As 2018 comes to a close, major news networks are all lining up panels of experts to go over their picks for “Top News Stories the Year.” Without a doubt, the ongoing fight over the construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion is on all of their lists. It should be. The government of Canada bailed out Texas oil giant Kinder Morgan by buying the existing oil pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby for 4.5 billion and committing close to 15 billion more to get a new pipeline built. They then slid down the snakes and ladders board as the Federal Court of Appeals 'quashed' their original approval of the project - sighting an incomplete review process and a failure to conduct meaningful consultations with Indigenous Nations.
So it should be on all the lists.
But the “experts” are missing something fundamental. While they constantly frame it as a showdown between provincial leaders and the Federal government – they neglect the fact that tens of thousands of people in British Columbia and across Canada mobilized together in Indigenous-led opposition to the project. Without this organizing, the pipeline would be well on its way to construction. That's the real news story.
Climate Convergence Metro Vancouver was an important part of this resistance and was able to demonstrate the power of grassroots organizing. In the year 2018 alone, the 100% volunteer group was part of organizing 23 public actions. This included eight Rallies, seven Art Builds, three Banner Drops, two Community Discussions, two Fundraisers and one Die-In. This also included organizing two petition campaigns, two new educational brochures, and ten hands painted banners. All through people power!
TD + KM = Partners in Climate Crime
At the beginning of the year, the coalition focused on demanding TD Bank divest from the Kinder Morgan Canada stocks it had bought to build the pipeline. The campaign also targeted five other major Canadian banks which together had invested billions in buying stocks and credit. During the “TD Bank Blitz” organizers split into teams and held protest actions at all seven TD Bank locations in Burnaby in one day. The campaign also organized the largest ever divestment action in Vancouver, with 1000 people marching through downtown Vancouver from bank to bank to demand they stop funding the “climate crime.”
This was also the first time coordinated “protest umbrellas” were used. 16 hand painted umbrellas spelling “STOP KINDER MORGAN” were an impressive sight spanning 50 feet total when held together.
Can't Stop Won't Stop
This organizing happened in the context of constant mobilization against the pipeline expansion, especially in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Two protest camps were set up around the Kinder Morgan Tank Farm to stop its attempted expansion – Camp Cloud and the Watch House. The Protect the Inlet campaign sometimes organized daily mobilizations at the Tank Farm gates. More than 230 people, from all walks of life, were arrested as part of this non-violent civil disobedience campaign.
Many have bravely faced increasing fines and jail time for standing up for their beliefs, and regular court support actions continue at the Federal Court in downtown Vancouver. Climate Convergence has organized fundraisers for this ongoing campaign and helped organize a rainy action and press conference when the group's organizers were part of those facing the judge.
It was also community support which allowed the legal case which led to the “quashing” of the government's pipeline approval to proceed. $600,000 was raised through community donations by the Pull Together campaign to support the Indigenous Nations-led legal challenge.
Build Our Future – Not a Pipeline!
In May when the Federal government bailed out Kinder Morgan with $4.5 billion, the campaign shifted to highlight this massive waste of taxpayer dollars and all over the other important alternatives like Education, Clean Energy and Healthcare which the government in neglecting at the expense of the massive bailout. Three simultaneous banner drops were organized the day after the announcement, and Climate Convergence also organized it's first Day of Action – which involved a Rally, March and Community Discussion in succession. The mix of action and education was successful – and it was clear despite the bailout people we still committed to stopping the pipeline.
No Trudeau Pipeline! Not Now, Not Ever!
Climate Convergence also worked with student organizations and other grassroots groups to organize as part of the “Rise for Climate!” International Day of Action on September 8th. The Vancouver rally was one of the largest in North America, and among 900 actions which took place on all seven continents
Organizers knew when Federal governments lost the court case of its pipeline approval that it wouldn't be long before they came back with some new manoeuvres to try and force the project forward. Trudeau demanded a sped up National Energy Board review of the pipeline's marine impacts - but with all of the same structural problems as the previous bogus process. Likewise, the government has hired a retired Supreme Court Judge to organize the “meaningful consultations” with Indigenous Nations, which so far have been closed-door meetings which have excluded Indigenous pipeline opponents.
At the same time, the United Nations climate report found that the world has twelve years to reduce CO2 emissions or face catastrophic and irreversible consequences drastically. Speaking at a Climate Convergence organized “Salish Sea Vs. NEB!” Day of Action, SFU professor and Lead Author of the report Dr. Kirsten Zickfeld emphasized that building the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion was absolutely incompatible with the steps needed to save the planet.
Given this reality, the coalition has shown no signs of slowing down. United community action has not stopped the project entirely, but it does have government and business leaders scrambling to find a way to force it through. The Climate Convergence coalition was able to adapt campaigns to changes like bailouts and court decisions and find creative and new ways to engage the inconsistent public actions. This is a good example of the power people have when they are united and organize together. We need to bring more people together to up the organization and the action as we move forward into 2019! As Fidel Castro said once, we have no other option but to continue the struggle until final victory.
Follow Climate Convergence on Twitter: @climate604
Follow Thomas on Twitter: @thomasdavies59
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