Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

Eco-friendly Christmas decor: Langdale crew at BC Ferries made trash beautiful

I was truly impressed by the eco-friendly ornaments on the real Christmas tree at Langdale Ferry Terminal on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast.

The Langdale shore crew used items from their onsite recycling bin and upcycled them to create at least a dozen tree decorations. Among their artistry, they created plastic strips to make white garlands, transformed drink containers into snowmen, and displayed paper birds’ nests, formed from shredded paper.

As the imaginative workers wrote on a sign beside the tree, 90 percent or more of the items on the tree were recycled. The only exceptions were two dozen small plastic baubles retrieved from an attic, which otherwise would have ended up in the landfill.

I applaud such an environmentally aware approach to seasonal decorating. Thank you for taking the initiative to promote fun, “green” activities and for sharing your creations with the public. I hope that this will inspire others to do the same next year. You’ve made trash beautiful.

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December 28, 2012 at 1:55 pm Comments (0)

Our local forests: Never give up

As the Wilson Creek forest falls to logging, I am reminded of the simple message: “Never give up.” Otherwise, a person loses heart, a community crumbles, dreams disappear. When it seems like no one is listening and no one cares, don’t despair. There will always be people who care. And those who truly care take action.

 

About 130 such people showed up last Wednesday in front of the District of Sechelt office. Environmentalist George Smith, who was instrumental in protecting the Tetrahedron region and transforming it into a provincial park, said: “It [Sunshine Coast Community Forest] is not a community forest. It’s never been a community forest. The good old boys are running this [community forest].”

 

Smith noted that the Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF), in its current form, was structured over the objections of the local community, the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association, the Sunshine Coast Regional District, and most community associations in the area. The B.C. Liberal government put it in place because they wanted to log our watershed, he added. “Get out of our watersheds and make sure that eco-forestry is practiced.”

George Smith addresses the group

Smith urged all those present to write to provincial New Democratic Party leader Adrian Dix—presumably B.C.’s next premier in May 2013—to have him revisit the structure and role of community forests. “B.C. Timber Sales should be giving their land a real community forest,” Smith said. “We should have an appropriate ecosystem and a decent forest in which we can recreate.” Listeners applauded.

Starwalker: “Let’s stay positive”

Starwalker, one of the protesters recently arrested in the Wilson Creek forest peace camp, told the group: “Let’s stay positive.” Last Friday, he appeared in a Vancouver courthouse with three other protesters. On Dec. 12, he filed a small claims court lawsuit against the RCMP and B.C. solicitor-general for not returning his food and possessions, which were confiscated when he and others received a 10-minute notice to pack up the camp or face arrest.

Barb Higgins: “It’s the same old story”

Another of the arrestees, sishalh elder Barb Higgins (Xwu’p’a’lich), told the crowd: “It’s so long since we’ve seen justice. It’s the same old story except more people are becoming aware that they are being manipulated by politicians.” She will face a judge Jan. 14 in Vernon, BC.

Within about 10 minutes, during two pass-the-hat sessions, the group donated a total of $1,000 to help with expenses related to the arrestees’ court appearances.

Event organizer Pat Ridgway addresses the group, with Barb Higgins to her right.

“We want the community put back into the community forest,” said event organizer Pat Ridgway, who asked the assembled group to direct positive energy towards the District of Sechelt building and its decision-makers. Many of the group’s placards read: “Who cut you and me out of the community forest?”

 

Local activist Scott Avery stood on a rock and directed his voice at the building, as if speaking directly to Sechelt Mayor John Henderson. “We are all members of community,” he said. “Community, to me, involves everyone.” The crowd repeated his sentences in call-and-response style, a format popular with the Occupy movement.

David Quinn (Popois)

David Quinn or Popois of the sishalt nation, a nephew of elder Theresa Jeffries and another arrestee, said: “No corporation, no society, has a right to occupy Indian and without a purchase.” (The Wilson Creek Forest is part of the sishalh’s traditional territory.) “Thank you for standing behind our elders.”

 

So far, neither Henderson nor SCCF chair Glen Bonderud has responded publicly to the protesters, nor to their letters. Not surprisingly, those seeking a more inclusive community forest board have said that Henderson and the SCCF are not listening to them. Last week’s Coast Reporter quoted the mayor as saying that “We’re not listening” truly means “We’re not agreeing.”

 

Last Thursday, CBC-TV made the Wilson Creek forest logging and arrests their top story for the 11 p.m. news. They acknowledged that the current ordeal on the Sunshine Coast is but a microcosm of what is occurring across the province. As part of this newscast, Bonderud, contacted by phone, said that our region needs jobs. In his view, logging underway in Wilson Creek provides jobs.

 

In response, Avery points out on Facebook: “Ninety-five percent of logs get shipped offshore whole this year. That means three loggers; an operational manager plus secretary; perhaps four truckers and their truck owners; perhaps four scalers and their management; perhaps four longshoremen and their management; ship crew if it is Canadian.” That leaves only log brokers and the financial markets as the “inflated beneficiaries,” he says. Avery said that overall, local forestry is operating at an excruciatingly long-term loss, especially when factoring in 60 years of non-timber forestry losses plus the social losses.

 

At a recent public meeting at Sechelt City Hall, local resident Rolef Ohlrogge stood up and asked Henderson: “Could you tell me your definition of a tree farm and a forest?” Someone at the event said that the mayor looked away, paused for a few seconds, then said, “Well, you know, things grow.”

 

Last week, I was feeling discouraged by the lack of respect and response that Henderson, Bonderud, and others have shown towards those who want to preserve our local forest and have a say in how it is managed.

 

Then, last night, I watched Anne Wheeler’s CTV movie The Horses of McBride. Based on a true story, it addressed how one caring young woman didn’t want to see two starved, abandoned horses, marooned in deep snow high in the mountains in northern B.C., die. While others, including a veterinarian, urged her to forget the animals and have them put to sleep, she refused.

 

The horse enthusiast soon won over her father to her cause. In minus-30-degree-Celsius weather, he helped her start to dig a two-metre trench in the snow, to create a pathway to lead the horses out to a road. Soon, local snowmobilers and those from neighbouring provinces appeared to provide their support. Within four days, a trench more than a kilometre long was completed, and the horses were led to warmth and safety.

 

This show reinforced to me what one person’s determination and the positive spirit of a community can do. It all starts with caring, then action. Never give up.

 

As Shannon Woode, a concerned mother who helped organize an educational walk in the Wilson Creek forest, says within a poem:

 

“May the Wilson Creek Forest become a legacy that moves us to a new beginning. May our leaders follow with open heart. May this be the last forest of awe to be slashed from history.”

 

Never give up.

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December 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm Comments (2)

Forestry practices on the Sunshine Coast: An adversarial stance is no answer

I have sent the following letter to Glen Bonderud, chair of the Sunshine Coast Community Forest. Copies have gone to Sechelt Mayor John Henderson; Steve Thomson, B.C. Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations; Nicholas Simons, MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast; The Local; and The Coast Reporter.

 

“In light of the recent logging in Wilson Creek Forest and resulting protests and arrests, I was wondering if you and the Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF) are willing to consider the following changes:

 

  • Having SCCF meetings open to the public. Currently, the SCCF holds all of its meeting in camera. This does not meet the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization’s definition of a community forest as “any situation which intimately involves local people in a forestry activity.” A consistent policy of closed meetings, even with minutes made public, helps create an atmosphere of distrust, no dialogue, and of ignoring the broader public interest.

 

  • In lieu of logging some hectares of local forest, receiving payment from the community in the same amount that you would otherwise receive for the trees. Some community members have already considered this option and were interested in discussing it with the SCCF. Enough local people feel so passionately about having a say in how their “community forest” is managed, that they are willing to use personal monies and public fund-raising for this purpose.

 

  • An attitudinal shift in how you view those who seek to preserve our forests. Local people of all ages care about our forests. When denied access to decision-makers and a consultative process, some, out of frustration, feel compelled to resort to more high-profile action. These people are not harassers, ne’er-do-wells, and anti-B.C.ers. Many are not against logging per se; instead, as public stakeholders, they merely seek an inclusive form of forest management that considers long-term options beyond immediate clearcuts. Remember: In expressing themselves publicly, they are exercising their democratic rights.

 

  • A willingness to participate in a Local Resource Use Plan or Land and Resource Management Plan that engages a broad section of the local community and considers their input regarding past, current, and future forestry practices on the Sunshine Coast. Currently, only about three percent of our region’s land base is protected. That’s one of the lowest ratios in the province. Across B.C., 14 percent of the land base is parks, says Dylan Eyers, BC Parks’ area supervisor for the Sunshine Coast. Our current record of forest destruction needs rethinking; we are a vulnerable area that hopes to receive revenues in tourism and recreation over the long term; existing forests, not just tree farms, are a key component of that future.

 

  • A willingness to broaden the stakeholder role of the SCCF. If the current membership more accurately represented a cross-section of community members, allowing for a wider range of viewpoints, any resulting decisions would better reflect the diverse views regarding forestry in this region. This would also lend the decision-making process more credibility.

 

  • Having logs, now cut on the Sunshine Coast, processed in B.C., rather than sent offshore. This would demonstrate a long-term commitment to the economy and sustainability of our own region and province rather than a vision of short-term gain.

 

Your foresight and proactive response now to any or all of these issues would introduce a true community forest on the Sunshine Coast. It would reflect admirable leadership in sustainability, creating community-wide participation, and growth. Logging and revenues would continue and parks could be made. But choices, made collaboratively, of where, when, and how much to cut, would undoubtedly change current policies. This could bring positive global attention to our region. Sweden has demonstrated this approach effectively; why can’t you?

 

Otherwise, if current trends continue, we will undoubtedly see what has happened in other B.C. regions, from Clayoquot Sound to Saltspring Island. Ultimately, adversarial, closed-door politics do not benefit anyone; they only lead to entrenched thinking on both sides, disrespect and resentment, needless stress, and unnecessary expense. Will local citizens have to resort to organizing global boycotts on wood logged on the Sunshine Coast before they, and these issues, receive respect and attention? I hope not.

 

If you’re wondering, I am writing this on my own initiative, not representing any organization or input from anyone else. I am one voice, a concerned citizen who despairs at the lack of public, transparent process in the handling of one of our greatest resources, our local forests and their accompanying ecology. There are lots of us here.”

A one-hour, peaceful demonstration will be held Dec. 12 at 10:30 a.m. at the office of the Mayor of Sechelt. It is aimed at Sunshine Coast citizens who want to show their concern over logging in the Wilson Creek Forest and the lack of a true, community voice in local Forestry issues.

 

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December 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm Comments (2)

Make the Sunshine Coast Community Forest accountable

Today’s protest gathering in front of the District of Sechelt offices.

 

It could have been called Occupy District of Sechelt.

 

About 80 local people gathered today outside the Sechelt mayor’s office as a peaceful show of support for the beleaguered Wilson Creek forest.

 

They slammed the arrest this week of nine who stood in opposition to the logging of 27 hectares of this Sunshine Coast forest, which has already begun. (The previous total of 25 arrested, a figure widely distributed on Facebook, was not accurate.) They criticized the RCMP’s heavy-handed approach to the arrests, which involved eight police cruisers, minor injuries to one protester, and the towing away of the self-named forest-guardians’ vehicles. (Before making the arrests, the RCMP had given the inhabitants at the well-established trailhead peace camp only 10 minutes to pack up and leave — a clearly impossible task.)

 

Outside the Sechelt government office, various concerned community members spontaneously took turns addressing the leaderless group, standing on a rock on the lawn in the same impromptu style that has characterized the global Occupy movement.

Hans Penner addresses the crowd

“We have to call for a suspension of the licence of the [Sunshine Coast] Community Forest, its sales and operation,” Hans Penner, co-founder of Elphinstone Logging Forest, said to applause and appreciative drumming.

 

Since it began, the current Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF) group, which has the licence to log Wilson Creek Forest’s cutblock EW002, has not held one public meeting, Penner said. Its nine directors, seven of whom are from the logging/forestry sector, must comply with a gag order not to share any critical information with the public, he added. (Click here to see the minutes of their board meetings.)

 

How’s that for public consultation? Really puts the “community” into Community Forest, doesn’t it? As one man commented to the group, “It’s basically the Sechelt Council Logging Company.”

 

Although logging in this cutblock halted temporarily last week and this morning, loggers and the RCMP have since disregarded a formal request by sishalh elders to stop trespassing on the Wilson Creek Forest. This land is part of their ancestral territory, which has never been negotiated away, said Penner.

 

sishalh elder Barb Higgins (Xwu’p’a’lich)

As sishalh elder Barb Higgins (Xwu’p’a’lich), one of the arrestees, told the group: “This land is the bones of my people.” The 79-year-old organized everyone into a large circle, while remaining in the centre, then asked them to open their hearts and connect with the spirits of all peoples who are working to protect the earth.

Pat Ridgway talks to the group

Pat Ridgway, who organized today’s gathering, said that the original Community Forest concept, voiced on the Sunshine Coast in 2004, was inclusive, with a strong preservation theme. Since then, members of the forestry industry have co-opted the vision with a drive to log rather than conserve.

 

“There is no community in the Community Forest,” she said. “The [Sechelt] mayor and the Sunshine Coast Community Forest are making decisions and not listening to us. We have to hold a vision of what we want.” She reinforced that those who oppose the logging want a peaceful resolution.

 

Scott Avery, who chaired an informal meeting Sunday in Roberts Creek that included peaceful protesters and SCCF operations manager Dave Lasser and his wife, said that Sechelt mayor John Henderson, a former SCCF director, and the Community Forest group are not acting with mindfulness or a holistic viewpoint.

 

“They’re not evolving,” he told the group. “We need to evolve to appreciate each other for what we are and are not. We can all live by example every day. We can try not to create adversaries and appreciate the person on the top and on the bottom, not abuse anybody.”

Higgins talks to local media

Several dozen of the group moved to the RCMP building next door to demand the release of the five people arrested and taken to Vernon. Others broke into small groups, discussing strategy. One man thought that the group is “fighting for the scraps” of the forest; he felt that a broader, coast-wide initiative, beyond just protecting Wilson Creek forest, is needed. He wanted a clear mandate: “What is the vision?”

 

A community source has noted that the SCCF, RCMP, and District of Sechelt are anticipating an escalation of protest and will respond accordingly, based on their “play book.” This could even involve having their own camouflaged commandos waiting in the forest for protesters who might flee into the woods, hoping to avoid arrest. Be warned.

 

Anyone who seeks to protect what’s left of the Wilson Creek forest is urged to contact Sechelt mayor John Henderson, write to the local media, and to contact SCCF directors directly at their home, office (604) 885-7809 or by email at scpi@telus.net. Click here to see the names and bios of the directors. The most important one to contact is chair and president Glen Bonderud.

We need to make Sechelt mayor John Henderson and the SCCF truly accountable to the community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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December 4, 2012 at 10:36 pm Comments (3)

Wilson Creek forest focus of renewed support and legal wrangling

  — Jack Stein photos

Local community members who have worked for years to help save 27 hectares of Wilson Creek forest have not let last week’s initial logging stop their efforts. If anything, the desire to save this precious creek and area of first-growth firs (cutblock EW002) has grown even stronger.

Early last week, I was truly saddened and deeply disappointed to hear that loggers had begun cutting down this local forest on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast. Then the RCMP announced that anyone who came onto the land would be arrested for trespassing. Members of the peace camp at the mouth of the trail received only 15 minutes to clear out. Three people were arrested.

Supporters at the trail head

I thought of all of the local schoolchildren, parents, hikers, and shishalh elders who have come to this forest to admire and honour its presence. They have spoken out to protect it. I thought of the beauty of the land itself, the soft moss, the pond, the roaring creek, the silent, tall trees, and the various species of creatures that depend on these woods for their home and survival. I thought of the 27 interpretive signs that volunteers had erected along the trail to teach people about the biodiversity of this forest and the important role it plays. Was all this effort and many years of rich, natural growth to be deemed irrelevant, reduced to ugly stumps and slash?

But hope remains, as the forest has met a reprieve—for now. In a display of admirable activist power, some shishalh elders signed trespass-and-rights documents and served them on the RCMP and the Sunshine Coast Community Forest, the body with the logging rights to these hectares. This land, after all, has belonged to the shishalh for centuries; it is part of their traditional territory.

Barb Higgins (Xwu’p’a’lich)

Since then, elder Barb Higgins (Xwu’p’a’lich) has held daily healing ceremonies in the woods. There has been no logging. Supporters have joined Higgins and her daughter Holly, acting as ongoing forest guardians. They continue to remain in this area. They are determined to save this forest, a vital anchor piece for the proposed Mt. Elphinstone Park expansion, for the enjoyment of their grandchildren.

Concerned community members also shared their anger with Sechelt mayor John Henderson at Saturday’s Sechelt town hall session. Why have he and the Sunshine Coast Community Forest board members not listened to the many people who have spoken out in favour of saving these woods? Whose interests are they guarding?

I’m relieved to hear that the drive to save this forest is still thriving. The group Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) is asking people to show their support. Join Higgins and others at the trailhead. Bring firewood and snacks. Contact ELF for more information.

 

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December 2, 2012 at 5:37 pm Comment (1)

Sixty attend teens’ hike to save Wilson Creek forest

                                                              — Jack Stein photo

This week, I had the pleasure of watching a five-year-old boy, camera in hand, staring up at Douglas firs, their tall tops reaching past the mist in a Sunshine Coast forest.

 

He had stretched his head far back, almost parallel to the mossy ground, as if his brain needed space just to take in the sight of these massive trees. I wondered what he was thinking, if this moment would leave a memory of awe that would remain to adulthood. More importantly: Would these trees in Wilson Creek, BC even be here in a year?

The boy was among dozens of children of all ages, one of 60 local residents who’d come to hike through, and learn about, this remarkable low-elevation forest that’s slated to be logged. Three Coast teens—Jillian Olafson, Kamilla Hindmarch, and Galen Wilson—had organized this educational hike, along with retired teacher Karen Stein, to help save these precious 27 hectares from logging.

Before the hike, at the mouth of the trailhead, we stood in a circle below the wooden sign created by Sechelt First Nations member Willard Joe, which depicts Thunderbird, a powerful protector and mystical figure.

                                                                                                      — Jack Stein photo

 

We were each invited to choose a small smooth rock, from a pile of 100 brought for this purpose, and write one word that these woods inspired in us. Soon, several rows of rocks appeared, bearing words like “Peace,” “Preserve,” and “Love.”

Jillian Olafson, young friend, Kamilla Hindmarch, Galen Wilson

“One beautiful possibility is for this part of the forest to be left as a park for us all to enjoy,” Stein told the group. “This is our community forest. You are the next generation. Today, you represent all the children who live on our coast.” When asked for one word to describe this forest, Olafson replied: “Magnificent.”

The government of B.C., which owns this land, has issued a licence to enable the District of Sechelt, as shareholder of the Sunshine Coast Community Forest, to log this forest, known as cutblock EW002. It is one of the last intact, natural forests left in the Wilson Creek watershed. Its largest tree, a Douglas fir, measures 2.31 metres across.

“This forest is much more valuable alive than clear-cut,” Hans Penner of the conservation group Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) told the gathering. He said he hopes that local residents of all ages who want to save this forest tell the District of Sechelt: “You’re a public body. We expect you to listen to the public.”

 

Several of the event’s teen organizers plan to meet with District of Sechelt representatives on Nov. 23 to discuss alternatives to logging this forest. “It’s a beautiful place to be,” said co-organizer Wilson. “We can’t let it (logging) happen. It would destroy everything.”

 

Some local teachers have taken students through this forest to learn about the forest’s biodiversity, thanks to informational trail signs provided by volunteers. The event’s organizers planned the hike as part of a home-schooling peace project.

 

 

ELF member Bill Legg told the children: “You guys really have a voice.” He reaffirmed the land as traditional territory of the Sechelt (shíshálh) First Nations, who have used this forest for centuries for hunting and gathering.

ELF member Ross Muirhead speaks to the group

Meanwhile, about 100 Sunshine Coast residents, including Sechelt nation members, held a rally Nov. 15 outside the District of Sechelt office, hoping to tell mayor John Henderson and city council members that these 27 hectares of forest should be protected as parkland. Although no such representatives appeared, people at the gathering, including many who had attended the forest hike in Wilson Creek, openly shared their opposition to logging this area.

 

Sunshine Coast residents who want to save this forest are urged to write letters to the local media and to the District of Sechelt. Click here to find out more through the ELF website.

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November 18, 2012 at 8:14 pm Comments (4)

It’s not too late to stop ratification of the Canada-China Investment Treaty

Two days past its ratification deadline, Prime minister Stephen Harper’s Canada-China Investment Treaty (FIPPA) remains unsigned. That’s good for Canadians.

Harper will soon arrive in India, touted as the largest democracy in the world, to wrangle more business deals. While there, maybe he can pick up some democratic principles of his own, rather than ignoring parliamentary procedure in his home country and the views of thousands of Canadians in how he handles Chinese investment.

As Canada’s Green Party leader Elizabeth May has stated on her website, 32,000 Canadians signed her party’s petition against this treaty. Her office received more than 75,000 emails against the deal and 5,000 used her website to send their MP letters to warn of the danger posed by dealing with the Communist government in Beijing. And the organizations Leadnow.ca and Someofus.org had more than 70,000 signatures on their petition against FIPPA.

I won’t recap here the many dangers related to this treaty, from security threats to China’s non-reciprocal powers and legal clout, because they’re amply covered across the Internet. Instead, I’ll quote from journalist Terry Glavin’s recent commentary in The National Post: “It’s the sudden emergence of the most powerful criminal enterprise in world history suddenly establishing itself as the most powerful capitalist entity in Canada by securing its place as the critical and irreplaceable component of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s sole economic strategy, which is to transform Canada into an ‘energy superpower.’”

Glavin points out that China’s National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC)’s $15.1 billion pending bid for Calgary’s Nexen Inc. is the biggest-ever overseas acquisition move by a Chinese state-owned enterprise. Petro-China, meanwhile, pumps more oil than Exxon-Mobil. And the annual revenues of the China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation, known as Sinopec, exceed the entire sum of the annual federal tax revenues of the Government of Canada.

Surprisingly, for a deal that gives the Chinese sweeping control over key Canadian resources and the right to sue any level of government that doesn’t go along with its business ventures, the NDP has done little to condemn this agreement. So far, Elizabeth May is the only politician to take a strong vocal stance against this treaty.

Canadians have made it clear that they don’t want their federal leader handing unprecedented powers to a corrupt, foreign country that will gain massive control over this country’s resources. At the very least, this issue needs to be debated in Parliament in a process that includes provinces, territories and First Nations. Let’s stop FIPPA now.

Click here to read Terry Glavin’s opinion piece. To receive updates on this issue, join the Facebook page of SomeofUs and LeadNow.

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November 3, 2012 at 12:22 pm Comments (0)

MLA tells Defend Our Coast supporters: “You’ve done the Sunshine Coast proud”

— Heather Conn photos

Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons with Sechelt band elder Theresa Jeffries

This was no Sesame Street public spelling bee. And Big Bird and Elmo were nowhere to be seen. Instead, dozens of local people lined Highway 101 yesterday in Davis Bay, BC., each holding a white sign with a different single letter, which collectively spelled out the phrases: “No Tankers,” “No Pipelines,” and “Defend Our Coast.”

 

 

These were some of the 500+ Sunshine Coast residents who gathered along both sides of the highway as a public, collective voice to reinforce that most British Columbians are against the Northern Gateway pipeline, proposed by Enbridge, and do not want supertankers off their coast.

Local school trustee Lori Dixon

As a symbolic gesture, the line of protesters extended roughly 235 metres, to represent the length of a supertanker along the Sunshine Coast. Event organizers placed two hand-painted white sandwich boards next to the highway to indicate where the tanker’s bow and stern, respectively, would appear.

“They [tankers] can’t turn, they can’t stop and they’d take eight kilometres to stop for an emergency,” Jef Keighley of Alliance 4 Democracy, one of the main organizers, told protesters. They gathered in the Beach Buoy parking lot at 1 p.m. after their one-and-a-half-hour public action. “And that’s in open waters with no navigational hazards.”

At least 90 percent of drivers who passed the demonstrators honked their horns in support, according to one of the letter-card holders, who did not want to be identified. This included drivers of commercial heavy-duty trucks, dump truck operators, people in luxury vehicles, and not surprisingly, Smart cars.

One irate male senior stopped his grey van on the highway, rolled down his window and hollered at protesters: “Did you drive to this event? How did you get here?” (He presumably found it hypocritical to burn gasoline to get to an event protesting oiltankers and pipelines.) Increasingly enraged, he repeated his questions until driving off.

 

The protest, which featured homemade signs by people of all ages, was peaceful. It included members of the Sechelt First Nations band, such as elder Theresa Jeffries and local school trustee Lori Dixon, plus teachers from the region, and representatives from the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association. Local RCMP officers were on hand to ensure the safety of participants and asked them to move back farther onto the shoulder, away from the highway.

After the event, demonstrators heard rousing roadside comments, via megaphone, from Keighley, local activist George Smith, and Nicholas Simons, NDP MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast. Keighley pointed out that unlike Norway, which captures about 70 percent of the value of its oil, Canada (via Alberta) receives only one per cent in royalties from the gross (not net) value of its bitumen. (Bitumen is the heaviest, thickest form of oil, which Alberta wants to transport from the tar sands via the Enbridge pipeline to Kitimat for initial processing. Then supertankers would take it through the fragile coastal B.C. coast waters and to China for final refining.)

After all of the related capital cost improvements are made, such as building the Enbridge pipeline, tanker terminal etc, Canada would receive only 25 percent of the net value, which will amount to less than one percent in royalties, said Keighley.

“We’re paying the cost to the environment and in jobs,” he said. “This is bad for B.C., bad for Alberta and for the Canadian economy.”

Smith, who has been active in the fight to stop the Site C dam in northeastern British Columbia, outlined the connection between that megaproject and the Enbridge pipeline and tar sands. The provincial government wants to use water power from the proposed new dam for fracking, in the search for natural gas, and for Shell Canada’s liquid natural gas project in northern B.C., he said. The gas would be shipped to the tar sands, then the oil sent to the coast via the pipeline. This, in turn, would enable oil and gas companies to export their product more cheaply to Asia.

“B.C. gives $300 million a year in royalty and tax breaks to oil and gas companies,” Smith said. “They [the B.C. government] are planning to eliminate 83 kilometres of rivers and 13,000 acres of class one farmland [to build Site C].”

Standing on a picnic table not far from his local constituency office, Simons acknowledged that the gathering was on traditional Salish territory. He told the group: “You’ve done the Sunshine Coast proud. Our voices are not solo voices. They are a choir of voices in the right key for the right people to hear.”

The Davis Bay protest was one of dozens of Defend Our Coast actions held yesterday across the province, including demonstrators linking arms outside MLA offices. Defend Our Coast told local organizers that the Davis Bay event was likely the biggest one of the 65 related events around British Columbia. Many thanks to all who participated and helped plan and organize the Sunshine Coast action, including the flyover pilot and photographer (you know who you are).

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October 25, 2012 at 12:36 pm Comments (0)

Defend Our Coast rally in Victoria: Are you listening, Harper and Clark?

— photos by Heather Conn

Beyond the crowd’s cries of “No pipelines, No tankers,” one woman’s tears and anguished tale exemplified the heart and spirit of yesterday’s Defend Our Coast rally in Victoria, BC.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo (with paper); Clayton Thomas-Muller (r) 

“Our way of life is being replaced by industrialized landscapes,” Melina Laboucan-Massimo, a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation in Alberta, told a crowd of about 3,500 in front of the Parliament buildings. “We are surrounded by mines the size of cities.”

Laboucan-Massimo, a Greenpeace campaigner, cried as she described the impact of a May 2011 oil spill, which leaked five million litres into her traditional territory in Alberta’s tar sands region. (The territory, which comprises 10,000 square kilometres in northern Alberta east of the Peace River, contains more than 2,600 oil and gas wells.)

People in her community, of all ages, were suffering burning eyes, nausea, and headaches but didn’t know why, because the federal government did not notify them of the spill until five days after it occurred, which just happened to be the day after the federal election. “They [the federal government] tried so hard to deny that there was a problem. They put my community at risk.”

At this demonstration led by Coastal First Nations, Laboucan-Massimo described how members of her extended family are now afraid to fish or hunt in their territory because they think that eating what they catch, if contaminated as a result of oil extraction, could make them sick. Moose, their traditional food staple, is disappearing due to tar sands’ activity.

Almost 70 percent of Lubicon territory has been leased for future oil development without consent by the Lubicon people and in direct violation of their treaty. “The land and people will never be the same. I continue to carry that grief,” Laboucan-Massimo said, through tears, to extended applause. “We need to stop the tar sands at the source.”

But First Nations groups are fighting back. Laboucan-Massimo said that today, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation will present a constitutional challenge, which they filed earlier this month, in the joint review process against Shell Oil Canada’s application for the expansion of their Jackpine Mine tar sands project.

And a variety of First Nations chiefs and hereditary chiefs from western Canada, clad in ceremonial attire, all declared at yesterday’s rally that they oppose the Enbridge pipeline and will not allow its construction in their territory. Aboriginal singers and drummers repeated this message through their rousing musical beat as the sweet aroma of burning sage wafted into the front of the crowd.

Dave Cole, national president of Communications, Energy and Paperworks Union, challenged the standard rhetoric that pipelines build jobs and the economy. “These pipelines are job killers,” he said to cheers. “These pipelines are bad for the environment. They destroy the economy of Canada.” He added: “First Nations and labour . . . we’re all united in ‘No’ to this pipeline. If they come after one of us, they come after all of us.”

Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians, urged attendees to view Canada’s pipelines as part of a broader “carbon corridor,” which includes liquid national gas, fracking, and TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline, currently under construction in Texas. She asked the crowd to join in solidarity with the individuals and organizations opposing such mega energy projects. “This [opposition to oil and gas extraction and expansion] is the most important fight that we could have right now,” she said. “Pipelines are the artery, the blood lines of the tar sands. Harper is selling out our environment and heritage for money.” Barlow was heading up to Fort McMurray last night to provide added vocal support to the constitutional challenge by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May, meanwhile, warned that the people of B.C. have to send a message to premier Christy Clark to stop FIPA, the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection Agreement, before it is slated to come into effect on Nov. 1. This treaty gives Chinese-state-owned businesses considerable rights in Canada without any reciprocity for Canadian companies in China. It sets out obligations for Canada which will become binding for a minimum of 15 years (!). What’s worse, it’s slated to be passed without even a parliamentary vote. (For more info on the treaty, read the post on May’s website.)

May offered this challenge: “Christy Clark, get yourself a lawyer.”

The demonstrators, who included children, Raging Grannies, and concerned B.C. residents of all ages with satirical and strident placards, braved the day’s damp cold and mid-afternoon rain. One young woman standing near me asked if I wanted a muffin and handed me a delicious mini one that she had baked herself.

What a delightful offer from a stranger, an act that typified the day’s atmosphere of camaraderie in unity. Some of the First Nations leaders even thanked Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper for bringing unity to their ranks across the west and nation; many tribes and bands are presenting a solid force against his stance of promoting pipelines and the tar sands.

Nicholas Simons

More than 30 people from the Sunshine Coast attended the rally, joining a host of environmental groups, non-profits, unions, and people from many communities across the province, including Tofino, Kamloops, and Prince George. Nicholas Simons, MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast, appeared in the crowd to give his support.

Suzanne Senger (left)

Judith Hammill

Sunshine Coast residents Suzanne Senger and Judith Hammill were among those who participated in the group action of stretching a 235-metre-long black banner around the legislative lawn, then staking it into the ground. The cloth banner symbolized the length of an oil supertanker.

Protesters briefly blocked Belleville Street, but there were no arrests or violent acts associated with the demonstration. Co-emcee Clayton Thomas-Muller, of the Indigenous Environmental Network, gave us a reminder from Gilbert Soloman: “We need to fight this fight with love in our hearts.”

The rally was held to give a broad public message that British Columbians overwhelmingly oppose the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, the planned twinning of the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, and oil supertankers on Canada’s west coast. The Enbridge pipeline would transport  Alberta oil sands bitumen to Kitimat for export to Asia.

 

 

For more info, see Defend Our Coast.

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October 23, 2012 at 4:25 pm Comment (1)

Celebrate this week’s Gospel Rock victory

When elected officials bend to the will of the people and vote accordingly on important community issues, it is a rare and beautiful thing. We enjoyed such a momentous event three days ago, when the five-person city council in Gibsons, BC voted unanimously in favour of leaving the Gospel Rock waterfront as undeveloped greenspace. Wow. And council will not consider related issues to the proposed Gospel Rock development, such as density, access, and its impact on the town’s aquifer, for another five years.

 

What a surprise! This truly unexpected decision brought shocked looks from councillors Lee Ann Johnson and Dan Bouman and tears from Mayor Wayne Rowe and councillor Charlene SanJenko. I can’t interpret councillor Gerry Tretick’s expression because I wasn’t there. I was one of the cynics who had assumed that the full Gospel Rock development was a done deal and wanted to avoid seeing that confirmed at Tuesday’s meeting.

 

Boy, am I glad that I was wrong. This vote renews my faith in the ability of a small group of committed people to change the minds of decision-makers and create positive change. Some people in our community have been fighting to protect Gospel Rock for decades. We all choose our level of involvement in any issue, and for some, it’s enough to attend meetings, perhaps write the occasional letter to the editor, or speak at a public hearing. That’s all worthy activism. But it always takes people in the trenches with a vision and ideals, who persevere over months and years to plan strategy and meetings, raise funds, send emails, lick envelopes, and keep the message rolling on, and most important of all—to never give up—to make the ultimate difference. That includes both individuals and groups like Friends of Gospel Rock.

 

Last night, at a victory party at a Gower Point Road home, many people from those trenches and ones who spoke out at last week’s public hearing gathered to celebrate this week’s decision. (At that hearing, only three people from a speaker’s list of about 50, spoke in favour of the bylaw amendment to incorporate the Gospel Rock Neighbourhood Plan into Gibsons’ Official Community Plan bylaw 985, 2005. For more details on that, see my post “Preservationists dominate public hearing for bylaw amendment.”)

 

Having people from the community of all ages speak out did, indeed, make a difference. Yahoo! This latest decision has given renewed fire to those who want to raise funds to create the Gospel Rock area as a park. Sure, this latest waterfront development issue could be a mere bargaining chip in a larger process, and decisions made to woo voters is always at play, but that doesn’t matter. You will always find people who care and ultimately vote from their heart, even at unexpected times and places. A community rallied, made its views known, and the people’s representatives heard. That’s sweet success.

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October 19, 2012 at 1:19 pm Comment (1)

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