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Shut down Canada - reports from BC pipeline blockades

Zain H

November 19, 2020

During the past month, the Secwepemc nation had set up a camp at Mission Flats, Kamloops, along the proposed route of the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion. The watch house at Burnaby Mountain is starting up again, the tiny house warriors at Blue River are still holding their territory, and the Holmes Creek camp is being improved to survive the coming winter. These are some updates on just a few direct action camps across BC.   

Almost a month ago, the RCMP carried out a campaign of ruthless attacks on the movement. In line with their many centuries long tradition, they arrested the hereditary chief of the Secwepemc first nation, and the matriarch, along with 3 other individuals, one of whom used to work for Trans Mountain as an engineer, and has since been arrested on multiple occasions for non-violent civil-disobedience in opposition to planet killing and colonial projects like TMX. In total, there have been 9 arrests in the past few weeks.

These actions by the RCMP reveal the implicit violence of the state and make it explicit for the whole world to watch. Demonstrators in Kamloops were told on multiple occasions the following: “we don’t like making arrests, we would like this whole thing to be over without more arrests”. This is a common case of self-victimization on part of the RCMP. The idea that their hands are being forced by the demonstrators is a way to justify their actions, not just to force this rationalization down the throats of the protestors, but perhaps as a way to console themselves as well.

Pipeline ready to be driven underneath the Thompson River, Kamloops

One would imagine that Trans Mountain would try to get stuff done as efficiently as possible when construction is not being blocked, but the developments in the last few days are an example of how not only is capitalist production bad for workers, the indigenous population and the environment, but its internal mechanisms are breaking down, as the ruling class grows ever more nervous. The pipeline that was being driven underneath the Thompson River is going to have to be pulled out again, due to “technical difficulties”. This is a goal of some land defenders who were putting their bodies in line to stop this earth wrecking project, and therefore this can be seen as a small victory.

The next few weeks are likely going to see a surge in anti-pipeline civil disobedience actions, including at Burnaby Mountain, where members of the Tslei-Wathuh have been fighting to stop the pipeline from reaching its terminus destination. Some anonymous reports from sympathizers within the federal legislative power structures suggests that if the production levels remain as they are right now, until the end of 2021, the pipeline expansion will have to be cancelled on this basis alone.

There will be a continuation of railway blockades in the next few weeks as well by Extinction Rebellion Vancouver in opposition to TMX, possibly coordinated with other groups in Montreal and across the Canadian state. There might be further blockades set-up in solidarity with #shutdowncanada, by other direct action groups as well.


Holmes Creek

At Holmes Creek, a coalition of different organizations, mostly direct action groups, have formed a permanent tree house, right in line for the construction of the pipeline route. The camp is now ready for the coming winter and will be essential in opposing Trans Mountain and delaying their work, which is already behind schedule. The camp is also prepared for the coming winter, including a permanent tree top camp. It can be said with certainty that it is going to be impossible for the police to destroy this platform, without severely hurting the individual inside.

In total, there are now roughly five direct action camps across BC, in line of either proposed or immediate construction, including at Blue River, where the tiny house warriors are still holding a strong presence with their permanent camp.

Burnaby Mountain Watch House

At Burnaby Mountain, members of the Tslei-Wathuh nation have restarted the watch house. The watch house was the location of well over a hundred arrests two years ago, when Trans Mountain was beginning construction near the location. Future actions are being planned, but the details have not been revealed to the general public yet.

Why is it that despite numerous environmental organizations and a majority of the country’s  population recognizing climate change as a serious threat, there hasn’t been any reasonable change whatsoever in prioritizing indigenous sovereignty, and moving towards net zero carbon emissions by 2025? One answer could be that traditional NGOs put an unfair amount of burden on indigenous direct-action groups, and suppress working class interests.  

The oil workers are neither the professed target, nor the objective bearers of the blame and responsibility when it comes to opposition to this pipeline. In reality, it is the collusion between Trans-Mountain security and the cops - a material manifestation of the collusion between the state and private power - as well as a union hierarchy that keeps the ordinary workers in the dark about the importance of fighting for a just transition as an immediate necessity, that are the problem. The union leaders should stop this collusion and represent the objective interests of the workers.

These oil workers therefore need to be directed towards organizations such as ‘Iron and Earth’, a growing group of oil sands workers who recognize the necessity to transition away from fossil fuels, towards green energy. Organizations such as this one are going to be key in transitioning off of fossil fuels.

A materialist analysis of the ‘climate movement’ arrives at the conclusion that the professional classes and NGOs have not only failed in addressing the issue of ecological collapse and the exploitation of First Nations and their lands, which go together, but rather, the liberalism of these ‘moderate’ environmental groups serves as an essential pillar of the ruling class and of colonialism. Carbon emissions have increased by 60% in the last 30 years, on the watch of moderate NGOs, who refuse to mobilize the hundreds of thousands of people on their mailing lists to take part in mass civil disobedience to overthrow the current regime. This, therefore, tones down the extent and scale of the crisis we face, and how it is interlinked with exploitation of those who live under capitalist colonialism; revolution is actively diverted as a result, through the suppression of revolutionary and de-colonial language, rhetoric and emotions.

As the struggle against the colonial state and its crimes against workers, indigenous people and the environment escalate, land defenders will require further support over the next few weeks. All of us who are involved in this struggle, now have a moral obligation to realize that the goal should be not just to stop this pipeline, but to go into a non-violent rebellion against a state that has clearly broken the social contract and is willingly contributing to the mass death of future generations. The goal should be to bring down the economic system and the state that defends it.

For more info see: (Protect the Inlet) (Secwepemc say no to TMX) (Link to people’s assembly on the 26th, hosted by the Holmes Creek coalition)

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