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B&W SalmonB&W Salmon

All along the pipeline, warriors keep the view....

March 19, 2018  •  1 Comment


I was one of those who came and went last Saturday, joining thousands who came together on a sunny winter’s day on Burnaby Mountain

That ringing alarm at 4:00 am was going off by many beds on the Island, as we all made our way to the 6:15 am ferry from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay. The closer we got to the terminal, the heavier the traffic became, including small groups of pedestrians starting to run to beat the ten minute cut off for tickets. Parking was hampered by construction, but we find a spot. The line up for tickets was to the door, and moving slowly. BC Ferries mustn’t have been aware of the protest on Burnaby Mountain, but they managed to get everyone on board!

The noseThe noseThis sign followed us from Nanaimo, to Lake Central and up the hill! And it was crowded, you could feel the energy. Protest signs resting on the ground, next to small groups talking about how to get to Lake Central Skytrain Station, the meeting place for the  Protect The Inlet march. Our small group is organized, Terry is off to the bookstore to buy Transit passes for the three of us, I’m chatting with a group from Port Alberni, they have charted a bus to meet them in Horseshoe Bay, and meet a couple from Fanny Bay who don't know which buses to catch! Richard is chatting with another fellow from Dogwood about the march. Taking a walk around the main deck, and these meetings are going on in every corner of the lounge. I stop by the cafeteria and listen to the truck drivers. Sitting with their coffee, breakfast and log books out, they can’t figure out what’s going on, but they’ve lost their usual table, and they aren’t very happy about that!

Swimming throughKiller Whales join the crowdNot the ones escorting the ferry, but they made their way up the hill with the crowd.

I make my way back to my seat, making notes and reading. I look up and the sun is coming up over the Vancouver skyline, and there’s not a cloud in the sky. The PA rattles, and the captain is announcing that we have a pod of killer whales on either side of the ferry, a sure sign of a glorious day! And then I hear it, “What a bunch of assholes, taking a dieseled powered ferry, riding in cars and buses to protest an existing pipeline.” And she continues, even louder over her coffee, her partner nodding in agreement. She’s looking around for an argument, surrounded by signs and people heading to the March. Perhaps they're heading to the pro-pipeline rally?  I almost bite, but comment on what a nice day it is, and had she seen the whales along the starboard side of the ship?”

As we exit the ferry, the parking lot is full of chartered school buses, and a long line for the 257 Express, we can tell we aren’t going to make that one, even though it’s one of the articulated buses. But like clockwork, an empty one rolls up behind and we’re off. From our perspective, it seems that everyone is headed to the March. Signs have been rolled up, poles under seats, backpacks held on laps, it’s standing room only. At the Burrard Street stop, most of the bus exits, heading to the Skytrain station, Expo line for four stops, then switch to the Millennium Line to the Lake City station. Our group has continued to grow, and while some of the signs seem familiar, the faces aren’t. Young, old, older and many families have joined the crowd. We spent most of the time on the last train standing, talking with one of the nurses who would be working on the sides of the March. And by now I can’t find any of the faces we left with from the Ferry!

The Skytrain empties...The Skytrain empties...

As the train pulls in to the Lake City station, the crowd is visible, we’re there well before the 10 am start time, and it already looks like 1000s are milling about the courtyard. And now there's a police presence, though they seem friendly enough, chatting with protestors, enjoying the sun and extra pay they’re going to earn today. They have a list of where the closest bathrooms are located! The speakers have congregated at a Budget cube van being used as the stage, the crew is setting up the sound system, but it doesn’t seem to work. After 30 minutes, the crowd has doubled in size, there are musicians performing in corners, and somewhere on the fringes, there is a Piper playing. We hear the sound system crackle, and Tsleil-Waututh member Will George begins the speeches, but not for long, the sound system fails. He’s replaced by Chief Bob Chamberlin from the Gilford Island Band, a  familiar face to the North Islanders in the crowd. The microphone is replaced with a megaphone, and the speeches are back on. We learn a few chants, and then a path is cleared to allow the Elders to enter and bless the march. And then we’re off, following the Elders and visiting Chiefs, from all across Canada and the US.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip

We seem to be in the middle, and not able to see either end of the March. We decided to stick together, rather than set a meeting place and a time to head home. That restricts my roaming around to shoot photos, it’s hard to stop and shoot and then look around for my marching partners. Overhead is the RCMP helicopter and a few large drones, but I don’t seem to see any of the local TV stations covering the March. We're offWe're off

As we make our way up the hill, we turn the corner and there is Kinder Morgan’s razor wire capped fence, and along their side of the fence KM pick-up trucks roll slowly along, taking photographs of the marchers. Between the road and their fence is a treed boulevard, and you soon see groups of men drifting towards the trees, it’s been a long haul with that morning’s coffee and no bathrooms at the transit stations. I quit drinking coffee before we got on the ferry, but Richard joins the group. Terry and I wait on the side of the road as the marchers move past us, and we wait, but Richard doesn’t return. I find a spot in the shade on some construction materials, up the road is the camp of protestors who have been there for months.

The crowd is thinning out, and I recognize a few faces, David Suzuki saunters by, as does Elizabeth May, walking a dog. I recognize a few lower mainline politicians, including Adrianne Carr. I’ve been weaving in and out of the crowd, looking for images that needed to be captured. I see an older man seeming to have trouble with the hill, he’s one of the Elders. One of the many RCMP members takes one arm, I take the other and we get him seated on a bench in the shade. I go off to find one of the young protestors from the camp, and send him down with some water. And I run into Terry, who hasn’t moved far in the bathroom line. We’re also gently asked to move along to the soccer field, two blocks down the road. We’ve been too long in the recently granted 50 meter no go zone. We’re told that there are bathrooms at the field.

As we enter the field, we can see just how big the crowd has grown. There’s a large stage set up and speakers have already started to address the crowd. We find a spot in the shade by the fence, we can hang our packs there. Terry decides that she wants to sit for a while, so I’m off in the crowd, trying to find those illusive images. As I’m drifting about, I’m also looking for Richard, he’s our driver, so if we don’t meet up, Terry and I will have to find a ride from Nanaimo to Courtenay. I run into one of the press organizers, and she sends me off to the Watch house construction zone, allowing me to shoot some photos before they open it up to the crowds.

Watch house risesWatch house rises While I was watching the sunrise, this crew was loading planks onto trucks and getting to Burnaby Mountain to build the foundation and assemble the watch house.  By now you’ve probably seen it, either in news clips or in photos. It’s built right on the existing pipeline, and is staffed by warriors protecting the inlet. It was recently protected by the judge at the hearing for Kinder Morgan’s request to have a 50 meter no go zone for protestors.

I head back to the Information booth, want to touch base with Terry. I stay with the packs, she’s off to visit the watch house and cruise the crowd to see if she can find the illusive Richard. I can tell she’s a bit worried about losing him in the crowd. I’m now sharing the fence with three RCMP members, these guys are roasting, with long sleeve shirts over their Kevlar vests. They're members of the Division Laison Team, and one of them tells me they are there to observe the protest.

I get the sense that Terry wants to start making our way back to the Island, the crowd is starting to thin, and groups of people are starting to make their way to the Skytrain station. The RCMP are at every turn, helping us head the right way. And it’s standing room all the way back to Granville Street. As we turn the corner a 257 Express pulls up, but the line is a block long. It’s 30 minutes to the next one, so we decide to take the 257 Milk Run. Which turns out to be a mistake, as we exit at the ferry terminal, the sign goes up that ticket sales to Nanaimo are suspended, and the next ferry is at 6:35 pm. 2.5 hours to go! We meet up with two other couples who were on the bus, and find a place for a well deserved cold beer!

And you’re wondering how we made it back to Royston? Right off the bat, we were offered rides by the folks we met on the bus, one couple from Fanny Bay and the other from Coombs, both said to track them down on the ferry if we couldn’t find someone closer. And at 5:30 pm, we’re in the waiting room, when in strolls Richard. We’re united again with a ride home to Royston.

Frack Off!Frack Off! Once again Pipeline politics has heated up, Notley’s threatening to cut off the oil to BC, Jason Kenny first calls the protestors Russian bots and then foreign paid enviros (on that note, who paid to get the Albertans to the Pro pipeline rally?), local media outlets are criticized over their biased coverage of the two protests (10k vs, 200) JTs’ ministers still claim the “pipeline will be built”, Washington, Oregon and California support the BC position and a week later, the first 28 protestors are arrested interfering with Kinder Morgan’s work schedule.

The March 10th Protect the Inlet March will turn out to be one of those watershed moments, the tide is turning. The list of volunteers to be arrested keeps growing, my name is there.

 


Comments

Ernst Vegt(non-registered)
Norm, thanks so much for taking this position on the second pipeline. History will judge stopping the export of bitumen from the tar-sands as the right thing to do. Thanks for your time and efforts!
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