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Charge BC Premier Horgan with murder

Wildfires and heat waves are the consequence of burning fossil fuels
Bradley Hughes

July 12, 2021

Over 175 years ago, Friedrich Engels wrote about social murder. He described how the ruling class in England at the time created conditions that lead to the death of children and adults that could be prevented, but were not, because it would harm profits. The term came from the workers’ movement, he defined it as when “society knows how injurious such conditions are to the health and the life of the workers, and yet does nothing to improve these conditions. That it knows the consequences of its deeds; that its act is, therefore, not mere manslaughter, but murder.”

The premier of BC, his cabinet, and caucus are guilty of murder. Unless they are stopped they are going to kill again.

500 predictable deaths

The unprecedented heatwave in BC at the end of June lead to temperatures in the 40’s across the province. These temperatures were 5 degrees Celsius greater than ever before recorded. The length of the heatwave and the temperatures reached were predicted more than a week ahead of time. And yet, when the heat arrived, emergency services were overwhelmed, with people waiting several hours for ambulances. In total over the week of the heatwave, there were 700 sudden deaths. At least two thirds of which were due to the heat. On June 29, in response to a reporter’s question comparing theses deaths to the hundreds of deaths in a previous heatwave in France, Premier Horgan responded that, “Fatalities are part of life” and that the role of government was to publicize the danger, and “there is a level of personal responsibility.”

BC emergency health services received $479 million from the province last year. At the same time the government of BC gave more than twice that amount in subsidies to oil and gas corporations. So clearly, defending oil & gas profits is more important to the BC government than emergency services.

The BC government budgeted $136 million for fighting wildfires. They have already had to spend 70% of that, as this year is well on its way to be another record breaking year with over 200 fires burning right now.


During the heat wave, the town of Lytton smashed through the previous heat record for anywhere in Canada, reaching 49.6 degrees Celsius. This also the record for anywhere north of 45o – which includes the coastal US down to Oregon. And it was hotter than it has ever been anywhere in Europe or South America. The hot dry conditions lead to a fire the next day that burned the entire town to the ground. Two residents who were unable to escape were killed by the fire.

Chief Matt Pasco is Chair of the Nlaka’pamux Nation Tribal Council was contacted about the safety of the cattle on his ranch just outside Lytton, before the province contacted him about the safety of his people. He told News 1130, “Essentially, the system made sure that my cattle were going to be fine, but never once phoned me to help out in the movement of our people in the safeguarding of our people . . . This has to stop it must stop. Our people are considered after cattle. We’ve got a long ways to go. I don’t want to downplay the importance of cattle as a resource and its impact on any one rancher, but they were immediately coordinated to take care of non Indigenous issues, and did nothing to help us.”

This season's record number of wildfires will spread smoke through out the province, far from the fires themselves. This has happened many times before in BC and elsewhere. Exposure to wildfire smoke will lead to more deaths. A 2016 study reviewed 43 scientific papers on the connection between wildfire smoke inhalation and death. They found that there was an increase in deaths from many causes, not just respiratory diseases. One of the studies reviewed looked at deaths due to wildfire smoke exposure in the 44 day Moscow heatwave of 2010. They found that smoke exposure and heatwaves are a deadly combination. During that heatwave, 29% of the 10,859 excess deaths during the heatwave were due to wildfire smoke.

Smoke from this year’s wildfires will claim victims across the province and the number of deaths will increase in the future as the number of wildfires and severity of heatwaves increases.

An yet, the production of oil and gas in BC keeps going up and up. From 2008 to 2020, oil production increased from 35,000 barrels a day to 112,000 barrels a day. An increase of 320%. Natural gas extraction has increased from 80 gigalitres per day in 2008 to 130 gigalitres per day in 2019. An increase of 160%.

Premeditated murder and arson

At the June 29 press conference, the Premier also stated that “The climate crisis is not a fiction it is absolutely real.” So the government’s response to the crisis is not based on ignorance. This was premeditated murder and arson. And they know that this heatwave is only a taste of what’s to come. We are going to face hotter temperatures and for much longer periods. The years to come will see more records broken for number and severity of wildfires. And the province of BC will continue to prioritize oil and gas extraction over emergency services, cattle over Indigenous lives, and profit over the planet.

Greens and Liberals are just as guilty

The BC Greens and the Liberals are just as guilty in the death and destruction across BC. The push to increase fracked gas production and to build gas export terminals was a project of the BC Liberals. They also started the Site C dam to provide electricity to power the gas export terminals. The dam will destroy land belonging to the Treaty 8 Nations, who have made their lack of consent clear. The BC Greens maintained their support of the NDP government throughout the announcement of heavily subsidized natural gas terminals, the approval of Site C, and while the government sent in the RCMP to arrest Wet’suwet’en land defenders who opposed the gas pipeline. The Green support only ended when the NDP won a majority and didn’t need them any more.

There are no solutions in mainstream politics. The only hope is a climate movement that spreads into our workplaces. Start building now for the September 24 global climate strike. Let’s find a way to extend the strike until we win a world where people come before profit.

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