Historic. That’s the only word that really fits the last four days in British Columbia.
It started on Sunday, the room slowly filling with people from across BC and right across Canada. Old, young, teachers, engineers, fisherman, construction workers, and scientist, First Nations and non-First Nations people all coming together to get trained to risk arrest in order to defend the coast. Throughout the day we held sessions on anti-oppression, media and messaging, and non-violent direct action and heard the stories of the places people had journeyed from to be there from the Gitxsan who traveled over 10-hrs by bus, to a delegation from Alberta, to folks from as far away as P.E.I. All of us joining together in our commitment to defending the coast from tar sands pipelines and tankers.
On Monday I watched as the legislature ground, the traditional territory of the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations, filled with people. They seemed to come from everywhere and each time I looked up more and more appeared. When I thought the grounds couldn’t hold any more I heard the drum beat of the First Nation delegation. They marched, representatives of dozens of Nations, the leaders of the pipeline tanker fight, all drumming together, dressed in full regalia down the street. When they arrived the ground shook. The crowd seemed suddenly silent, and you felt the power. You felt the unbroken wall of resistance. In that moment all of us knew that no tar sands pipeline would ever be built through BC again.
They were soon joined by union leaders – the Canadian Energy Paperworkers union, BC Teachers Federation, Canadian Autoworkers Union, and United Fishermans and Allied Workers union all stating their opposition to these toxic tar sands pipeline proposals. Then social justice, and environmental leaders, seniors, youth, business people and land owners all joining together to defend the coast.
The day finished with a 235-metre act of civil disobedience. Hundreds risked arrest staking a black banner, representing the length of one of many super tankers that would regularly threaten the west coast should the proposed Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines be approved, into the legislature lawn. The tanker banner was so long it outlined the legislature lawn and stretched across the roadway.
There were so many people the police couldn’t do anything but stand and watch.
On Wednesday, actions took place in over 65 communities throughout BC. From Bella Bella, where 10% of the community came to the noon time rally, to Christy Clark’s riding where 100’s took to the street, to the Kids at the Kitasoo Community School, or the amazing folks that braved the cold in Fort St. James. Right across BC the message was the same. BC’s coast is not for sale. No tar sands, no pipelines, no tankers. We were united.
I hope that the BC and Federal Government get the message because if they keep pushing we are ready to push back. When Art Sterritt, Executive Director at Coastal First Nations asked at the rally, ‘Are you willing to lay down in front of the bulldozers?" The unanimous response was ‘Yes!’.
Prime Minister Harper be warned we created history once and we are more than willing to do it again.
The movement against the tar sands is just getting started.