Civil Disobedience Warranted for Pipelines, Tankers, Fish Farms, Private River Power


What is civil disobedience?

I ask because I’m going to be urging such a course in the times to come.

Although he didn’t invent the idea, Mahatma Gandhi invented the modern term when he protested a tax on salt imposed by the British which hurt the poor Indian especially. He broke the law deliberately and went to jail for doing so.

A more current example was that of the Freedom Marchers of the 1960s who challenged the segregation laws of the Southern US by “sitting in” at segregated restaurants; by Rosa Parks who defied the laws of Montgomery, Alabama, by sitting in the white only section of a bus; and by Dr. Martin Luther King who in the same time urged peaceful demonstrations.

Many would go back much further in time to Jesus.

What are some of the rules?

  • It must be non violent. That is a very important rule.
  • The law being protested must be unjust in one or more ways. It must be imposed unfairly or itself contrary to law or justice or both.
  • Those protesting must be prepared to go to jail.
  • There must be no other reasonable way to attain justice.
  • They must be effective.

Where do I suggest civil disobedience?

Fish farms, for one area. Government policy allows them yet they are not only in violation of the UN law requiring the Precautionary Principle but against Canadian law in this regard.

So-called “run of river” projects which, without fail, severely damage the river and its ecology usually to the point of – for all intents and purposes – utter destruction.

Pipelines – especially the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines taking the ultra toxic bitumen from The Tar Sands to Kitimat – which don’t pose a risk of huge environmental damage but the certainty of it.

The utter lack of government concern for the environment and the public that wishes to preserve it is underscored by the recent decision of the federal government to dam the Kokish river near Port McNeill – a river that is home to all species of salmon, resident Rainbow, Cutthroat, Dolly Varden and has both a winter and summer run of steelhead.

Tanker trafficking of bitumen from Kitimat or through Vancouver Harbour which, again, don’t pose risks but certainties of huge environmental damage.

Civil Disobedience has had successes in the past in BC but too often there have been one or two who have refused to obey the law and once they have been jailed, the protest has petered out.

We must organize such that scores, even hundreds, defy the law and are ready to do time.

There has been very little by way of organization in the overall community but First Nations appear to be ready and, if nothing else, the rest of us must be prepared to support them and face the same consequences.

Our first step must be, in my view, a clear statement by environmental organizations and individual British Columbians that we will stand shoulder with First Nations  – and we at the Common Sense Canadian plan to meet with their leaders and see how we can help.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at

21 thoughts on “Civil Disobedience Warranted for Pipelines, Tankers, Fish Farms, Private River Power

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  4. on CBC yesterday, an enbridge spokesperson stated that they had “deals with 40% of first nations along the pipeline corridor”. Is this true?

  5. WOW what a group of great people and great ideas Rafe has brought together with his plan of civil disobedience.
    Samantha J was right on with her quote by Howard Zinn—we have been obedient for far to long and it is high time we stood up for truth.We owe it to our children and we owe to those who died for it.Our governments are out of control and we need to take it back.
    Harper cannot build enough jails to house us all and Rafe is right that we need to do this in numbers—I feel in great numbers.We have feared the crown for far too long—time for them to fear(and respect ) us.
    We have not got much time !
    Well Rafe—you told us what to do—–now tell us how.

  6. You might want to mention to those arrested and particularly those who go to jail that they can forget travelling to or through the USA again, and good luck getting that next job. A crimindal record reeally helps. Ask that woman in West Van. who went to jail for a year.

    And Rafe, you KNOW they do not propose to dam the Kokish River.

    And check the US EPA reports for the Keystone Pipeline – diluted bitumen does not seem to sik, even if fresh water, let alone salt.

  7. Rise up people , rise up and support democracy. We will win
    and we will get this economy back on track with renewable energy, energy saving,and reducing carbon footprint with new technologies and old wisdom.

  8. We will need a lot of people to attend the civil disobedience events. For the government’s to pay attention we should expect to have 40 to 50 thousand at each demonstration & the demonstrations need to be continual.

    There are a lot of us in our 50 & 60 & 70s who used to march in the Peace parades/anti-nuke fests in Vancouver. We would take up the whole Burrard Bridge. The pipeline & oil tankers are the new nuclear bombs. They will be just as devastating to humanity. Those of us who marched then need to get out & march now. Most of us are retired & going to jail isn’t going to interupt our pension cheques.

  9. I’ve read these words before … many times. And I think we’re long passed the first step … many concerned citizens have said they are prepared to stand in line.

    What hasn’t happened, and is crucial to the success of any protest, is organization and leadership.

    It’s not enough to say you’re prepared to support and face the consequences.

    Plans must start now. Meeting with FN elders is a good start but effective logistics are crucial. Folks need to know where and when. Not everyone can drive to Kitimat or the Kokish River.

    Peaceful-protest organizers are out there. Where is our tarsands “King”, our run of river “Rosa” and our salmon farm “Jesus”?

  10. We need samples of “tar” sands oil to show people that it does not float, that cleanup is a virtual impossibility. We need to be able to se, it, feel it, smell it.

  11. I am totally prepared to go to jail for the pipeline / oil tanker issue in particular. I think we need to overflow the jails with “extremists” and beat the government down on this and other issues. And no I am not a masked anarchist who regularly goes about breaking windows. I am a 63 year old woman, fully employed, no kids but terrified of what I see coming down the road with this government.

  12. Enbridge and Kinder Morgan! I too am prepared to put myself on the protest lines, to the extent of my waning physical capabilities.

    I wont presume to be brave enough to follow Jesus of Nazareth and Mahatma Gandhi: they paid a pretty hefty price and even though the former presaged a dogma that has done more harm than good and the latter, well his country is hell bent on following our petro-techno-industrial example.

    And that latter point is my point. Enbridge’s and KM’s pipe lines are feeding huge ocean going barges that ship stuff to factories that feed our insatiable appetite for the junk and trivia we lap up so voraciously: especially Christmas trinkets and cruise ship junkets.

    So it isn’t enough to high-profile, photo-op, posture in public: even spending some inconvenient jail time.

    We must permanently shed our voracious habits, put our money where our mouths are and make a lasting commitment.

    We must, each of us personally, pay for thoughtlessly laying all our shit, without a second thought, on the fragile landscape over many, many decades!

  13. I’m planning to stand with you Rafe. The Enbridge pipeline must be stopped, whatever it takes. Occasionally, not often, there are causes that even reasonable, law-abiding citizens must be counted.

  14. You are mistaken on one point. Civil disobedience is most effective when it forces the oppressor into violence. Gandhi asked his followers to be willing to die but not to kill. the British felt the opposite way and lost.

    Jesus certainly used violence though not to the point of causing death.

    Martin Luther King Jr. used the violence of the oppressor to his advantage.

    It is often by forcing the oppressors into violence that public opinion is swayed and the war is won.

  15. “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience.

    Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world have obeyed
 the dictates of the leaders of their governments. Have gone to war and
 killed millions because of this obedience…

    Our problem is that people
 are obedient all over the world even in the face of poverty, starvation,
 stupidity, war and cruelty.

    Our problem is that people are obedient
 while our jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand
 thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”

    Howard Zinn 1922 – 2010

  16. Absolutely. The Sunday Victoria Times Colonist has three articles about the supertanker peril Harper plans to inflict on BC. If (when) a tanker goes down, the tanker operator’s insurance kicks in. That is expected to cover costs for less than a full week. After that it’s our problem. And the Western Marine oil spill fleet is equipped to scavenge crude oil spills on the surface, not bitumen sludge that sinks to the bottom. Peter Kent’s EnviroCan claims to be “looking into” the problem. They’re going to run those tankers in those treacherous waters with no clue what to do environmentally when one of them goes down. It’s like handing a drunk the keys to your car with you baby strapped into the backseat.

  17. Thanks for the leadership Rafe, and how about company:

    “If governments were acting to reduce GHG emissions, or slow the rate of increase, I wouldn’t be here today,” he (Mark Jaccard) continued. “I’d be helping those governments to do that. But in the last few years, especially in Canada under Harper, the emphasis has been on accelerating the rate at which we are destroying the planet. So I have to ask myself and I have to ask everyone else, ethically, what is the right thing to do? It’s made me read more about civil disobedience, people like Mahandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Henry David Thoreau.”

    Rather than appreciation for his civil disobedience, Jaccard encourages participation. “I really think that we should all be doing this,” he said. “I’m here drawing attention to myself for ethical reasons, but I don’t want to be a martyr. I’d much rather that there were 10,000 of us out here. Everyone has the ability to know how dangerous the current situation is.”

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