
She recalled a conversation she had with a group of RCMP officers one morning when she rose up at dawn and approached the no-go zone protesters are not allowed to enter. Except for the officers and her, no one else was there at the time.
“After hearing me out on why I was here, because they were asking why I was here and I got into, you know, wanting to protect the land and being on the side of First Nations people…one, in particular, told me a story how he would rather be not only on the right side of history—which he pointed to our camp as being the right side of history—but he also expressed how he would rather be working on much more serious matters, as in a sexual-assault case sitting on his desk because he has to be here right now.”
Fox said he suggested to her that perhaps were it not for duty, other police officers would also rather be doing something other than enforcing a court injunction against people wanting to stop Kinder Morgan crews from doing their work.
“I actually thanked him for being here because…it’s gotta be hard for him too,” said Fox, who is originally from Ontario and was a federal Green candidate in that province in the 2011 election. “I’m sure when he’s done with his shift at the end of the day, he’s gotta go home and…know that, unfortunately, he’s on the wrong side of the line.”
Earlier in the day, Della Glendenning, a 74-year-old grandmother, was arrested for crossing the police line.
By activist Ben West’s count, Glendenning was the 74th person apprehended by the police since the RCMP started enforcing the court injunction on November 20, which has generated a lot of media coverage.
“Civil disobedience is what happens when people feel like, you know, there’s unjust laws that don’t really reflect the will of the people in a democracy,” West told the Straight on the protest site.
To understand what’s happening on Burnaby Mountain, the tarsands-campaign director for ForestEthics Advocacy suggested a look back at what happened with another pipeline proposal, Enbridge Corp.’s Northern Gateway. According to West, if there was any project that was expected to be turned down by the government because of massive opposition, Enbridge’s planned $7.9-billion twin pipelines, which would carry 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen and 193,000 barrels of condensate per day between Bruderheim, Alberta, and Kitimat, B.C., was the obvious one.
A federal joint review panel endorsed Northern Gateway but with 209 conditions. In June this year, the national government accepted the panel’s recommendations to allow Enbridge to proceed.
Kinder Morgan, for its part, has yet to complete its submission before the National Energy Board for its Trans Mountain subsidiary’s plan to twin its existing pipeline from Strathcona County in Alberta to Burnaby. The $5.4-billion project will increase the facility’s capacity from the current 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000.
“Here is a moment where…folks just see an opportunity to say ‘no’, to have their voice heard,” West said. “I think it’s quite inspiring to see people crossing this line and risking arrest to get their point across.”
Also on Burnaby Mountain on November 24 was West’s colleague Valerie Langer, a veteran of the so-called War in the Woods, which challenged logging in Vancouver Island’s Clayoquot Sound and generated the largest act of civil disobedience in Canada’s history.
“I feel absolutely enheartened because like in Clayoquot in 1993, every day we would wake up in the morning and we never knew who would show up, and every day, more people came,” Langer, now director of B.C. forest campaigns for ForestEthics Solutions, told the Straight.
Fox is returning to Ucluelet soon to resume work, but she will be bringing home fond memories from Burnaby Mountain and of the people she sat with around campfires at night. “We’re living pretty good here,” she said.