On June 10, 2020, Thomas Davies, a central organizer with Climate Convergence Metro Vancouver and member of the Fire This Time Editorial Board gave this talk during the webinar "What's Next in the Fight to Stop the TMX Pipline?"
I want to thank everybody who logged on tonight, and everybody who's been standing up for oppressed people, standing up against racism, standing up against police brutality, and everybody who's been standing up for over ten years in this fight against the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) Pipeline.
Recently, we got the news about the Federal approval of the 13 foot by 3.6km pipe tunnel that they're planning on boring through Burnaby Mountain. I, like many others I spoke to, felt a different sense of frustration about this.
The reason we felt this decision more sharply was that usually leading up to those kinds of decisions, we are aware of the timeline, and we're organizing public actions to respond to them. So that each time the National Energy Board, now named Canada Energy Regulator, rubber stamps different approvals for the TMX pipeline, we've usually had a protest in front of their office. We've usually been organizing and connected with other people - and that's a really powerful thing. I think that's really helped sustain the movement, and we weren't able to do that in the same way at this time.
So coming together like this, I think, is especially important. But in those feelings, when we're in our own homes feeling a bit isolated, I think it's useful to go back to what the context is and realize what the bigger picture is. We can gain a lot of strength from that. I want everybody to remember that pre-coronavirus that we had seen some of the most massive coordinated international protests in history led by young people, and the Climate Strike protests, and movement was growing around the world.
I want everybody to think back to all the Wet'suwet'en solidarity actions that were happening across Canada and around the world, and how quickly they spread and how energetic and defiant they were - how steadfast they were and can continue to be. They were Indigenous-led but gained a lot of solidarity and support from non-Indigenous people standing up in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en Nation standing up against the Coastal GasLink Pipeline. That power was seen around the world, and I think we really felt it.
During the pandemic, not only is capitalism unable to take care of people's needs, but it also created this disgusting effort we've seen to take advantage of the situation and make mega-profits - even while unemployment in Canada is the highest it has been ever recorded. Unemployment was 13.7 % last month, which was higher than the previous highest record in 1982. Three million people lost their jobs in March and April, and 2.5 million more had their hours slashed. Meanwhile, we saw billionaires expand their profits massively.
They took advantage of making more money, but we saw the United States suspend environmental review and energy project regulations. Then we saw the Alberta government do the exact same thing. I'm not sure if people noticed, but the Canadian government just suspended environmental reviews for offshore drilling on May 4th. So they're using this as an opportunity to get ahead and to give polluters an upper hand. That's precisely the opposite of what we should be doing.
Importantly, we also saw a fallout in the oil prices, with at one time, a barrel of Alberta oil was worth literally nothing. We saw many layoffs in Alberta, and that came back to the local Parkland oil refinery.
And as the situation develops in Alberta and as the oil crisis unfolds, I think we have more opportunities for talking to oil and gas workers. We in Climate Convergence responded publicly to an “open letter” published in the Financial Post. It was called “An Open Letter to Canadians from Oil and Gas Workers.” When you looked at the letter, it was written by oil drilling company CEOs. They were calling for strange things like for the government to buy their accounts receivable. They had nothing in there about protecting workers, and they didn't even bother to try and talk to workers about what they were asking for. So we responded to that with our Open Letter from Climate Justice Organizers to Oil and Gas Workers - to point out that we in the climate justice movement have much more in common with oil and gas workers than oil and gas workers will ever have with oil and gas CEOs.
We can see that these corporations are continuing to push construction even during times when it's obvious that they are putting workers' health in jeopardy and creating huge health risks for the communities surrounding these construction projects. We've seen the work that the Mountain Protectors have done on Burnaby Mountain. Documenting time and time again how impossible it is to practice the government's social distancing guidelines on those construction projects.
Right now, our job is to continue to expose the contradictions between what politicians say and what they do, especially with someone like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He says he stands for climate justice. He says he stands for Indigenous rights. He says he is anti-racist. Yet time and time again, in so many ways, he shows that to be a complete lie.
So a lot is going on, and I think it's fair to ask, “Why is the TMX pipeline fight important in all of this? Why should we be focusing on this when there is everything else going on?” I think there are several reasons. The first is strong and straightforward: We simply can't add that Tar Sands capacity and the associated CO2 emissions in any sort of sustainable modeling for the planet's future. It doesn't add up to the Canadian government's pretty lackluster climate plan, and it would never add up to any of the real scientific analysis.
The most important, though, is that defeating the TMX pipeline would be an important victory for poor, working, and oppressed people.
It's been over a ten-year struggle, and I think it's become symbolic of the fight for climate justice and Indigenous rights. Even more broadly, it's a symbol of those who are trying to build a better and sustainable world confronting those who are trying to squeeze every last drop of profits, regardless of human and planetary consequences, out of the old ways. So winning this struggle will put all poor, working, and oppressed people in a better position to fight back. We need to start more public and coordinated campaigns against TMX, considering current safety concerns.
We need to keep fighting. It might not be the way that we're used to. It might not be the way that we would prefer to organize. But we have to find ways to organize. And we've seen that people in extremely challenging situations find ways to make changes and challenge power. And so we need to take that into account and be part of that as well.
I'm going to close with two quotes and book recommendations. One is called “Bobbi Lee, Indian Rebel” by Lee Maracle. It's a memoir of growing up as an Indigenous woman in North Vancouver and getting involved in radical politics in the sixties and seventies.
“Creation is not passive. The birth, re-birth process of the earth, her storms, eruptions, tidal waves, floods, droughts, and the coming of periodic ice ages attest to the total lack of passivity. The birth process of the plant and animal kingdom is not passive. Individually, every living thing on earth must labour to re-create itself. Seeds burst from shell to regenerate and the process of birth for mammals is accomplished only with much bloodshed.
The re-birth of any social order also is not passive. We cannot live in the world the way it is. What is it when the mayor of a foreign town can come into your backyard and propose to play golf on the graves of your dead? What is it when that foreign country forms its internal laws to make this despicable act legal? At no time in history have Europeans ever suggested played golf on their own graves. Yet gravesite after gravesite of our dead is considered accessible for the most ridiculous of pastimes.”
“They/we are refusing to be obedient. From July 11th onward, we will listen to one instruction only – love our own. We have been busy over the past summer deciding who “our own” are. They are a range of colours: black, red, brown, yellow and white. And we can recognize them by their loyalty to justice, peace, and solidarity.”
And finally, from the Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. In his final speech, which was part of a campaign supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis, he said, “Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike, but either we go up together or go down together. Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.”
So what we're advocating here is to continue in that spirit of struggle, of dangerous unselfishness. To be convinced that we can stop the TMX pipeline and build a better world if we work together. Thank you very much everybody.
Follow Thomas on Twitter: @thomasdavies59
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