This weekend Cafe Rebelde will be hosting The Struggle For the Land, an event that combines a photo exhibit, food, community theatre, followed by a discussion about the intersection of food sovereignty, global land struggle, and state repression. On this occasion we are publishing a new piece by Aiyanas Ormond, an organizer of the event.
As part of a wave of anti-pipeline actions across BC this week, Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE) organized a march and rally on Tuesday outside the Delta Burnaby Hotel and Conference Centre. Inside the hotel the National Energy Board (NEB) continued its review of Texas-based oil-giant Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of the Trans-Mountain pipeline.
Ignore the fact that tanker traffic has doubled in the Burrard Inlet under Vision’s watch, up by over 100%. Set aside the fact that Vancouver has among the lowest business property taxes in the world, making it a haven for the majority of the world’s mining corporations. Overlook the fact that Vision Vancouver’s big answer to the global climate crisis is green business and tax breaks for venture capitalists.
These caretakers and residents should not be facing an injunction or a multimillion-dollar lawsuit by a corporate energy giant. Given the federal government’s failure to respond to residents, to Indigenous communities at the source of Tar Sands destruction and along the proposed pipeline route, and to municipal concerns, we laud these protectors for their bravery in taking a stand against Kinder Morgan.
This past week, several local environmental groups asked us to reassess Vancouver’s role in the climate crisis. On Sunday morning, Rising Tide-Vancouver Coast Salish Territories set up a 15-foot mock fracking rig on Premier Christy Clark’s lawn. “How does she justify going on other people’s property and doing the same thing?” said Teresa Diewert. “If you look at the hydraulic fracturing all over North America it’s destroying the water and B.C. is one of the last places that good water is still available and we feel like we can stop it.”
It’s one of many examples of direct action organized by Rising Tide. What weaves their disparate demonstrations together is a commitment to the root causes of the ecological crisis. “We ground our work in decolonizing principles,” Rising Tide notes on its website, “recognizing that environmental injustice stems from discrimination, domination, and violence through colonial occupation and expansion with the help of capitalist and imperialist institutions.”
There are other environmental organizations underscoring such root causes. On Saturday, we attended the World Peace Forum Society teach-in, entitled “If Capitalism Doesn’t work, What Does?” One of the lectures we took in was entitled “Cracked Pipes – Energy Challenges from Enbridge to Lac Megantic”, with co-presenters Roger Annis and Brad Hornick, both members of the newly-formed Vancouver Ecosocialist group.
“We have a capitalist economic system in which the imperative for growth prevails over everything,” said Annis in a conversation after the lecture. “So it’s not possible to rein in this system to have an economy that is consistent with the limits and the capacities of what our ecology allows us to do.”
Crouching in the grass, armed with snipers and dressed in military fatigues, they aim their assault rifles at elders, women, and children. “Don’t point it at my mom,” says one woman. While the sniper refrains, his colleagues continue tasering people. Some have police dogs set on them, while others – including children – are shot at by rubber bullets.
Among the roughly 200 armed RCMP officers, some are from the riot squad, carrying shields, batons, and employing both tear gas and pepper spray against the people. A reporter from the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Ossie Michelin, overhears one officer say: “Crown land belongs to government, not to fucking natives.” Forming a large barricade on the highway, the RCMP physically blocked protesters, also blocking cell phone signals, live video feeds, and media access to the site. In yesterday’s final account, at least 40 of the Mi’kmaw people, including Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock, were arrested at the site near Rexton, New Brunswick.
For over two weeks now, a coalition of people led by local Mi’kmaq activists have blockaded the road leading to an equipment compound leased to a Texas-based energy company. The company, Southwestern Energy, has recently conducted seismic testing. Depending on the results, they will use the land to engage in the damaging process of hydraulic-fracturing, or fracking, in order to extract the region’s shale gas resources. Among other things, fracking in the area will contaminate the drinking water, a mainstay of the fracking process globally.
On Monday hundreds of people, including many Turkish Vancouverites, gathered outside the Vancouver Art Gallery in solidarity with the ongoing protests in Turkey. Addressing the broad anti-government protests in Istanbul and throughout Turkey, speakers at the VAG condemned the Turkish government’s undemocratic tactics, police brutality against the protests, media blackouts, and religious fundamentalism.
Some organizers drew attention to the original event that sparked the movement. “What started everything was a public space, Gezi park in the city centre…The government decided to turn that into a shopping mall and that wasn’t even a lawful decision. There’s a court decision against it,” said Ozgur Sapmaz, a volunteer organizer of the rally at the VAG.
“People occupied the park to prevent construction machinery from getting in there, which was about to start chopping down the trees. There were about 100 protesters there, who started sitting in, setting up tents. Cops came and tried to kick them out, and they used really brutal force…It started getting attention from the artist community. It became this massive resistance against the construction effort.”
Despite the distance between Vancouver and Turkey, the events in Gezi park bring to mind local history. There was the fight to save the entrance of Stanley Park in 1971, the Crab Park occupation in 1984, the successful UBC student campaigns from 2007 – 2009 to stop the privatization of the centre of campus and the UBC Farm, the Olympic Tent Village, Occupy Vancouver, and many other squats and tent cities. If the destruction of Gezi Park — a seemingly innocuous and unexceptional event — can spark such an uprising in Istanbul, could the same not happen here?