Eoin Madden: Turning heads and hearts on Burnaby Mountain

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      As you read these words, a diverse and dedicated group of Burnaby citizens are making a stand against the Texan oil giant Kinder Morgan on Burnaby Mountain. After preventing Kinder Morgan from conducting destructive survey work in the Burnaby Mountain conservation area, six of these dedicated souls have been served injunction papers and are facing allegations of trespassing in their own public park.

      As the resistance to the proposed Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline takes a more proactive form, the drama on the mountain is taking centre stage. It’s easy to understand why: here you have regular folks putting their careers and reputations on the line to stand up for their public park, and to protect their communities from climate change. Here are the unavoidable consequences of a massive U.S. corporation offending its neighbours. Here is the battle to avoid runaway climate change and toxic bitumen spills in its most passionate, unvarnished form. In the battle to stop Kinder Morgan, we should never lose sight of what drives local citizens like the Burnaby Mountain “Caretakers” to action.

      For starters, the very land upon which they are making their stand is a precious place, set aside for conservation after decades of hard work by the community. Back in 1972, dedicated neighbour John Clarke noticed the rampant level of development on Burnaby Mountain and volunteered his time for a year to petition for its preservation. In 1973, the City of Burnaby agreed with him and would-be developers were driven from the area.

      Then in a 1996 referendum, the voters of Burnaby opted to merge over 300 hectares of additional land from Simon Fraser University into the park, creating a heavily forested conservation area that now sprawls 576 hectares. That’s a big accomplishment, and it illustrates the value of this beautiful resource to the surrounding communities.

      When the Texans announced they wanted a giant new tar sands pipeline alongside their existing one, the community asked, “Where, exactly?” Even when the environmental review process kicked off, overseen by federal regulators at the National Energy Board (NEB), residents were left uninformed about the most likely route. Many of them were not even given the opportunity to ask that question, as the NEB refused hundreds the right to participate.

      Those of us lucky enough to participate have been denied the right to cross-examine Kinder Morgan. The NEB has also barred questions about climate change impacts from the process altogether, and overruled Burnaby bylaws protecting the park in favour of the company’s bid to cut down trees and bore holes.

      At any one point, there were at least three potential routes being discussed through the area, and even the NEB grew tired of being kept in the dark. It was left with no choice but to demand that Kinder Morgan come clean on its preferred route, and announced a resulting six-month delay in the review. Then the company informed stakeholders that the preferred route would involve drilling under the conservation area.

      The growing sense of frustration is palpable within this community. Despite the NEB’s requests for more route information, it’s clear that the regulator is working towards green-lighting this giant new pipeline in the most expedient way possible.

      This past weekend, the former CEO of B.C. Hydro publicly stated he was withdrawing as an intervenor from the NEB’s “fraudulent process” because he felt it was a “public deception.” Marc Eliesen intervened in the hope that he could provide expertise and allow a rational, informed decision to be made. Instead he found no willingness to have his questions answered, and he witnessed decisions by the NEB that reflected a “pre-determined outcome” in favour of the pipeline company.

      He isn’t alone. Both the City of Burnaby and the Province of British Columbia have officially complained that their questions are being ignored, too, on critical issues such as oil spill preparedness.

      This past weekend saw the delivery of an international climate change report that spells out the choice we have to make quite simply: we either stop developing new fossil fuel energy sources, or contend with dire environmental consequences including massive storms, food, and water shortages.

      The Burnaby Mountain Caretakers are a mixture of young activists and mature professionals, students and professors. I believe they know what we all risk by not changing course. If we don’t stand up to Kinder Morgan’s bullying—in whatever manner we’re comfortable with—the costs will be far greater than the alleged damages spelled out in the company’s threatening legal papers.



      Alexandra Swann

      Nov 6, 2014 at 7:08pm

      In addition to the Caretakers, the other group named in the injunction is BROKE. They are a community group of mostly retired folks, and they desperately need help with their legal costs. They have a separate fund for the legal defense, and you can donate here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/broke-against-big-oil

      Any little bit or exposure helps!

      Earl Richards

      Nov 7, 2014 at 6:47am

      Kinder Morgan has to make restitution to the citizens of Burnaby for those beautiful, old trees, they destroyed. It took hundreds of years for those trees to grow.The arrogance of this Texas corporation is overwhelming.


      Nov 7, 2014 at 12:26pm

      It is a beautiful time when you see Canadians putting the land before money, seems to be a rare occurence and the large industry takes advantage. Our anscestors would be proud.


      Nov 8, 2014 at 9:43am

      A) Protesters you call ecoterrorists = people trying to save your planet ... B) Kinder Morgan /Corporate terrorists = a group bent on profit and destroying your planet ...Looks like a simple choice to me.... KM will never get the social license to proceed especially with their intimidation and bullying tactics...sorry but the masses are awakening and you are out numbered


      Nov 8, 2014 at 9:14pm

      I grew up in Burnaby and lived at the base of the mountain for a few years, I can't imagine the City leaders condoning this type of thing, nor the BC politicians, unless of course $ is changing hands with no outside knowledge. I now live in the tropics of North Queensland, Australia, but if I were still in BC, I would certainly stand up and be counted for and fight the Yanks.

      C Brown

      Nov 9, 2014 at 4:23am

      Burnaby residents breathe & eat garbage smoke 24/7. The pipeline protests are being used as smoke screen to hide the fact that over the past 26 years Burnaby has burnt 7,500,000 tons of garbage at a five acre site located a few minutes drive south of Marine Way, a bit west of Marine Drive. Within another 25 years over 15 million tons of garbage would of been burned.

      When a pile of garbage is burnt 25% of it turns into toxic ash laden with concentrated poisonous residues. The other 75% of the garbage gets released into the air as toxic smoke, hence after more than a quarter century worth of Burnaby's garbage burning they have dumped 1,800,000 tons of toxic ash and 5,700,000 tons of toxic smoke into our ecosphere. Burnaby's burning garbage creates megatons of dioxins accumulating so thick at times they form a fog that is visible from on top of the hill.

      The truth about garbage incinerators;