Resistance is escalating in the old-growth forests of the Sunshine Coast, from blockades to tree-sits to a burning barricade. For decades, residents have used almost every strategy in the book to protect wildlife and their drinking watersheds. But the clearcut logging continues under the control of the BC government’s Timber Sale program.
Last week. protesters set a homemade roadblock on fire to stop the logging above Roberts Creek, in a bear denning area adjacent to Mount Elphinstone Provincial Park. Currently there are several camps and at least two groups of defenders on the mountain. Contact Elphinstone Logging Focus for info and to let us know if you can bring or donate gear.
As the Vancouver Sun notes, we could be returning to the days of the “War in the Woods” that wracked coastal BC in the 1990s. Environmentalists spiked trees, damaged equipment, blockaded roads, sparked international boycotts, and hundreds were carted off to mass civil disobedience trials. Loggers heaved rocks, waved nooses, wore T-shirts saying that female environmentalists should be sexually assaulted, and they burned down a peace camp and injured three young people in 1999.
Together we will win: Native and non-native people join forces to stop the destruction
Pacheedaht First Nation declares support for a grassroots re-occupation of their traditional territory in the Walbran Valley, where Teal Jones logging company is clear-cutting the ancient cathedral forests around the park without consent.
It takes a community to heal the land. Pacific Coast people have a long history of standing up for the places we love. In recent decades, thousands of Vancouver Islanders have come together to protect incredible old-growth forests from clearcut logging.
It wasn’t easy then, and it won’t be easy now. The odds are against us. But our side is recruiting an army of peaceful resisters, and developing plans for strategic action to win back the Walbran.
May 21 to 23, Forest Action Network and Women for the Walbran are presenting workshops on non-violent civil disobedience, tree climbing safety, fundraising, legal rights, and more. Meet like-minded forest protectors and learn from the most experienced campaigners on the island. Invest in a future of cathedral forests, wildlife, and spring-fed mountain streams.
Tree-climbing is incredibly effective for occupying the forest canopy, documenting rare species and getting a birds-eye view of the logging, while staying well away from the loggers themselves. With our training, almost anyone can climb a 100-ft tree safely and easily using ropes and a harness.
Non-violent direct action training is crucial for anyone who might come into contact with police, loggers, or protesters. This in-depth workshop uses role-playing to practice techniques for deescalating conflict.
We can’t do it alone. Folks who love the wild coast are pitching in for the Action Training equipment drive. Here’s the wish list:
This update comes from Victoria Forest Action Network (VICFAN), a grassroots organization fiercely committed to land defense in British Columbia. See also The Courage to Speak Truth to Power, a speech by VICFAN’s Zoe Blunt recently published at the DGR News Service.
Cheers to the new year! And to the gutsy land defenders who stand up to corporate villians and win (sometimes)
People are blockading, occupying, and protesting corporate destruction across BC. Message us with news or to find out about joining and supporting community organizing to protect land and water.
2016 land defense forecast Skill-shares, workshops, and action training
We're putting together a training schedule for spring, summer, and fall in Victoria, Vancouver, Port Renfrew, the Walbran Valley, and Northern BC. Please get in touch to find out how to bring a workshop to your community!
To make these workshops succeed, we're calling for workshop leaders, cooks, fundraisers, drivers, child-care providers, and spaces for the trainings and for out of town guests. Visit the House of Solidarity to learn more.
April, May, June – Spring Training in Victoria, Vancouver, and the Walbran Valley
Mid-May – Spring Construction Crew at Unist'ot'en Camp
July – Summer Caravan: schoolbus convoy from Victoria to Unist'ot'en Camp
Fall Getaway – Labour Day weekend
Stay tuned for details. Participants can donate on a sliding scale.
No pipelines, No tankers: the good news
Prime Minister Trudeau ordered a ban on oil tankers on the Pacific Coast, effectively killing the Enbridge Pipeline. (National Observer)
Experts say there is no way the BC government can make good on its promises about natural gas exploitation (fracking). It is not going to take off, thanks to falling prices, a global glut, and renewable energy. (Bloomberg)
Changes to the political and economic landscape last year are having an impact on pipeline plans and logging operations, but some companies seem to be on auto-pilot, ignoring court decisions, change in government, indigenous rights, the Paris accord, and reality. (The Tyee)
The bad news
Some of the worst projects are still going ahead in 2016:
Petronas LNG is preparing to build a fracked gas terminal at Lelu Island near Prince Rupert. Members of the Lax Kwalaams Nation are occupying the site.
Kinder Morgan is currently drilling test holes in Burrard Inlet for a new tarsands pipeline and terminal in Burnaby.
Site C dam and hydro project is planned to flood the Peace River Valley in Northeastern BC to make energy for gas liquefication plants that will probably never be built.
Teal Jones is logging cathedral forests in the Walbran Valley, Vancouver Island. The company has obtained a court injunction to block protestors.
South Island Aggregates is dumping toxic soil in the Shawnigan Lake watershed, Vancouver Island. Local residents are in the road blocking trucks almost every day at 7 am. Three lawsuits are in process and a dozen people were arrested after the company obtained an injunction to block protestors.
There has never been a more important time for effective, strategic action for land and water. Please support our work today.
Walbran Witness Camp in the ancient forest
We're recruiting people to help hold back industrial logging next to Carmanah Provincial Park on Vancouver Island. Find out more here.
Thank you for being part of this movement to protect living ecosystems
VIC FAN is celebrating its ninth year on Vancouver Island, Coast Salish and Nuu-chah-nulth territory. Big cheers to everyone who took part in our victories!
WildCoast and Forest Action Network are 100% home-grown, grassroots. and volunteer-led.
In the past year, we're seeing a surge of land defense actions in BC and elsewhere in Canada. Zoe Blunt of Victoria Forest Action Network compiled this list to help keep track of current, ongoing, and flying blockades, along with ways to get involved and support the actions.
We are ALL BEING CALLED to support these land defenders. To answer the call, email Zoe at email@example.com – she can help set up ride shares and give advice for fundraising.
Injunction and arrests at Shawnigan Lake, Vancouver Island: Community residents, including members of the Cowichan First Nation, are seeking an injunction to shut down toxic soil dumping in their drinking watershed. The dump overflowed during heavy rain November 13, 2015. Meanwhile the company is seeking an injunction to shut down the protestors, two of whom were arrested Noveber 13.
Walbran Valley blockade: Members of the Pacheedaht First Nation and non-native environmentalists have built a camp to stop the clearcutting of ancient cathedral forests just outside a park boundary. The Walbran has been the site of massive protests, civil disobedience, and sabotage for twenty years.
Ongoing: Coastal First Nations vs. Grizzly hunters. For two years, the Coastal Forest Guardians have been patrolling the central coast of BC and "educating" grizzly hunters and guides about the ban on hunting on their territory. The province continues to issue trophy hunting permits and now the Guardians say they are escalating their enforcement of the ban.
Happening now: Ahousaht First Nation on Vancouver Island is using boats to stop a new salmon farm in their territorial waters. Media reports here.
Ongoing: Gitdumden Clan of the Wet'suwet'en (neighbours to Unist'ot'en) in Northern BC. They are occupying their territory to block pipelines, logging, and mining.
New: Likhts'amisyu Clan of the Wet'suwet'en (neighbours to Unist'ot'en), Northern BC. They are occupying their territory to block pipelines. This is Chief Toghestiy's camp. FB page.
Ongoing: Lax Kw'alaams First Nation vs. LNG pipeline terminal, near Prince Rupert BC. The drilling platform was barged into position near Lelu Island in a bay that holds millions of young salmon. The community is mobilizing to occupy the island and surround the barge. News story here.
Occasional: Shawnigan Lake, Vancouver Island: The community has been trying to blockade a contaminated soil dump in the drinking watershed for Victoria and the south island. It is largely symbolic but it has potential. News report.
One-day blockade near Powell River to protect wildlife. In May nine women surrounded a feller-buncher to stop it from working in a sensitive habitat area. They are demanding logging stop during nesting season, and an end to clear-cutting on the Sunshine Coast. More protests are expected.
Nicola Valley Chiefs and locals are blockading a biosolids dump near Merritt, BC and preventing sewage sludge from being trucked into their community. No shipments have made it through the blockade in over a month, and the companies responsible are preparing for a court hearing to have the protestors removed. Fundraising link here.
Ongoing: Voices of the Voiceless camp is an Indigenous re-occupation of Junction Creek area, St'at'imc Nation, 50 km north of Lillooet and about 250 km north of Vancouver. This camp was set up March 2015 under the direction of Xwisten elders to stop logging. The site is near a heritage site and the Junction Creek summer village, a traditional meeting place where people hunt, gather and process food. Video: Re occupying Junction Creek, Christine Jack's Welcome – YouTube
Victory: The Heiltsuk First Nation is fighting for the recovery of herring stocks on the Central Coast of BC. After the feds opened their territory to commercial fishing in March 2015, they occupied offices and set off solidarity rallies. UPDATE:Their blockade is now over and the government has caved in and closed the fishery.
The Sapotaweyak Cree Nation in Manitobais protecting sacred sites by blockading workers cutting trees for a hydroelectric transmission line.
Ongoing: Burnaby/Langley – KM pipeline: 120 locals and allies were arrested in two weeks at a tarsands pipeline test drill site near Vancouver. In 2015, drillers and surveyors are trying to do their work in various locations but people report their whereabouts and they are confronted and prevented from working. The Kwantlen First Nation is leading the charge for the next round of resistance, which shows signs of escalating further (workers threatened, truck vandalized, equipment stolen).
The Nuu-chah-nulth Nations have closed the spring herring fishery in the strait off the west coast of Vancouver Island. They are promising to intercept commercial vessels with their own boats.
Blockade down: The Northern Trappers Alliance, a traditional Dene group, was blocking forest roads near Ducharme, Saskatchewan to push back against the loss of wildlife and land to drilling, pipelines, and gates. The protest camp and picket line were moved to the side of the road after an injunction was issued and RCMP seized a trailer.
Victory: Tseshaht Nation, Port Alberni, Vancouver Island: Blockade down and victory – the province has agreed to stop timber sales in old-growth forests of the Nahmint Valley. The Tseshaht are monitoring to make sure this agreement is respected.
Blockade down: Klabona Keepers, Talhtan Nation (near Iskut) Blockade removed after injunction issued. They were blocking Imperial Metals mine in Sacred Headwaters and other projects in various locations. They are still seeking volunteers, rideshares, donations, and legal help. These traditionalists boycotted the injunction hearing and withdrew for now.
Victory: Penelakut (Grace Islet, near Salt Spring Island) Development site on burial ground. Blockade down: The province is moving to intervene and purchase the development site.
Sabine Channel (between Lasqueti Island and Texada Island) Oct 4: One-day blockade of coal tanker traffic.
Ongoing:Unis'tot'en Camp, (near Smithers) Permanent camp – blocking tarsands and gas pipelines for five years. Get info about the Caravan.
Ongoing: Madii Lii Camp (Gitxsan) New permanent camp – blocking tarsands and gas pipelines.
Ongoing: Sutikalh (near Lillooet) Permanent camp on St'at'imc territory, blocking resort development for over ten years.
A report by the RCMP’s Critical Infrastructure Intelligence Team reveals that Canada state surveillance of, and rhetoric about, grassroots environmental activists is not much different than in the US. We see the same false suppositions:
The well being of the people aligns with that of exploitative corporations which destroy landbases and poison the land, water, and air
Those defending land for current and future human and non-human inhabitants are working against the well being of the people
National security is more dependent on the 1% making massive profits than on a living landbase supporting the 100%
Peaceful defenders are “extremists” for not accepting the above premises and not allowing governments and corporations to do as they please
Burning fossil fuels is not proven to contribute to climate change
Sabotage against industrial machinery (itself responsible for murder of actual living and breathing humans and non-humans) is “violence”
In fact, civil disobedience or anything else that breaks their rules to challenge their power is “violence”
Amongst others named or hinted at as threats are Deep Green Resistance New York, Zoe Blunt of Forest Action Network, and the Unis’tot’en Camp. all operating as aboveground, not criminal, organizations.
Michael Toledano wrote an excellent article for Vice, including quotes from interviews with many of the activists highlighted in the report. He ties the leaked RCMP paper into proposed Bill C-51, which would drastically ramp up law enforcement powers, allowing a “preventive” seven day detainment of those who “may” commit a violent crime. How helpful of the RCMP report to clarify that anyone opposing industry is part of an unpredictably violent movement! Tolenado contrasts this chilling official perspective with his own first-hand experiences reporting on protest actions in Canada.
It’s worth reading the entire piece for an understanding of the lies government agents tell themselves and ultimately the people, a glimpse into the many struggles taking place across Canada, and the indomitable spirit of resistance which won’t back down in the face of increased state repression. As Zoe Blunt says:
“Now when push comes to shove we’ll find out exactly how repressive and violent this government is. They are the ones who are violent. They’re the ones who are criminals. They’re the ones willing to destroy ecosystems, habitats, watersheds. They’re the ones who are willing to put our entire coastline at risk, and everything that depends on this landscape, everything that depends on these ecosystems is put at risk when they put these projects through.
“They’re looking at civil war. If they want these pipelines they’re going to get it over our dead bodies.”
We recently highlighted Will Falk’s account as one of the Deep Green Resistance volunteers who braved the January snow and ice to help out at the Unist’ot’en Camp. Max Wilbert wrote another moving personal piece giving an overview of the Unist’ot’en Camp strategy and describing the experience of contributing to their struggle.
Snow lashed the road. The darkness was total, our headlights casting weak yellow beams into the darkness. Most people had hunkered down in homes and motels, and the roads were near empty. Still, every few minutes a passing truck threw a blinding cloud of dry snow into the air, leaving us blind for seconds at a time as we hurtled onwards at the fastest speeds we could manage.
We pressed on, for our destination was important. It was a caravan to the Unist’ot’en Camp, and we were committed.
Resistance is the antipode to the dominant culture, and the Unist’ot’en Camp illustrates two interlocking and fundamental truths. First, the system which is killing the planet and exploiting billions can and must be stopped. Second, resistance is our best chance of reclaiming the best traits our species can display: compassion, love, fierce loyalty, deep connection to the land, community and shared purpose.
A group of Deep Green Resistance members from across the US and Canada delivered cash donations, supplies, and their labor to the Unis’tot’en Camp in early January. A support network for a strategic, indigenous-led front-line blockade is a crucial part of building a culture of resistance. DGR is proud to provide some of that support, and grateful to the camp hosts for allowing us to be involved.
Will Falk wrote about his experience on this recent trip, reflecting on his personal journey that has brought him through despair to activism, and the mingling of his new activist focus with personal and professional relationships and locations of his despair-filled past. He relates this to the larger culture of civilization, and the need for meaningful action to counteract the dangerous self-numbing in which we’re all encouraged to engage:
One way to understand the environmental catastrophe confronting us is to view the dominant culture as suffering from a profound case of despair. Despair permeates many religious traditions that say humans are fundamentally flawed, Earth is a scary place, and suffering is inevitable so we may as well embrace it to gain peace in another world. Despair permeates science cutting us off from other beings, telling us other beings are objects incapable of existing with humans in mutual relationship, and encouraging us to use (read: kill) other beings for the benefit of humans. Despair permeates our governments who view raw power and physical force as the only way to control this wildly unpredictable process we call “life.”
Many doctors have told me to reach out to old friends to help me remember who I was and what I was like before despair settled over me. In my worst moments, all I can see is darkness behind me, darkness upon me, and darkness ahead of me. Life is bad. Life was bad. Life will always be bad.
Part of spending so much time in Canada is being far from those who remember who I was. Lately, my desire for connection to a happier personal past has taken strange and pathetic forms. I wear an obnoxious green Notre Dame football flatbrim everywhere I go. I talk about my favorite band, Phish, with anyone who will listen. I find myself in bars just looking for company.
So, one of the benefits of the speaking tour I went on for the Unist’ot’en Camp involved spending time remembering myself with those who love me. But, the temporary feelings this time spent remembering released are dangerous. It would be easy to settle back down into a life based around salving the pain of depression. It would be easy to surround myself in good memories and turn my back on the problems of the world. If I did this, though, the world would still be burning. And, if the world burns for long enough, those I love will burn, too.
Liz McArthur of Victoria BC is creating a radio documentary on the Unis’tot’en Camp pipeline blockade. She interviewed two fellow volunteers who participated in the summer caravan to the Camp, and a third activist involved with defense of the Sacred Headwaters. The interviews aired on the August 4, 2014 episode of Gorilla Radio.
Will Falk of Deep Green Resistance and Victoria Forest Action Network, on his environmental activism with the Camp and other efforts. He discusses the importance of supporting indigenous struggles, and what members of settler culture need to understand and how they should approach such solidarity work.
Vanessa Gray, a member of the Amjiwnaang nation in the Chemical Valley of Southern Ontario, describing the horrific conditions of living in close proximity to 63 oil and gas facilities, including pipelines, refineries, and loading docks. Gray describes the incredibly high rates of health problems brought on by this policy of environmental racism towards the indigenous. Gray brought youth to the Camp to show them that places still exist with clean water and air, and to inspire them to fight against the dominant culture of monetary profit at the sacrifice of people and land.
John Mowat Stephen briefly talks about activism with the Tahltan First Nation around the Sacred Headwaters in northern BC.
Listen to the interview to learn more about the front line struggles in BC against the fossil fuel industry, and how you can help:
From Zoe Blunt at the Vancouver Island Community Forest Action Network
Right now across North America, groups of land defenders are doing their damnedest to block tarsands oil from coming to the coasts. Big oil and the Conservative government are insisting on pipelines from Alberta to the Pacific to feed the Asian export market. But thousands of locals are pledging to put their freedom on the line to stop them.
In Burnaby BC, the front has shifted from street rallies to blocking pipeline workers from drilling through Burnaby Mountain. Hundreds of native and non-native environmentalists have joined forces to occupy a conservation area in a last-ditch effort to stop Kinder Morgan and protect the Salish Sea and the traditional territory of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, which has launched a court challenge against the tarsands pipeline.
But now Kinder Morgan has filed its own lawsuit naming the land defenders. And on Friday Nov 14, the judge granted the pipeline company’s request for an injunction and ordered resisters to leave or face arrest.
Many are not leaving. Those who feel called to defend the coast, please join these brave people. Come to bear witness and follow your conscience. I know I can’t stand aside and allow these machines to override the will of the people and open up a wilderness park and the whole south coast to toxic oil spills.
How to join:
Come for a day or two or a week. Bring a friend if you can.
Be prepared to camp. Bring a tent and a sleeping bag, rain gear, food and a water bottle.
Call Zoe to get connected to a team, and to check your gear: 250-813-3569
Directions: 300 Centennial Way, at the east end of Hastings St in Burnaby. Take the #135 bus from Waterfront Skytrain station.
There are several groups on the mountain, from tight affinity groups to community coalitions, and they are making different plans. There may be people going in different directions, so please follow your heart, or call Zoe to connect to a network.
This is where the game gets interesting. We’re playing for high stakes, and we could see a quick reversal if our side’s challenges to Kinder Morgan are heard and upheld in court.
A spill of any kind – like the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill in Alaska in 1987 – would devastate the wild coast of British Columbia, including the Great Bear Rainforest, Haida Gwaii, salmon runs, wildlife habitat, and the livelihoods and culture of thousands of native people who depend on the sea. A pipeline blowout or a tanker collision would demolish coastal tourism. We can’t even estimate the cost.
Those who love this coast are pledged to defend it.
I’m happy to announce that the Solidarity House is now open for land defense training. On Sundays, starting on Nov 23, we’re offering the opportunity to support the frontlines and observe first-hand as BC moves to a new phase of land defense.
Join us to talk about strategy, solidarity, and specific skills like backcountry work, mapping, and fundraising. Lend your good energy to an inspiring grassroots movement led by incredibly resilient activists.
Last week, Kinder Morgan pipeline company began clearing brush to drill boreholes for a new pipeline from the tar sands to their marine tanker terminal east of Vancouver. Local residents and allies took over the borehole sites and set up camps in a small wilderness park next to Simon Fraser University. This week, KM served the organizers with a civil lawsuit and injunction application. The hearing is set for Wed Nov 5. The resisters are not backing down. They are calling for reinforcements at the camp and in the courthouse.
Over 70% of the people in Burnaby are opposed to Kinder Morgan. Many are prepared to take direct action to stop tar sands exports. The mayor and the city council are unanimously opposed to the expansion after the existing, aging pipeline burst in a residential neighbourhood over a decade ago.
A camp was set up on Burnaby Mountain and people have been patrolling to keep the company from cutting any more trees or surveying for their proposed route through Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area and under Burnaby Mountain. There are frequent rallies and actions.
Sign up to join the camp and help protect Burnaby Mountain. They will contact you in a day or two. Be prepared to be self-sufficient. Being able to move fast through wet brush is a big help.
This is just one part of a much larger struggle. Over 150 First Nations have signed the Save the Fraser Declaration opposing tar sands pipelines. They are allied with community groups, environmental and labour organizations and thousands of people across BC.