“My heart was pounding as I took the microphone to speak to the crowd of two hundred rallied at the foot of Burnaby Mountain. Not because I was nervous about speaking, but because of the great emotion welling up inside of me – I was about to be arrested.
Arrested for something that has weighed heavily on my heart and mind for decades – the climate crisis. This is an overwhelmingly huge issue, one that is hard to get a handle on, hard to act on. We all do what we can, but at the end of the day systemic changes are needed.
The Burnaby Mountain protest against Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline provided an opportunity to take a stand for that change.
I was to be arrested with four other organizers of the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history – the 1993 Clayoquot Sound blockades. What an honour to stand united again with my colleagues Valerie Langer, Karen Mahon, Chris Hatch, and 87-year-old Jean McLaren. We spoke from our hearts about why we had come to take a stand, then rallied and began to march up Burnaby Mountain.
Marching with us was a Vancouver choir – with six members intending to be arrested. Earl, their leader, led us all in song as we slowly made our way to the police line. We sang with all our hearts, “We shall not be moved” and other songs of freedom.
The force of history was with us as we marched up Burnaby Mountain. Although I am a seasoned activist, that day I felt most like a citizen, one about to solemnly break the law in order to speak truth to power – this pipeline will not be built. Not in my name, nor on behalf of the thousands who came to Burnaby Mountain during the two-month protest.
There is a tremendous freedom in living out that truth. It is an antidote to the despair brought on by the knowledge of what the climate crisis is doing, both to people and to the planet.
It was time to cross the line. The five of us held hands and ducked under the police tape. And so we found ourselves on the wrong side of the yellow police line, confident that we were on the right side of history.
The choir was singing in full harmony, “If you’ve been to jail for justice, than you’re a friend of mine,”,invoking the spirits of those who fought to end slavery, who stood for civil rights, and who gained the right to vote for women.
These movements all flow together like one river, and I could feel the power of that river rising now as we stood face to face with the police. An RCMP officer made his way down the line, explaining to each of us in turn that we were in Kinder Morgan’s restricted work area, and we must move or be arrested.
I tell him “no,” I will not move and I will not walk. We are all carried away, except for Jean who is escorted to a waiting police cruiser. It’s like Clayoquot Summer all over again.
We were put in a paddy wagon, joined shortly by the arrested choir members. Our hours in the paddy wagon and jail were filled with harmonious songs, laughter, and much strategizing.
The next day in court, it was determined that Kinder Morgan had bungled the GPS coordinates, and therefore the line where police had been arresting people was in the wrong place! Charges were dropped for all of the 120 arrestees. The following day we arrived at Burnaby Mountain to see Kinder Morgan’s helicopter removing their drill rigs. They had thrown in the towel!
Clayoquot Action’s six days on Burnaby Mountain in Tsleil-Waututh territory were an incredible experience. What an honour it was to stand united with people of all ages and all colours, and to send Kinder Morgan packing.
Bonny Glambeck is campaigns director with Clayoquot Action in Tofino. www.clayoquotaction.org