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The Blockaders

The Blockaders

As logging resisters near month eight in Fairy Creek, a judge may order their surrender. Inside their last stand for old growth. A Tyee special report.

Simon Frankson emerged from his sleeping bag at 4 a.m., just in time to join the fray.

The day before, a balmy afternoon in early August, he and about a dozen campers had studied a satellite photo of the area: a mountainside sheathed in deep green cedars and Douglas fir trees, many of them hundreds or thousands of years old, in a watershed known as Fairy Creek in the southwest corner of Vancouver Island. The telling grey stripe of a logging road was creeping up from the left side of the image. It was the same kind of road that has, over the past century, made way for logging companies to cut down 80 per cent of the ancient forest on an island larger than Belgium.

When Frankson and the campers had arrived the night before, things already looked different than in the photo. The stripe had grown into a web of roads advancing up and across the slope. One more day and the machines could crest the ridge above them, opening up yet another valley to industrial logging.

Now Frankson was rubbing the sleep from his eyes and readying himself for his first shift as an old-growth forest blockader. Out of the blackness, the harsh headlights of a four-by-four came swerving around a switchback toward the camp. Frankson jumped up to join the line of bodies rushing to stand their ground…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Serena RennerZoë Yunker , TheTyee.ca, canada, british columbia, protest, logging, old growth forests, fairy creek, 

Youth Climate Activists Aim to Rally Support for Indigenous Land Defenders

Youth Climate Activists Aim to Rally Support for Indigenous Land Defenders

The Sustainabiliteens hope to show solidarity with TMX protesters.

Best known for their ability to draw massive crowds in support of climate justice, the Sustainabiliteens are taking a different approach for today’s global day of youth action by drawing attention to the work of Indigenous activists fighting the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project.

Along with hundreds of young people across Canada and many more worldwide, the Sustainabiliteens, a group of high school-aged activists from across Metro Vancouver, will be gathering outside Environment Canada’s downtown Vancouver offices at 10 a.m.

In addition to calling for an end to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, the group will be acting in solidarity for the first time with Indigenous land defenders, particularly the Tiny House Warriors and Braided Warriors, who have faced arrests for their actions and allege brutality on the part of arresting police officers.

“In the past, Sustainabiliteens hasn’t done the best job of standing in solidarity with Indigenous peoples,” said Tavie Johnson, a member of the group, which she says is largely made up of white people.

“Traditionally the environmental movement and the conservation movement have been very whitewashed, and we know that we can’t have climate justice without racial justice and Indigenous sovereignty and Indigenous rights. All of those are extremely interconnected.”

While the Sustainabiliteens drew over 100,000 students, workers, parents and elders to strike for the climate in September 2019, this time they want people to stay home and watch their livestream on Instagram or Facebook accounts because of the pandemic.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Katie Hyslop, TheTyee.ca, protests, oil and gas industry, sustainability, trans mountain pipeline, british columbia

Governments Are Making Taxpayers Subsidize Corporate Cleanup of Oil and Gas Wells

Governments Are Making Taxpayers Subsidize Corporate Cleanup of Oil and Gas Wells

Companies are responsible for dormant wells, but the public is helping foot the bill.

The B.C. and Canadian governments have promoted a $100-million fund to clean up dormant oil and gas wells in the province as a “win-win” for the environment and the economy.

But the biggest winners may be the major oil and gas companies that own the sites.

“To find out the major recipients of this are companies that are perfectly able to clean up their own mess is not surprising, but disappointing,” said Peter McCartney, climate campaigner with the Wilderness Committee environmental group.

“It’s another subsidy,” he said.

McCartney received information on the grant recipients from B.C.’s Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation in response to a freedom of information request that he shared with The Tyee. The document provides details on the first $50 million to be distributed in the province.

A quarter of that money, $12.4 million, is dedicated to cleaning up sites where Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. is the permit holder. The corporation, based in Calgary, is worth $45 billion.

The second biggest share, $7.9 million, is for Petronas Energy Canada Ltd. sites. The Canadian subsidiary’s parent company is owned by the Malaysian government.

Media contacts for CNRL and Petronas didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Other prominent companies among the 41 permit holders listed include Enerplus Corp., Ovintiv Canada ULC, ExxonMobil Canada Energy, Husky Oil Operations Ltd., Imperial Oil Resources Ltd., Cenovus Energy Inc., Painted Pony Energy Ltd., Tourmaline Oil Corp. and Whitecap Resources Inc.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

the tyee, oil and gas industry, andrew macleod, british columbia,

BC Promised to Protect Old Growth. How Is It Doing?

BC Promised to Protect Old Growth. How Is It Doing?

Greens and environmental groups criticize lack of progress, but others defend efforts to make big changes.

Six months after releasing a major report on managing and protecting old-growth forests, British Columbia is either at a turning point, a standstill or both, depending who you ask.

Katrine Conroy, the minister responsible, says change is underway but takes time. Environmentalists give the progress so far a failing grade.

One of the report’s authors, Garry Merkel, captures the uncertainty when asked if there has been noticeable change. “‘Yes’ is the short answer, but ‘no,’ depending how you look at it.”

Merkel is a professional forester with 45 years of experience and a Tahltan Nation member. He and Al Gorley, a professional forester whose similarly wide experience includes a stint as chair of the B.C. Forest Practices Board, wrote A New Future For Old Forests: A Strategic Review of How British Columbia Manages for Old Forests Within its Ancient Ecosystems.

In the report they made 14 recommendations that would totally overhaul the management of old-growth forests, starting with grounding the system in a government-to-government framework involving both the provincial and Indigenous governments.

Their second recommendation was to “prioritize ecosystem health and resilience” so that the health of forests comes first. It would mean a shift from seeing forests primarily through a financial lens where ecosystem health is viewed as a “constraint.”

Building on that base, other recommendations included protecting more old forests, improving the information available to the public about forest conditions and trends, and planning for an orderly transition of the industry away from a reliance on old growth.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Andrew MacLeod, TheTyee.ca, british columbia, government, old growth forests, logging, 

‘A Monstrous Monument to Greed and Stupidity’: Critics React to Site C Decision

‘A Monstrous Monument to Greed and Stupidity’: Critics React to Site C Decision

BC Liberals accuse NDP of mismanagement; Greens warn public to brace for higher costs.

Premier John Horgan’s announcement today that the government will continue with the Site C dam despite massive budget increases and delays brought criticism from opponents and supporters of the project.

“We’ve seen mismanagement of this file,” said Tom Shypitka, the BC Liberal critic for energy, mines and low carbon innovation. “It’s a sad day for the taxpayers, but it’s a good thing to see Site C proceed for the future of British Columbians.”

Horgan announced the government will continue with the project even though the budget has grown to $16 billion, an increase he blamed largely on unexpected geotechnical issues and delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now expected to be in service in 2025.

The Site C budget was $7.9 billion in 2010. When the NDP decided to continue construction in 2017 they increased the budget to $10.7 billion.

Shypitka said the cost of the dam has doubled since the NDP came to government and that the oversight committee it put in place in 2018 has clearly failed. “Under their watch, this project has gone off the rails. That’s on the NDP government.”

He rejected the idea the BC Liberals should have been more diligent before starting the project. It’s unclear how much of the delay and cost escalation can be blamed on the pandemic and how much was due to the NDP’s mismanagement, he said.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

How the Wet’suwet’en Solidarity Actions Changed Their Live

How the Wet’suwet’en Solidarity Actions Changed Their Lives

A year later, three Indigenous youth behind the 2020 BC legislature protests say the real work still lies ahead.

It was the first week of Kolin Sutherland-Wilson’s final semester at the University of Victoria. But he wasn’t there. Instead, on a chilly January morning in 2020, he sat alone on the front steps of the British Columbia legislature, dressed warmly and holding signs that called on provincial leaders to stand with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs opposing the Coastal GasLink project in their traditional territory.

For a week, he spent all day on the steps. MLAs and staff who passed by barely glanced at him.

But soon friends, classmates and community members joined him. The growing group took on bigger actions — a ferry blockade and a sit-in at the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum resources. That ended after 18 hours of occupying the building, with Sutherland-Wilson and 11 others finally carried out by Victoria police.

As the RCMP enforced an injunction on behalf of Coastal GasLink on Wet’suwet’en territory 700 kilometres northwest of Victoria, the group of Indigenous youth and allies known as the Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en ramped up their efforts. In early February, the Indigenous youth locked themselves arm-in-arm at the entrance to the legislature — surrounded at one point by a thousand allies — and stayed overnight for 17 days. They forced the cancellation of B.C.’s throne speech ceremony for the first time in history.

The fountain in front of the building ran red with dye. Words written on upturned Canadian flags declared “Reconciliation is dead.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How BC’s Fossil Fuel Fights Link to a String of Wins in the US

How BC’s Fossil Fuel Fights Link to a String of Wins in the US

A thin green line with global impact. Latest in a series on creating a zero-carbon bioregion.

On a brisk December morning in 2012, Montana ranchers in cowboy hats walked alongside members of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in traditional regalia through the streets of Seattle in search of a good breakfast. After eating, they headed to Seattle’s convention centre to square off against multinational companies aiming to move coal on trains through the Pacific Northwest to be loaded on ships bound for Asia.

Their partnership went the distance. Three years after that hearing, the proposed Washington coal terminal was dead. Those trains bearing Montana and Wyoming coal never rolled.

Opponents’ victory in that case was emblematic of how environmentalists, Indigenous Peoples, ranchers, politicians, doctors, fishermen and even windsurfers worked for a decade to fend off more than 20 proposals to ship fossil fuels across the Pacific Ocean, from near Prince Rupert, British Columbia clear south to San Luis Obispo, Calif.

While readers of The Tyee will be aware of ongoing resistance in B.C. against extracting and transporting fossil fuels, this is the story of how such efforts have for years crossed borders to connect with activism up and down the West Coast. The range of projects fought, from shipping coal and oil by train to pumping gas and oil through pipes, is a reminder of how sprawling and persistent the fossil fuel industry’s global export agenda is. And it demonstrates the power of grassroots organizing.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Cascadia Was Poised to Lead on Climate. Can It Still?

Cascadia Was Poised to Lead on Climate. Can It Still?

BC, Washington and Oregon all aimed to slash emissions. After epic battles, they failed. First in a series on creating a zero-carbon bioregion.

With dozens of people killed by wildfires in the western U.S., millions of acres scorched and choking smoke spreading far into British Columbia, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee lit up the news wires in September. “These are not just wildfires,” Inslee asserted at a press conference from Olympia, “these are climate fires.”

Two days later on George Stephanopoulos’ Sunday-morning ABC News talk show, the recent presidential candidate recounted a poignant visit to a town nearly wiped out by the fires. “The only moisture in Eastern Washington was the tears of people who have lost their homes,” said Inslee. “And now we have a blowtorch over our states in the West, which is climate change.”

Just days after his return to the national stage, however, the question in a Seattle courtroom was whether the state he’d run since 2013 should be sanctioned for helping to fuel and light that torch. On Thursday, Sept. 17, an attorney representing Inslee and the entire apparatus of Washington state government stood to tell three masked judges behind a plexiglass shield that courts could not hold the state legally responsible for its part in the climate crisis: The part where it expanded highways. The part where it licensed power plants and factories to emit many tons of greenhouse gases. Where it set building standards that would keep residents’ stoves and furnaces and water heaters polluting the atmosphere for decades to come.

 

Last Days for BC’s Apple Industry?

Last Days for BC’s Apple Industry?

COVID-19 and bad weather have hammered Okanagan orchardists. But low prices are the biggest threat to their survival. First of two.

Between COVID-19, labour shortages and bad weather, Sukhdeep Brar has had a rough year growing apples. But as giant grocery chains drive wholesale prices down to pennies a pound, he says the struggle to keep apple production in B.C. started long before this COVID-19 pandemic.

 

India’s Farmer Movement, Indigenous Land Defenders and Hidden Histories

India’s Farmer Movement, Indigenous Land Defenders and Hidden Histories

The protests may be half-a-world apart. But they’re both based on a spiritual connection to the land.

When 250 million workers joined the largest strike in human history last month to support the Indian Kisan Andolan, or Farmer Movement, the connection to Indigenous land protests in British Columbia might not have been instantly evident.

But the two struggles have much in common in their resistance against neoliberal nation states and the corporations that influence them. They also share a hidden history that aligns the struggles in a unique field of solidarity.

Indian farmers are fighting the central government over three bills that effectively hand the agricultural market to large corporations, letting them set prices, and turn formerly independent farmers into contractors under corporate control.

Punjabi farmers have taken their protests to the border of Delhi and created blockades on highways, while farmers from other parts of India are doing the same.

The majority of Punjabis in India follow the Sikh faith. Agriculture is central not just to Punjab’s economy, but also to its culture. During the march to Delhi, police brutalized the farmers with water cannons and batons. Despite this, the farmers practiced a central tenet of the Sikh faith, langar (free kitchen) and made food available to both protestors, bystanders and police.

In B.C., a different but connected battle is being waged. Hereditary Chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en Nation have opposed TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline across northern B.C. since it was proposed. This resistance has led to demonstrations and railway blockades across Canada.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Hope for the Best from Canada’s UNDRIP Law. But Expect More of the Same

Hope for the Best from Canada’s UNDRIP Law. But Expect More of the Same

Like BC, the federal government is better at talking about Indigenous rights than it is at actually respecting them.

Is this really a game changer for Indigenous Peoples in Canada? I have my doubts, as do others.

There are two reasons for skepticism.

First, Bill C-15 focuses on high-level, aspirational commitments rather than on delivering concrete, immediate change to Indigenous Peoples.

If passed into law, Bill C-15 will require the federal government to take measures to ensure the laws of Canada are consistent with the declaration, and to prepare and implement an action plan to achieve its objectives. While enacting sweeping changes to federal legislation will undoubtedly take time, the federal government’s focus on these future promises conveniently allows it to sidestep the realities that Indigenous people face on a daily basis.

Governments pour promises on Indigenous people like a winter rain. Rather than witnessing real change, we are too often left with cold disappointment.

Maybe it’ll be different this time. But, if the experience of British Columbia’s UNDRIP legislation is an accurate predictor, we should all dress for more cold rains.

Passed a little over a year ago to great fanfare, the B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act has failed to live up to its promise. Instead, the provincial government has continued with its dreary, self-serving narrative based on the denial of Indigenous rights.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why Site C Construction Should Stop Today

Why Site C Construction Should Stop Today

The BC government has failed in its oversight role, say a former BC Hydro CEO and a veteran dam engineer.

Site C is the most expensive publicly funded infrastructure project in British Columbia’s history and the dam’s construction is being spearheaded by BC Hydro, a publicly owned hydroelectric utility whose sole shareholder is the provincial government.

That ought to mean that our elected leaders and civil servants place the highest priority on keeping on top of everything that goes on at Site C, because ultimately all British Columbians must pay for the project.

But there is an even more compelling reason why our government must be fully and effectively engaged on this project. All dams built in British Columbia must, by provincial statute, be designed, built and maintained to the highest safety standards.

Dams do not fail often. But when they do, the losses can be devastating. Which is why B.C.’s dam safety regulation is in place, and why it falls to engineers and dam safety officials employed by the provincial government to ensure that all dams built in the province have structural integrity.

Unfortunately, this important responsibility has rarely been mentioned as Site C has careened from one set of problems to another.

First there was the troubling tension crack that opened a gaping maw on the north riverbank following initial excavation work in 2017, leading to the removal of millions of cubic metres of additional earth to stabilize a clearly unstable bank.

Then there was problem after problem drilling the project’s diversion and drainage tunnels, as portions of the concrete liners anchored to the tunnel walls gave way and crashed to the tunnel floors — incidents later attributed to the soft shale that dominates the site.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Spiked. BC Profs Protest after Publisher Drops Book on Canadian Mining

Spiked. BC Profs Protest after Publisher Drops Book on Canadian Mining

UNBC researchers’ book alleging wrongdoing in Guatemala was accepted, reviewed, then cancelled.

Two British Columbia university professors are accusing a major academic publisher of blocking scrutiny of Canadian mining companies by cancelling publication of their book.

“We have a responsibility to publicize what happened,” wrote University of Northern British Columbia geography professor and department chair Catherine Nolin and UNBC adjunct professor Grahame Russell in an open letter to Springer Nature. Russell lives in Toronto and runs UNBC field courses in Guatemala with Nolin.

Nolin and Russell co-edited Canadian Mining in the Aftermath of Genocides in Guatemala: The Violence, Corruption, and Impunity of Contemporary Predatory Mineral Exploitation. Russell is also a founder and director of the advocacy group Rights Action.

The book had passed peer review and was ready last February for publication, but after several months delay Springer Nature notified them that after a legal review it had decided to cancel their contract and return the rights to the manuscript to them. It cited libel concerns.

“They didn’t engage in any sort of tweaks,” Russell said in a Zoom call. “We didn’t think it would be five months of silence and then shut the door.”

Headquartered in Europe, Springer Nature publishes thousands of titles a year according to its website, as well as journals including Nature.

“A major theme addressed in the articles, testimonies and analysis that comprise our book is the endemic corruption and impunity with which the mining companies addressed in the book have, variously, been able to operate in Guatemala, with their Guatemalan economic and political partners,” Nolin and Russell wrote in their letter.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Horgan Seems Fine with Muzzling the True Site C Watchdog

Horgan Seems Fine with Muzzling the True Site C Watchdog

The independent BC Utilities Commission demanded answers on risks and was brushed off.

BC Hydro has, in a Trumpian gesture, brushed off the last independent oversight of the out-of-control Site C project, with the apparent support of the newly elected NDP government.

The BC Utilities Commission is supposed to make sure BC Hydro is acting responsibly in the interests of its customers. It’s the only check on the monopoly $6-billion Crown corporation.

But BC Hydro just gave the finger to the regulator, and to British Columbians. And Premier John Horgan seems to be fine with that.

The utilities commission is mandated to ensure BC Hydro makes good decisions in the public interest. It scrutinizes the corporation’s budgets, plans and projections. It approves — or rejects — rate increases, and reports on whether projects like Site C are needed and based on a sound business case.

In doing that, it relies on BC Hydro to accept the oversight and provide needed information.

And BC Hydro has simply dismissed its obligation to accept independent oversight.

On July 31, BC Hydro filed updates on Site C with the utilities commission.

They were alarming. BC Hydro revealed there was “uncertainty with the dam’s schedule and in-service date” and “significant financial pressures.” So significant the corporation said it was coming up with a new budget and schedule for the megaproject.

And BC Hydro said that in late December a “project risk” had “materialized.”

The dam’s main structures — spillways and the giant power generating hall — are being built on unstable ground. The corporation is trying to figure out a solution and it has no idea how much this will cost.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

In the War on Climate Change, the BC Election Was a Bust

In the War on Climate Change, the BC Election Was a Bust

But the Sustainabiliteens and other youth committed to radical change will never give up.

For high school students and climate activists like us, British Columbia’s recent election wasn’t just about politics. It was about our futures: the 10 or so years we have left to prevent the worst of the global climate crisis. That doesn’t sound so long when you think of it as two or three election cycles.

We are both organizers with Sustainabiliteens, Metro Vancouver’s youth climate strike movement. We worked on campaigns this election because we believe in the power of political organizing to create change. We spent countless hours canvassing, flyering and phone banking — and now we have a chance to reflect on what the results mean for our generation and the future of the province.

First of all, this power-grab election should never have been called in the first place. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, not to mention a looming climate crisis — speaking of which, are we crazy or does the NDP really want to go ahead with Site C?

Suffice to say, an NDP majority wasn’t the result we wanted. Premier John Horgan found popularity not in spite of the BC Greens holding him accountable, but because of them. Honestly, we’re scared for what Horgan will do with absolute power. As we should be, considering his track record on climate action, as well as Indigenous sovereignty.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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