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Mass Direct Action in B.C.: Interview with Participant

A Mass Direct Action against a Climate Crime began yesterday in B.C. It is being organized as part of the Wave Against the Pave campaign, a grassroots movement for better transit not freeways. 

(photo credit: Vancouver media coop)

Wave against the Pave Campaign:
The proposed South Fraser Perimeter ‘Road’ freeway would greatly increase greenhouse gas emissions, pave over some of BC’s best farmland, scar the delicate banks of the Fraser River, pollute elementary school playgrounds, and damage indigenous heritage sites. Organizers are demanding a shift of resources from climate crimes to creating green jobs and climate justice including solutions like public transit, electric passenger trains, and protecting communities from flooding and other effects of climate change.

It is an initiative of activists from local B.C. Council of Canadians chapters, GatewaySucks.org, the Critical Criminology Working Group and others. You can find out more on the Council of Canadians local climate justice campaigns webpage and the Wave Against the Pave website.

The Wave against the Pave campaign is a vibrant example of a local campaign for climate justice. The Council of Canadians is committed to working with our chapters and allies to advance local campaigns to challenge climate crimes, advance real solutions to the climate crisis and broaden the Canadian movement for climate justice.
The climate crisis demands urgent action. International climate negotiations and faltering and the Canadian government remains committed to being an energy superpower focused on export-oriented energy trade. We need to be vigilant in our demands for international and national action, but we are nearing the time when actions could be too little and too late. In this context, people coming together in their communities plays a vital role in advancing climate justice.
I reached Eric Doherty earlier today. Eric is a member of the Council of Canadians Vancouver Burnaby chapter and is a participant in the ongoing action in B.C. He took the time to answer a couple of questions – I hope you are as inspired by Eric and the other participants as I am, and chose to share this with others.

What is the Mass Direct Action you are participating in?

“Starting yesterday, on Earth Day, I joined over 200 people to occupy a construction site on the South Fraser perimeter freeway on the banks of the Fraser river. We are blocking construction and drawing attention to the fact that building freeways is a climate crime.”

How are you occupying the site?

“We are constructing an action camp on the construction site. We had around thirty people stay overnight yesterday and have more people coming in, integrating into the camp and taking over for tonight.”

What sort of activities have you been doing?

“We are not only occupying the site, we’ve planted quite a few native tree species in the area. Many of these trees were donated from a local organic Christmas tree farmer. We feel this is an important action on Earth Day which is increasingly being used as a marketing opportunity for large corporations. It is a meaningful symbolic action – we are planting trees to change the direction of our society in an area that has been clear cut.”

How does the campaign connect to climate justice? 
“In Canada, transportation emissions are about a third of overall emissions, but when you consider the full carbon footprint it is more like half of emissions. Building freeways is taking money away from public transit and is encouraging people to drive more and increasingly transport fuels are coming from the tar sands, an example of climate injustice. This highway will literally drive up emissions. Stopping this freeway will reduce the emissions it would have incurred and is a step in the right direction. Globally people who are most vulnerable to climate change have done the least to cause it. Countries like Canada in the Global North have a responsibility to achieve deep emission reductions – more highways is the wrong direction. There are also local justice dimensions. This highway is slated to be right next to a public school in a low middle income community as well as a Muslim elementary school. It is right beside people’s home. It is an example of local health, economic and environmental justice issues crossing over.

How has the response to the action been?

“Very positive. We’ve had people dropping by the camp to talk with us and support the campaign. We have consistently had support from within the community and with many in B.C. This morning I walked to the front gate and was greeted by local residents who had come by to bring us coffee and donuts. It gave us an opportunity to speak with them about their experiences in the neighborhood.”

You can read Eric’s blog about a new Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives paper Just in Time for Earth Day: Report Urges Shift from Freeways to Transit here. You can read the paper wich oulines a path forward to a zero emission provincial transportation system, here.

You can read Brent Patterson’s blogs featuring local news coverage of the action here.

We wish Council of Canadians Lower Mainland chapter activists Cathy Wilander, Eric Doherty, Bob Ages, Council of Canadians BC-Yukon regional organizer Harjap Grewal, and all others taking part in this action our solidarity and support.