On peaceful civil disobedience, William Winder and Zain Haq going to jail, and the Trans Mountain pipeline project

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      Before Mohandas K. Gandhi was sentenced to prison in 1922 for three articles published in Young India, he delivered a speech that went down in history.

      "In my opinion, non-co-operation with evil is as much a duty as is co-operation with good," Gandhi told court. "But in the past, non-co-operation has been deliberately expressed in violence to the evil-doer.

      "I am endeavouring to show to my countrymen that violent non-co-operation only multiples evil, and that as evil can only be sustained by violence, withdrawal of support of evil requires complete abstention from violence," the anticolonial leader added. "Nonviolence implies voluntary submission to the penalty for non-co-operation with evil."

      With that, Gandhi invited the judge to deliver "the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me for what in law is deliberate crime—and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen".

      "The only course open to you, the Judge and the assessors, is either to resign your posts and thus dissociate yourselves from evil, if you feel that the law you are called upon to administer is an evil, and that in reality I am innocent," Gandhi continued, "or to inflict on me the severest penalty, if you believe that the system and the law you are assisting to administer are good for the people of this country, and that my activity is, therefore, injurious to the common weal."

      Peaceful civil disobedience was also highlighted during the historic the March on Washington in 1963. On that day, the great American civil-rights leader John Lewis declared that he was tired of seeing his people locked up in jail over and over again.

      "How long can we be patient?" he asked. 'We want our freedom and we want it now.

      "We do not want to go to jail," Lewis emphasized. "But we will go to jail if this is the price we must pay for love, brotherhood, and true peace."

      In the spirit of Gandhi and Lewis, two B.C. residents were each sentenced to jail this week for two weeks for engaging in peaceful civil disobedience in the face of a court injunction prohibiting interfering with construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project.

      One of those who pleaded guilty was William Winder, a 69-year-old retired professor in UBC's Department of French, Hispanic, and Italian Studies and former co-editor of Computing in the Humanities Working Papers.

      Winder suspended himself in a tree to prevent logging to make room for the pipeline. 

      According to an article by Glacier reporter Jeremy Hainsworth, who was in the courtroom on February 15, he did this because "western values have had the unintended consequence of bringing us to the edge of climate collapse".

      The other man sentenced to jail for two weeks was 21-year-old Zain Haq, who's one of the coordinators with Save Old Growth.

      “I dedicate my time in prison to each of the 600 people who died in the heat dome and other climate disasters in B.C. last year," Haq said in court, according to the group's website. "They will not die in vain.”

      Video: Watch Zain Haq's speech outside B.C. Supreme Court prior to his sentencing for criminal contempt of court.

      Going to jail is "part of the job"

      Haq also delivered a videotaped speech outside the court in advance of being sentenced by Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick. And it reflected some of the same sentiments expressed a century ago by Gandhi and nearly 60 years ago by Lewis. 

      The young climate activist has been inspired by their successful peaceful-civil disobedience campaigns, which brought about transformative change.

      Haq, an SFU undergraduate student, described going to jail as "part of the job".

      He also said that people in his movement need to put aside "preconceived notions" of halting rising greenhouse gas emissions by joining a community-activist campaign for a little while and then enjoying their regular lives at other times.

      "When we're doing civil resistance, everything is on the table," Haq said in the video. "And that involves time in prison. It involves losing your house. It involves many different things."

      He also revealed that his group, Save Old Growth, will begin a second round of disruption on March 21 after a campaign in January that resulted in 46 people being arrested.

      "Ideally, we want at least a few hundred people, at least 200 people, to be willing to risk arrest to the point that you're put on remand, which means that you aren't—haven't—been proven guilty but you land in prison for a while," Haq said in the video.

      He noted that this tactic was employed by the Freedom Riders in the U.S. civil rights movement. John Lewis was one of the original 13 who risked their lives in the U.S. Deep South by challenging segregationist laws.

      Haq wants a similar tactic employed in B.C. to save forest canopies that serve as valuable carbon sinks in the fight against a climate breakdown.

      "It's how we pressure the provincial government to introduce legislation to end all old-growth logging in British Columbia," Haq said.

      He didn't seem overly concerned about going to jail to support this effort.

      "What I would just tell people is that this is a Canadian prison," Haq said. "I mean, never say never, I'll be fine. I'll be having a nap. I'll be reading a book. It's not the end of the world. The end of the world is the end of the world. That's what we believe."

      Haq has previously told the Straight that he engages in these activities without the expectation of any immediate results. But even he was probably surprised by what transpired later in the week.

      Three days after Winder and Haq were sentenced, the federal government–owned Trans Mountain corporation announced that the cost of the project had ballooned from $12.6 billion to $21.4 billion.

      When the federal government bought the Trans Mountain system for $4.5 billion in 2018, the cost of the expansion was $9.3 billion.

      It was initially announced as a $5.4-billion expansion, which means the price has since quadrupled.

      The project will triple shipments of diluted bitumen from Alberta to B.C. to be exported on tankers travelling through the Salish Sea. The annual climate impacts of the pipeline project, including downstream emissions, exceed annual greenhouse gas emissions for all of B.C., according to a City of Vancouver–commissioned study in 2014.

      On February 18, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland reaffirmed the government's commitment to complete the pipeline, which is 50 percent built, even with the monumental cost overruns.

      However, she also stated that the government will not spend any additional money on the project.

      This means that the pipeline company will have to find other sources of money. To that end, it's brought on BMO Capital Markets and TD Securities to provide advice.

      Freeland also thanked the long-time company president, Ian Anderson, for his years of service prior to him announcing his retirement.

      The deputy prime minister did not offer any thanks to the many B.C. activists, including Winder and Haq, who've sacrificed their liberty to stop the project on behalf of future generations.