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Communities standing in the path of industry

The number of communities willing to stand in the way of industrial development is growing as they examine their options for real change.  While indigenous communities have asserted their sovereignty by taking action against industry for generations, non-indigenous communities throughout BC are also seeing the need to stand up to government and industry that continue to promote exploitation of land and communities in the interest of profits.

In mid August the Unistoten Clan of the Wet’suwet’en hosted their second annual camp to build support for grassroots opposition to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline. This years camp saw the completion of a cabin built directly in the path of the Enbridge’s proposed right of way.  The Council of Canadians has attended and supported both camps and has committed to continue supporting the grassroots opposition to tar sands infrastructure that is growing around the province.

The focus of the Unistoten Camp this summer was not simply Enbridge but many other industrial projects that threaten eco-systems throughout their territories including mining and hydro projects.  The Pacific Trails Pipeline (link) was highlighted as another major pipeline that the community is fighting to stop because there is very little public knowledge of this pipeline.  It is especially troubling because this gas pipeline follows the same right of way as the Enbridge proposal.

photo Harjap Grewal

The following weekend the Golden Chapter of the Council of Canadians hosted a direct action camp to prepare local activists to take action again private hydro projects proposed in the area.  This past March the Chapter mobilized against a Selkirk Power proposal and are monitoring the potential development of several other proposals.

In May of 2009 more than 50 environmental, indigenous, community and labour organization united in opposition to these private power projects.  One month earlier, when the Union of BC Indian Chiefs were joined by the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities to call for a moratorium on the development of these project there was little impact since the provincial government had unilaterally passed Bill 30 in 2003 removing of its land use jurisdiction over these projects from local governments.

This power grab coupled with the rubber stamping model employed by the BC Environmental Assessment Office has lead communities to see action as their only real option.  Over the years people have mobilized in the thousands to oppose these private power projects, stopping several of them in their tracks.  Communities like Golden, who are still fighting to protect local rivers and streams, are preparing to establish blockades if they are forced to do so.

Members of Nelson and Kelowna Chapters also attended the Golden training.  They joined other westcoast
communites have expressed interest in engaging in civil disobeidence and direct action in order to attain
justice in social and environmental struggles.  The Comox Valley Chapter held a training earlier in the
summer to support their work against the Raven Coal Mine and have formed a coalition of communities
groups willing to engage in direct action.

In Burnaby, this past weekend, the Council of Canadians partnered with Stop the Pave, Streams of Justice,
Tanker Free BC and the Wilderness Committee to rally against Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion and the increasing number of tankers carrying tar sands crude through the Burrard Inlet.

photo from Vancouver Media Coop

photo courtesy of Vancouver Media Coop

The rally was in solidarity with the civil disobedience actions against TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline currently taking place is Washington, DC.  Many in the crowd in Burnaby signed up to have their own training to begin taking action locally.  Stop the Pave along with local Council of Canadians chapters have been engaging in direct action against highway expansion in the lower  mainland and hope to build a broader base within the community for such action through upcoming  trainings.

Mike Mercredi spoke from Fort Chipewyan to the rally expressing his gratitude to people that are fighting against tar sands around the continent, adding  “This is not going to end here.  This is the start.  This is the start of the people’s resistance.”  Ten year old Ta’kaiya Blaney, from the Sliammon First Nation, gave a powerful performance during the demonstration of her song Shallow Waters and spoke about the threat posed by the Enbridge Pipeline while standing infront of the Kinder Morgan terminal.

Wet’suwet’en land defenders also sent a solidarity message linking the fight against TransCanada in the US, Kinder Morgan in Burnaby and their own fight against Enbridge. “We do not wish to see this level of destruction continue in anyone’s backyards. When we are done defeating the proposed pipelines in our region, we will continue to support the halt of destruction from Tar Sands activities, as well as so called clean coal, mountain top removal, shale gas fracking, natural gas, and any greewashing attempts from so called green groups and NGO’s.”