IN THE POWER OF THE MOMENT -Even if the moment is getting arrested

Burnaby Mountain, the site of great controversy, and the battlefield for the proposed location for boring a hole through the mountain for Kinder Morgan’s Transmountain pipeline. There has been no respect paid for the mountain, the land of the Coast Salish peoples or the park that is enjoyed by many British Columbians. Burnaby Mountain is the symbol for the opposition to the entire Transmountain pipeline.

Kinder Morgan’s project has become more contentious as work has been happening on the mountain and as people try and stop this work from proceeding.  Obviously, Kinder Morgan has no social license in this area and above all, no consent of the First Nations territories they are in.

Today, in solidarity with the Musquam, Squamish and Tseil Waututh peoples, and other signatories of the Fraser Declaration, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs crossed the line set out in the injunction and was arrested for civil disobedience. Accompanying him up the mountain to also be arrested was Amy George, a respected elder of the Tseil-Waututh Nation. They and others walked hand in hand up the mountain to the echoes of drums and singing throughout the forest.

Many emotions swirled through me as I watched the events on line.

I felt pride for Grand Chief Stewart Phillip who is a leader of action, who demonstrates what he believes in and stands with the people.  Today, he got arrested for the grandchildren so that they will have a future.

I felt dismayed that one of our most respected leaders has to get arrested to bring attention to the need to stop a project that will negatively impact the lands, the resources and rights of our people.

I felt impressed that those that crossed the line after the Grand Chief and Elder, were elderly people, who want to ensure a future for their children and many generations to come. 

I felt the strength and determination from those that gathered on the mountain, drawing on the forces of the earth and water.  I felt the unity of the First Nations people and others who went to witness and support.  A Chief from Wet’suwet’en and from Yinka Dene travelled from the north to show their Nations unity. 

As Grand Chief Stewart Phillip was arrested, people shouted out “we stand with you”, “we honour you” “thank you”. And as elder Amy George was arrested, the Women’s warrior song was sung to honour her and Stewart, two people that are indeed warriors as they are defenders of the land.

Tears stung my eyes as I watched two policemen hold on to the Grand Chief and lead him away.  Prayers came to my lips for his strength, safety and clarity of mind in dealing with legal authorities. 

People were clapping, whooping and hollering, war cries, and people shouting, “It is everybody’s problem.”

Why has it come to this? That respected leaders, elders, children and others have to be arrested for the cause?

People do not believe in the regulatory processes any more.  Not since Harper reduced the laws and the effectiveness of the National Energy Board and Joint Review panels through the omnibus bill C-35 and 48 and made it easier for pipelines and oil companies.  And not since the provincial Government cut back on environmental protection to allow for pipelines and economic development in parks. Then they proceeded to override the city of Burnaby’s land use plan.  There is no integrity of municipal laws nor First Nations laws by the federal and provincial governments. What will be next? Governments have only demonstrated to the public that money is their only concern at the expense of the environment.  Is there any wonder there is such a backlash happening in BC.

People were denied the ability to appear before the NEB and voice their concerns on Kinder Morgan. Now they have to find other ways to do so.

 People were denied the right of cross-examination of Kinder Morgan. A simple right that is integral to justice.

Prominent people have stepped out of the NEB process because it has no credibility.

We have created a culture where if you get arrested, you are a hero, and you are thanked for doing so.  There should be something wrong in that, yet there isn’t when this is the only avenue open to you. We are teaching our children that a protest culture is the answer to governments who don’t listen to the people and do not respect the environment we live in.

I keep thinking that maybe people should line up by the thousands for miles and one by one get arrested. Is there a point where the police would stop arresting people?  I keep thinking of the scene in Ghandi where line by line the men stepped up to get clubbed.  The women picked them up and the next line took their place.  Ghandi and Nelson Mandela went to prison for their cause.  Eventually they achieved their objectives. Is history always to repeat itself? Or can we change the colonial mindsets, the capitalistic greed and instill the need to protect our environment and reverse climate change as much as we are able. 

Meanwhile downtown a crowd of people kept the lawyers from crossing into the courthouse, and then chained themselves to the courthouse door as the application to expand the area the injunction applies to was being heard. People are very committed to stopping the Transmountain Pipeline.

In Victoria, the NEB hearings are occurring and for the past two days there have been protests as well.

Pipelines and tankers have become a very big issue for First Nations and the people of British Columbia and will continue to grow in importance. The world is watching.  Especially those that want to invest in BC and see the kinds of events they will have to endure if they want large development.

We all have to make our choices of what we want to do to preserve and protect the environment and the ecosystems that sustain our way of life, our rights and the beauty around us.  Get arrested, chain ourselves to the court house or a tree, raise our voices so more people can understand the concerns, write letters to the Prime Minister and Premier and other leaders, join in protests, there are so many ways to be involved. 

 The power is in the people, the power to speak, the power to act and the power to determine what happens to the land. 

Events like today, watching a respected, committed Leader like Grand Chief Stewart Phillip get arrested only empowers people more.  It makes them want to do more to stop the project.  People make a commitment to do their share.

And Because we can…we will use the power of every possible moment to do what we need to do.

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