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David Dodge, former Bank of Canada governor and high-profile advisor to Alberta’s NDP government, recently made an unusually grim prediction about the Trans Mountain pipeline: “There are some people that are going to die in protesting construction of this pipeline. We have to understand that. Nevertheless, we have to be willing to enforce the law,” Dodge told a forum in Edmonton sponsored by law firm Bennett Jones. “It’s going to take some fortitude to stand up [to them],” he continued, referring to pipeline protestors as “fanatics” who have “the equivalent of religious zeal.”

Dodge’s language in these statements is important to analyze. He uses the word “die” but never the word “kill,” framing the issue in a way that features death but makes the killers and the act of killing invisible. With this framing it’s all about the people who are dying, not the people who kill them.

Let’s alter Dodge’s wording slightly to describe the same situation from a different perspective and see how its morality shifts: “There are some people that are going to be killed in protesting construction of this pipeline. We have to understand that.” Say that out loud and it feels different from Dodge’s wording. The focus shifts to those who do the killing.

The implication of Dodge’s statement is clear, particularly when he makes it before any deaths occur: if people are killed at Trans Mountain protests it will not be inadvertent or accidental, they will be casualties of a no-holds-barred government campaign to get the Trans Mountain pipeline built. As Dodge says, “We have to understand that.” I’m not convinced a majority of Canadians are prepared to have their government kill for the sake of a pipeline. I hope we never have to find out.

One truth glossed over in Dodge’s picture is that opponents of the pipeline will likely only die if Justin Trudeau and Rachel Notley are prepared to see them killed. Here is what I mean.

There are important lessons for Trudeau, Notley, and police from Ontario’s 1996 Ipperwash stand-off, in which police shot and killed unarmed Ojibway protestor Dudley George. The Ipperwash stand-off concerned an unresolved land claim at Ipperwash Provincial Park.

A judicial inquiry into the killing led by Justice Sidney Linden found that the plan of the police was to “go-slow” and seek a “peaceful resolution.” This ran head-on into pressure from politicians and their supporters for “speedy action,” including from Ontario’s then premier Mike Harris. According to Harris’s office staff he shouted “I want the fucking Indians out of the park.” Justice Linden found “the premier’s desire to seek a quick resolution closed off other options…thereby creating a barrier to a peaceful resolution.”

One lesson of Ipperwash is that if you kill protestors, especially unarmed ones, you are in the long run likely to lose your fight. After the judicial inquiry report was made public with its condemning evidence, the Ontario government decided to return the contested land at Ipperwash to the Ojibway. Ironically, the final transfer of the land was made in 2016 by two members of Justin Trudeau’s new cabinet, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Carolyn Bennett and Minister of Defense Harjit Sajjan. I wonder what they are advising the prime minister on the pipeline protests.

It is testament to the staggering power of the oil industry that Justin Trudeau, the “sunny ways” prime minister who is committed to First Nations reconciliation and environmental protection, and Rachel Notley, a lifelong progressive, have steered the country into this crisis. It is time a journalist asks them if they will insist on a go-slow approach and peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, or if they plan to follow Mike Harris’s approach to get “the fucking protestors” out of the way of the pipeline. From the aggressive political rhetoric these days I think the Mike Harris approach is more likely.

"Let’s alter Dodge’s wording slightly to describe the same situation from a different perspective and see how its morality shifts." #opinion by author Kevin Taft. #cdnpoli #DavidDodge #KinderMorgan #TransMountain

We also must remember that killing could go the other way. What happens if a police officer is killed by a protestor? That could also be the result of an over-aggressive approach, and it would also be tragic.

David Dodge and many others explain the killing of people by saying we have to enforce the law. Enforcing the law is important, but it has constraints. For starters, it is the role of the police, not politicians or anyone else, to enforce the law, so we must ensure a highly skilled and independent police force is in charge, free from meddling by overheated politicians. We must also remember that not all laws are equally enforced all the time, and that exceedingly few laws are enforced with fatal force.

More fundamentally Canadians must ask, Is this the right law to enforce? It certainly protects the interests of oil companies that want to export raw bitumen. But once the thick layers of propaganda are scraped off the over-hyped claims of economic benefits, job creation, and environmental protection it’s not clear this project should proceed. Ten years ago I thought this pipeline made sense. I don’t any longer.

David Dodge will be condemned for making his statements but he is doing Canadians a favour. We should be discussing the use of fatal force at pipeline protests before an incident occurs. Former Alberta minister of energy Rick Orman has raised the spectre of calling in the army, and in comments to a convention last winter I asked the audience, “Is Rachel Notley prepared to have people killed to get this pipeline built?” The reply was a gasp, and then silence.

If we talk about these risks now they may be less likely to happen. And if they happen regardless, then we will be able to more effectively hold our leaders to account. For them, this could become a matter of political life and death. For police and protestors it could become a matter of real life and death.

Kevin Taft is a former Leader of the Opposition in Alberta and author of the bestselling book Oil’s Deep State.

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Kevin Taft: "It is testament to the staggering power of the oil industry that Justin Trudeau, the “sunny ways” prime minister who is committed to First Nations reconciliation and environmental protection, and Rachel Notley, a lifelong progressive, have steered the country into this crisis."

All the more reason we should oppose Big Oil's anti-democratic agenda.
The pipeline is not in the national interest because perpetuating the petro-state is not in the public interest.
The pipeline makes us rich only if we sell our grandchildren down the river. (And not even then.)

Obviously, Trudeau and Notley are not exactly as advertised.
Trudeau's environmentalism runs skin deep. Notley beats the progressive drum when it suits her.
On climate change — the issue of our time — the federal Liberals and AB NDP are as reactionary, anti-science, and fossilized as the regimes they replaced. Paying lip service to science is a just a new, more insidious form of denialism.

"These are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others." (Groucho Marx)
"Politicians are weathervanes when they are supposed to be compasses."

Let's hope that a lot of us who can't be on the front lines of this struggle, are doing what we can to help. Just imagine the money that might start flowing west from oil entangled Alberta, as Albertans who can read science do the actual math.

Math isn't hard. Although lot's of crooked politicians and greedy 'entrepreneurs' work overtime to make it so.

Thank you, Kevin, for asking the difficult questions.

Whoa! We’ve heard some grim predictions, but this takes the proverbial cake. I want to hope that if the choice is someone dying outright or all of us dying slowly through climate change, it is the latter. We have to work for better.

Well that's not much of a choice! If we know anything about history, we should know that large changes, large necessary changes, were resisted by the powerful, and avoided by the silent majority. We got rid of slavery because a few people made it their lives work....and for some, it cut short their life.

As more people with agency face the reality of climate change, resistence to fossil fuels is going to grow. But that industry thinks nothing of destroying ecospheres and entire cultures for cheap energy....and it will fight back.

Imagining now, that our governments might be willing to kill peaceful protesters, just has they have proven willing to criminalize peaceful protest to support a pipeline even KM no longer wants, is essential. What we can anticipate, we can often prevent. To that end, it would help if a few thousand more good citizens overcame their fear of standing up in the open...........and learned to do so. Not just because of climate change, but for participatory democracy as well, it is time we all became active.

People are going to die (be killed) so that raw bitumen can get to.?..somewhere...???

How telling.

People are dying all over the planet as the fossil fuel wars continue. What is it makes us think we are immune to the killing machine Big Oil has been for decades now?

Iran? Iraq? Nigeria? Libya|?

Do none of us know those stories?

My letter to David Dodge, June 20th, based on an article by Gary Mason at the National Post, June 15, 2018 regarding Mr. Dodge’s comments:

“We’re going to have some very unpleasant circumstances,” Mr. Dodge recently told the Bennett Jones law firm in Edmonton, according to a story in The Edmonton Journal. “There are some people that are going to die in protesting construction of this pipeline. We have to understand that.”

Well, Mr. Dodge, I am one of those “protesters”, a 68 year-old Grandmother, former teacher, Restorative Justice Facilitator and Ombudsperson, who, along with hundreds, if not thousands of seniors and people from all walks of life and many countries, are standing up for clean, renewable energy, good jobs (not the 2500 temporary pipeline installation jobs for 2 years, or the 90 permanent jobs promised by Kinder Morgan at an NEB hearing, submission 5B), and a liveable planet for our children, grandchildren, and their children.

If you are prepared to make the careless statement that, “Nevertheless, we have to be willing to enforce the law once it’s there … It’s going to take some fortitude to stand up.”, you personally should be prepared to stand up on the front lines and take the life of someone’s Grandmother for disagreeing with your point of view. Are you, or are you just hiding in plain site behind inflammatory words?

You have made a very thoughtless, disrespectful and dangerous statement about those of us who hold a different viewpoint of what it means to be Canadian. We take our promise to, “Stand on guard for thee” very seriously, and it doesn’t include violating Indigenous rights and becoming a global climate pariah.

Have you read about all of the violations of permits, and actions without permits that Kinder Morgan has perpetrated with impunity? If not, please do so. If you are already aware of them, why are you not writing to condemn them and insist that they suffer the consequences? After all, justice is supposed to be blind, but you seem to have forgotten that.

It is easy enough to hide behind the police or the army, while making statements that can be construed to be supporting the murder of Canadian citizens such as myself.

Easy, yes, but demonstrating a very biased and shallow understanding of what is at stake for those of us who have a different, more practical, respectful and reverent view of our environment and planet.

We do not have a spare Pacific Ocean with its’ beautiful coastline, replacement coastal jobs, another pod of resident Orcas, or another planet. We are trying to protect what we have and love. It is as much ours as it is yours. I doubt that you would say you love the tar sands as we do our coast and rivers.

“Production and processing of an additional 590,000 barrels a day to fill the new TMX pipe would emit 13 to 15 million tonnes of CO2 a year, according to a 2016 report by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). These are called upstream emissions, while downstream emissions are produced by the refining and burning of the product.”, and, “Still, upstream emissions of 15 million tonnes of CO2 a year is lot: It’s equivalent to adding another 3,750,000 passenger vehicles on Canadian roads.” (Motherboard, Stephen Leahy, May 3, 2018, )

Then there is the social cost of carbon, which are damages that ...”are expected to take various forms, including decreased agricultural yields, harm to human health and lower worker productivity, all related to climate change.“ (Sanford Engineering, Estimated Social Costs of Climate Change Not Accurate, Stanford Scientists Say, January 12, 2015, Ker Thon,

“We estimate that the social cost of carbon is not $37 per ton, as previously estimated, but $220 per ton,” said study coauthor Frances Moore, a PhD candidate in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources in Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences.”

This pipeline was supposed to bring in 2.3 billion per year in royalties and taxes. With a social cost of $220 per ton for 13 million tons, that’s 2.86 billion, for a considerable loss. For 15 million tons, it’s 3.3 billion, or a billion dollar shortfall.

And that still leaves the emissions for refining and burning the product elsewhere in the world, a gift from Canada, courtesy of our “climate leader Prime Minister”.

How does that square with our Paris Climate Accord target to cut CO2 emissions by 30%? How does that square with the 2016 Paris climate agreement, where “governments around the world—including in Canada—recognized that every ton of CO2 added to the atmosphere will have a range of economic impacts related to climate change, including decreased agricultural yields, harm to human health, and increased damages from flooding and storms.”?(Motherboard, Stephen Leahy, May 3, 2018)

In supporting this pipeline, your view demonstrates a poverty of imagination and possibly a lack of information. Clean renewable energy alternatives are now being installed at a rapid pace in several places in the world. Surely you do not believe in the killing fellow citizens over a pipeline when better, cleaner and more affordable systems are available?

Are you aware that solar jobs now outpace those of the fossil fuel industry? Well, they are, and we are ashamed to have our Government either be unaware or uninterested in doing our part to keep the planet’s climate habitable. (

It’s reassuring to read the reporter, Gary Mason’s statement that, “It’s all fine for a government to say that it must uphold its own laws whatever the situation, but public sentiment often rules. This is Canada. Societal tolerance for violence, especially state-sanctioned or perpetrated, is low here.”

Mr. Dodge, here are some thoughts from others that may be worth reflecting upon as you consider a pipeline worth the lives of your fellow citizens who hold an educated viewpoint that differs from your own, when alternatives exist...

“One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”(Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail)
“Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.”(Howard Zinn)

“If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man.”Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays

Do not denigrate or dismiss us as a small band of radical, lawbreaking n’er-do-wells. The stakes are high, none higher than the health of our planet and hence ourselves. We are priests, teenagers, teachers, lawyers, grandparents, loggers, fishermen, students, builders, tourism operators, engineers, union members, and Aboriginal Chiefs, in other words, CANADIANS, all united in a common love of and concern for our country and our planet. It doesn’t get much more patriotic than that.

I am surprised that the firm of Bennett Jones would want to continue to consult with you and turn a deaf ear to your uninformed, uninformed and I hope, unintentional promotion of hatred and violence against your fellow Canadians.


Charlene Simon
Victoria, BC
(And I would hold the same opinion if I lived in the Prairies, the Yukon, Nunavut, Eastern Canada or the Maritimes)

David Dodge's language is that of the classic domestic abuser: Look what you made me do!