The Season of Their Discontent

BC’s Protest Industry

The Protest Industry in British Columbia is gearing up for another season of demonstrations. The target of the Industry – the TransMountain Pipeline, but there are other issues too.  And there are also a few amateurs that are trying their hand at protesting too!

The pipeline protest season began in March.  The largest was led by three First Nations, Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam and Squamish First Nations.  It drew a crowd of about 5,000 people and the construction of a “watch house” structure. Two environmental groups Leadnow and the Dogwood Initiative were also prominent supporters. They are among a number of groups aimed at protesting environmental and climate change issues.  The activists want to keep Canadian oil in the ground or keep Canadian oil landlocked. 

The activists are well funded from donations and US based environmental charities.  Two U.S. charities, Tides Foundation (and its subsidiary Tides Canada) flow cash to environmental and First Nations groups like the Dogwood Initiative, The Tar Sands Campaign, Leadnow, Greenpeace, OpenMedia, SumOfUs, and Westcoast Environmental Law.

Tides Canada is a big organization, with annual revenue of $31 million, a staff of 225 and $65 million in assets.

Two other major US based environmental charities that oppose the oilsands and pipelines are New Ventures, and 350.org. The New Ventures Fund, with backing from the Rockefeller brothers, has a purpose to“support the campaign to cap tar sands production in Alberta”.350.org’s 2016 annual report says it trained 1,000 people in civil disobedience and 99 people were arrested in Ottawa protesting pipelines.

The groups these charities fund sometimes stray beyond protest issues into support for politicians and parties.  The Canadian Revenue Agency began examining this problem, but the Trudeau government stopped the probe claiming it was politically motivated by the former Harper government.

And then there was the embarrassment for government when the Dogwood Initiative got a Canada Summer student job funded to help the group’s network “stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker project.”

Its Not all Roses

It isn’t all one sided.  Public opinion is split in BC, and recent polls show support for the pipeline increasing. The Vancouver Chamber of Commerce is in vocal opposition to the environmental activists.  There have been counter demonstrations in Alberta.

Some indigenous leaders have complained that environment activists are manipulating indigenous rights. They claim the behavior is a form of “red-washing” or “eco-colonialism”.

The “watchhouse” and the nearby activist’s camp has been vandalized with spray paint.

A B.C. Supreme court judge has recommended that protesters arrested at demonstrations against the Trans Mountain pipeline project — including Green Party Leader Elisabeth May, — be prosecuted criminally, rather than in civil court. The BC Justice department has decided to now treat defying the court order around the TransMountain terminal as a criminal offense.

But there is still room for amateurs!

The senior citizens of the Our Homes Can’t Wait Coalition blocked the entrance to Vancouver City Council forcing the postponement of a Council meeting.  Apparently, they were unhappy that a promise of social housing was not fulfilled.

And protests aren’t just of the downtrodden. 200 residents of the ritzy Vancouver neighbourhood of Point Grey Tuesday demonstrated to protest the B.C. government’s proposed increase to the school tax on homes worth more than $3 million.

Finally a dozen noisy, pooping, feral peacocks living in Surrey, have been left homeless when a guy went rogue and chopped down a tree where they roosted, thereby causing a pro-peacock backlash among his neighbours.

Severely Normal Albertans will understand that protests will continue.  Once federal government legislation and a deal with Kinder Morgan is announced, the protests will ramp up.  The groups opposing  the pipeline work together and are sophisticated and well financed.

Two outstanding legal matters will impact protester tactics:

  • The 7 First Nations lawsuit that says they were not consulted sufficiently and believe they can withhold consent
  • The BC government’s court challenge to the federal approval

Severely Normal Albertans can assume some activists will double down should the court rule in favour of the federal government in these cases. They might view it as “lose the battle, but win the war” against future energy development.