Support the VMC, donate today!
Support the VMC, donate today!
In Washington DC, a massive display of civil disobedience is well underway to pressure the US government to stop the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline designed to carry tar sands oil from Northern Alberta to refineries across the United States. Currently, 381 people have already been arrested, with hundreds more pledging to face arrest as well. At the same time, Mother Nature has forced Washington to be declared a state of emergency with the threat of Hurricane Irene.
Meanwhile, back in northern Burnaby, a plethora of social justice groups, environmental groups, and concerned citizens gathered for an action to protest the tar sand’s pipeline that runs through their backyard to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline Terminal on the banks of the beautiful Burrard Inlet. The demonstration was called in solidarity with the folks protesting in Washington DC.
Speaking at the rally, Ben West reminded the attentive protestors that “Right now, two times a week, leaving from right from over there [Burrard inlet] there is two tankers carrying about three times as much [oil] as was spilled by the Exxon valdez putting our Vancouver harbour at risk.” West went on, “Kinder Morgan, the company who runs that terminal over there, has very quietly been trying to actually expand the amount of oil that’s passing through there: in fact, they said they want to go up to 700,000 barrels a week, coming through that pipeline, which would drastically increase, not only the threat to our coastline, but it would also increase the amount that we are contributing to climate change. In the fight against climate change in British Columbia, we are standing blocks away from ground zero.”
While massive civil disobedience is ongoing in Washington DC, Ottawa is also scheduled to meet with hundreds of Canadians on September 26th also pledging to peacefully say no to the tar sands. Thus, before the initial rally transitioned to a march to the Kinder Morgan site, Harjap Grewal from the Council of Canadians gave the crowd something to consider. “The governments and corporations aren’t really listening. How many people here believe that [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper is going to do something credible about the tar sands? We can’t rely on the government or these 'representatives' of ours to make change. People are going to have to do it themselves.”
Once the spirited march arrived at the Kinder Morgan site, passing by a police paddy wagon, the technologically savvy organizers linked up to a fellow named Mike Mercredi from Fort Chipewyan (Fort Chip). Fort Chip is an isolated community downstream from the Alberta tar sands. Via telephone to megaphone, Mercredi had this to share with the demonstrators: “This generation now is stepping up and making their voices heard and this is scaring them…we are ready to do what it takes. This is not going to end here. This is the start. This is the start of the people’s resistance.”
Said resistance could not have been more poignantly displayed by anyone but ten-year-old Ta ‘Kaiya Blaney, who addressed the crowd, unscripted in front of the Kinder Morgan site. “All people think about is money. What about the future generations? What about my generation? What about the animals and ecosystems? What about the cultures of the world that depend on ecosystems?” Following these pertinent questions, Blaney had this to say about the proposed pipeline to bring oil from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat, British Columbia: “Apparently they’re planning to hang a pipeline off cliffs in the Rockies. Anyone can see that’s ridiculous.” She went on to sing a song she wrote called shallow waters. The acapella performance could only be described as beautiful.
Another moving speaker at this event was a woman named Rose from Fort Chip. In the mid-day sun, Rose courageously shared her story. She described battling for her life having been diagnosed with breast cancer in January; a diagnosis she alleged is not uncommon in Fort Chip – a community that has made international headlines for their poor health and proximity to the tar sands. “I didn’t think I was going to get it [cancer]. I thought my body was strong enough… but no, I got it too now. I am fighting for my life. I wish there was something I could do to stop this [the tar sands]…they have ignored us…I would like to see it stopped.”
Like Rose, Mike Mercredi from Fort Chip would like to see the tar sands stopped as well. As he sat lakeside in Fort Chipewyan reflecting and sharing with us via telephone, Mercredi anticipated a storm. “Our voices are getting louder and they’re starting to scare them because when people stand up, that’s when things change; and that’s the world we have today…we have to rise up like a storm.”
The demonstration concluded in northern Burnaby next to the site of the 2007 Kindar Morgan pipeline breach, which saw crude oil spewed into the local neighbourhood.