Laurie Embree is a 70-year-old grandmother who spent her first of five days in jail on July 31st. Her offence? Blocking construction at a oil storage tank farm in protest of the planned Kinder Morgan expansion.
I recently spoke to Laurie Embree, also a Council of Canadians supporter, about her experience joining the waves of actions targeting the Burnaby Westridge terminal set to expand from 13 to 26 tanks for the expanded 890,000 barrels of oil per day (from Alberta tar sands) Kinder Morgan pipeline.
Laurie is in good company.
Others who have risked arrest to stop construction include: Chief Judy Wilson of Neskonlith Band; Indigenous elder and Sundancer Jim Layden; a number of doctors highlighting the links to air quality the fossil fuel industry and climate change; Order of Canada recipient and current Vancouver council candidate Jean Swanson; Former NDP MP, now Vancouver Mayor candidate Kennedy Stewart; Leader of the Green Party Elizabeth May; Former Trans Mountain environmental engineer Romilly Cavanaugh; Emilie Smith, the parish priest at the St. Barnabas Anglican Church in New Westminster; Steven Heinrichs, a former Mennonite pastor.
What follows here is a re-telling of our conversation.
First, let me start by saying thank you. Can you tell me why you felt it was necessary to block the Westridge tank terminal gates in protest of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion?
Quite simply, climate change is the most dangerous thing that is happening to humanity. The oil and gas industry itself has known since the 1940s that what they are doing creates climate change. In the 1980s industry started putting millions of dollars into denying their impact and the existence of climate change, and to do this is horrible. What is profit compared to the health of our entire world? Then to put out more money to purchase government support - which they have done - with the outcome of this Kinder Morgan buyout. People we elect not supporting their own constituents? This is a huge nasty boondoggle.
All I can do personally is change my own lifestyle and things like protest and write letters. I wish I could do more.
What was it like, being arrested and ultimately jailed for taking this stand against the Kinder Morgan, or should I say, Trudeau oil pipeline?
Well, I mean I already had a mindset to totally accept what was coming. The people, the guards and inmates, were wonderful on both counts but the system itself sucks. The beds and the food were horrible. It took ten hours on the first day to arrive at the facility, I was cold and handcuffed. The food is criminal and I’m doing what I can now to shed light on this.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?
I joined the large March 10th big rally walking up the hill to the Watch House. That’s when I knew that I was willing to get arrested. I promised my granddaughter a trip as a grad present, when that was done I went to a protest and said, ok I am your guinea pig, I will get arrested today. If I lived near the Kinder Morgan facilities I would be there all the time. There are people all over the world that are showing their opposition to this fossil fuel expansion project. What you see in the way of protesters is small compared to the people that know we need to stop this.
Why do you support the Council of Canadians?
I think it is important to support groups like the Council of Canadians and Dogwood, but I am hoping these types of groups will have a larger amount of influence on governments. We need all groups to be doing more to stop the Kinder Morgan expansion and not just ‘talk’ and social media, we need action. I want to see organizations like the Council of Canadians out there on the front lines.
As reported in the Georgia Straight, Laurie gave the following statement before the judge that sentenced here to 7 days in prison:
"Your Honour, I have lived my 70 years abiding by the law..."But, if we look back into our history, there have been many times when our laws have supported injustices….In the 18th century there were laws that supported child labour to the benefit of the Industrialists of the times….In the 19th century, laws were created to support the ownership of black people to the benefit of Plantation Owners. In the 20th century, we made laws that allowed us to take native children away from their parents and to place the rest of the family on reserves, to the benefit of Europeans that wanted their land. And again, laws that suppressed women’s rights, to the benefit of their husbands. All of those laws were created through the judicial system- that you are a part of, sir – but they were actually designed by influential people behind the scenes that would profit from them. As much as we think we have come a long way, the mentality behind the Industrialists, the Plantation owners, the European lust for Indigenous land, and the men that wanted their wives to do their bidding, is still very present in our society. Our judicial system is still being manipulated by rich and powerful people that have the influence to make our legal system work for them. I truly believe that when we have laws that support injustices, it is the duty of all good men and women to stand up and challenge those laws."
You can learn more of Laurie's statement to the presiding Judge in this video by Lead Now.