Cheers erupted as leaders from the historic Clayoquot Sound blockade crossed police lines to protest Kinder Morgan's efforts to twin the existing Trans Mountain pipeline and bore a tar sands pipeline through Burnaby Mountain. Organizers say 103 people have been arrested so far, 13 today.
Valerie Langer, Karen Mahon, Chris Hatch, Jean McLaren and Bonny Glambeck -- all of whom played key roles in the blockade and eventual protection of old growth forest in Clayoquot Sound, the largest civil disobedience movement in Canadian history -- are now in police custody. The Clayoquot Sound protests drew 11,000 Canadians over the course of a summer who participated in protests.
From right to left, Valerie Langer, Bonny Glambeck, Karen Mahon, Jean McLaren, Chris Hatch on Burnaby Mountain on Wednesday . All played a key role in the Clayoquot Sound protests in 1993. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.
"So today we have a number of people who were actually organizers of the Clayoquot Sound blockade in 1993," Mahon told a large crowd gathered at the conservation park on Burnaby Mountain.
"A number of them are willing to risk arrest, myself among them. We have friends from Solidarity Notes the choir, and we have a number of people from Vancouver Island who’ve come. Thank you Vancouver Island. Yesterday, we we’re contacted and told tomorrow we’re going to have some very special guests," she added.
"Tomorrow we’re going to have Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs here crossing the police line. He says he will be arrested tomorrow on Burnaby Mountain thinking of his grandchildren," Mahon added, her voice rising with emotion.
"It makes me really happy and really sad, because the fact that First Nation chiefs of this area have to be arrested to be heard by this government is madness, it is craziness. This is a crazy crazy time we are living in."
Environmental activist Tzeporah Berman, who had a leading role in the Clayoquot Sound movement, told the crowd that more than 100 people had been arrested so far on Burnaby Mountain. The crowd roared with cheers in response.
"A democracy can only function if we have information, If we have transparency, if we have participation, and the Harper conservatives are quickly robbing all three," Berman said, who did not herself get arrested, citing travel concerns.
"At the NEB hearings, the reviews of these pipelines, we are not allowed to talk about climate change. People from across this country who would like to participate in a public process are no longer allowed to participate. It is no longer a public process, it is broken, it is corrupt, it is a rubber stamp for the pipeline companies and together we are saying that has to change," Berman added.
Jean McLaren, 87, crossed police tape on Burnaby Mountain this morning, singing and smiling. Later, she was gingerly escorted back in front of the tape to a police van, to cheers from crowd.
McLaren hiked up a steep incline for 10 minutes, a challenge for most, much less an 87 year old. She said she had been an activist since 1947. She said she was protesting inaction on climate change.
"I want my kids and my grand kids to have a future," she said.
Thirteen people were arrested today, according to organizers, bringing the total number of arrests to 103, they believe.
Veteran Clayoquot Sound organizer Valerie Langer marching to arrest on Burnaby Mountain at a Kinder Morgan drill site on Wednesday. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.
About two hundred people were assembled on Burnaby Mountain this morning, and the crowd was dominated by seniors. One was a retired IT professional.
Another was a retired UBC professor of French, Valerie Raul. Raul said her husband was known on the Burnaby Mountain as the bagpiper. Raul came to Canada from the U.K. because of Canada's democracy, its public services and the beautiful natural environment, she said. Her husband was arrested last week on Burnaby Mountain and also 21 years ago in Clayoquot Sound.
Many veteran Clayoquot Sound protesters from 21 years ago marched to their arrest today, some singing "We Shall Overcome." The journey from the base of Burnaby Mountain to the police line is a beautiful, treed corridor. Today, there was mist and the songs of protesters filled the woods.
Raul, the retired UBC prof, was part of a group of elder women who were part of a choir, "Solidarity Notes."
Clayoquot Sound was a galvanizing moment for Canada's environmental movement, and Burnaby Mountain has been compared to Clayoquot both by Kinder Morgan and by activists.
Jean McLaren, 87, smiles as she crosses police line on Burnaby Mountain. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa
"They're saying it's a police line here, but it's really a crime scene for crimes against climate and democracy," said Mark Shaw, a protester on Burnaby Mountain and Save Our Shores member who had come to show support with a contingent from Gabriola Island.
Paul Manly, representing the B.C. and Yukon division of the Council of Canadians, said his organization had issued a statement from Ottawa supporting the protests on Burnaby Mountain.
"We're thanking people for coming out, by standing up and being arrested," Manly said.
"We support civil disobedience in these kind of situations...this is the hotspot in Canada right now with major climate destroying projects promoted by the Harper government."
He suggested that what was happening in Burnaby Mountain today could apply to Energy East, a controversial 4,500 kilometre pipeline proposal by TransCanada.
"We're going to see the same thing happening here with Energy East," he said.
Karen Mahon told her friends on Facebook more about why she crossed the police line on Burnaby Mountain. "As we go through our normal lives this theft of our future is going on around us yet we choose to not see it, to not name it or express it," she wrote. "But we do feel it, as a hard to identify stress, as something gnawing away at our hearts. On days like today - when we stand up and say no more - we are giving form and voice to this constant conflict that is brewing just under the surface, every day."
Sindhu Dharmarajah and Linda Solomon Wood contributed to the reporting on this story.
More updates to come.