Public Can’t Rely on Government Processes to Stop Tankers and Pipelines


This is the third part of a three part series from Rafe Mair on civil dissent.

In the last article I discounted the possibility that any hearing into the Enbridge pipelines or tanker traffic, to and out of Kitimat and Vancouver would dare stop these projects. I considered and rejected, without saying so, any intervention by the federal procedures, specifically the National Energy Board’s Federal Panel Review which held against the Taseko proposal at Fish Lake. I don’t believe for one moment that this Panel would put an end to the pipelines permanently but at most would attach conditions. Since there are no environmental conditions that would prevent horrendous and permanent damage to our environment, the NEB, will, at most, be a slowing down process.

Assuming that the pipelines and tankers are supported by both the federal and provincial governments I don’t believe that any review panel would have the jam to reject the projects outright (nor can it, in fact – it only has the power to make recommendations to the Minister of Environment, who has the final say) but most surely would use the weasel word “mitigation”, where no mitigation is possible or acceptable.

A far better bet is that the Federal cabinet will, as it did with the original Kemano II project, waive the requirement for such a hearing or any other.

Consider the Harper government’s position – to reject the pipelines and tankers would be to reject the Tar Sands, especially if the US Keystone XL pipeline is rejected by President Obama. Even if it is passed by Obama, the heat from China, the projects themselves, plus the pressure of the business community that finances the Tory government will be too strong for Harper & Co. to resist. In fact the approval of environmental destruction comes naturally to right wing governments so that, in my view, the issue moot. When it comes to fighting these projects, the public of BC will be on its own.

What about majority rules? Isn’t that the end of the matter? Both senior governments have mandates so they can do as they please?

This simply is not so. Neither government has faced this as an issue and there have been no referenda. There will not, in my opinion, be any meaningful forum for popular opinion. But the critical question is this: the proposals will do permanent and egregious harm – what government ever has the moral or even legal right to make such a decision without direct citizen approval?

Friends – we must face the fact that neither government will stand in the way of these projects.

I must be careful with my next point. First Nations have, thus far, made it clear to Enbridge that they will not accept the projects. They have recently refused a bribe of 10% of the action. Careful though I must be, it must be recorded that some First Nations have accepted financial inducements to permit fish farms, although most First Nation have opposed; more tellingly, perhaps, some have been induced to supported Independent Power Producers (IPPs) ravishing their rivers. Indeed, in the Klina Klini project, First Nations have sued the provincial government for nixing the project.

One must ask, then, is First Nations rejection of the Pipelines an outright refusal or just part of a negotiation process?

We must prepare for the worst. We must assume that the projects will be approved and, govern our actions accordingly. Clearly, then, we must be ready for civil disobedience.

This, in my view, means three things:

  1. There must be an obvious flouting of the public will. In the absence of a public referendum on the matter, the flouting of public will becomes clear.
  2. We must understand that civil disobedience carries with it penalties. Even though these penalties will involve the governments and corporations subverting justice by proceeding criminally in a civil matter, we must realize that this is a penalty we will pay and be prepared to pay it.
  3. The Civil Disobedience must be on a large scale. We must have leadership and we must provide that leadership with our support and enough money to stand behind those who are fined, go to jail, or both. People’s savings will be attacked and their families will suffer. We can expect no mercy from companies or our very own governments.

The notion of lawbreaking does not come easily to me, a lawyer. The fact remains that the great United States Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was right when he said that the courts decide the law, not justice.

The cause of preserving our province is too important for us to meekly accept a judge’s finding that prevention of that cause is to be supported by jail sentences. As Justice Holmes so tartly observed, law and justice are not synonymous.

Our question is simple to state: is it justice when any tribunal, parliament, legislature or court destroys our environment, not as a vital need of society but for private profit?


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

13 thoughts on “Public Can’t Rely on Government Processes to Stop Tankers and Pipelines

  1. I tend to agree Rafe Mair is right— democracy is foreign to this government, as is any allegiance to environmental integrity and a future worth having.

    So we ourselves must be the barrier that stops the Endbridge nightmare from coming true; ourselves the swords standing against the six-headed dragon raging with industrial fever that our country has become.

    In numbers is strength, and by numbers we can instill fear in the hearts of power. We must unite across the province against the evils inherent in the Endbridge proposal.

    And there is another reptile in our midst, likewise drunk on government power and protection. I refer to the Norwegian fish farming industry in in our waters that is no less a menace than Endbridge in its forceful will to expand with open netcage regimes proven destructive around the world. Our wild salmon with no goverment onside, face destruction from disease being concealed by the industry and govt alike. It is now up to us tp arise in fury to STOP this corporate juggernaught in our waters.

    Whatever it takes without violence, on both issues we must arise in united indignation to protect the wild or be defined by the remains to our shame.

  2. There are many groups in Northern BC working tirelessly to thwart the plans of Enbridge. Pipe Up against Enbridge, the Douglas Channel Watch, Friends of the Wild Salmon, the Dogwood Initiative, Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance and Skeena Wild Conservation Trust are among the ones I can think of. Most of the ones I know are paying for everything they do out of their own pockets, and have never solicited for donations. These groups should be hailed as heroes.

  3. World renowned scientists have said, they will lay across the Keystone pipeline, to prevent that atrocity.

    I don’t know if, the U.S. government is as corrupt as Canada’s is? This country seems, much like a dictatorship regime, our Canadian voices mean nothing.

    Campbell and Harper work hand in hand, to force the Enbridge pipeline and dirty tankers, on our province and the people. Campbell’s as High Commissioner to England, his priority is, to con Europe into accepting the dirty tar sands oil. We could have, threefold the number of dirty oil tankers, on our ocean.

    Harper wants to peddle the dirty tar sands oil, into every country that can be conned. The dirtiest energy in the world, threatens the entire planet.

    As much as we protest…Harper’s greed, power and glory, comes first, and to hell with the people and the planet.

  4. The agenda is not a matter for Canadians to decide. This direction is a made in Asia program. The recent episode involving Minister Baird’s Parliamentary secretary is but one glimpse of a far deeper infiltration as Mr. Faden of CISIS disclosed about a year ago and which few seem willing to remember today.

  5. Gwen, if you’ve been reading Rafe’s pieces on the subject you know that a riot is the last thing he’s calling for – rather a peaceful, mobilized resistance movement of civil dissent where all other avenues have failed.

  6. John, you’re right to be concerned about the piping of bitumen. This material is so viscous it needs to be diluted with condensate – a dirty natural gas derivative – to make it flow through a pipeline. There are a number of studies I’ve come across recently suggesting bitumen is indeed harder on pipelines that sweet light crude, thus more prone to result in leaks and spills. A number of the high-profile pipeline leaks in the US throughout the past year have prompted regulators to begin taking a closer look at the safety risks associated with piping bitumen and also possibly revising the life expectancy of pipelines transporting this substance. Much of North America’s pipeline infrastructure is quite old – some of it dating back 50 years, which is even more reason to be extra cautious when transporting Tar Sands crude – and why we should,’t be accepting new bitumen pipelines from Alberta.

  7. question: I understand the ‘sand’ in the tar sands is really abrasive. Is it totally removed from the goop before being piped. If not the pipes would wear out really fast. Just another arguement if true

  8. What does it mean when, The University of Calgary took money from an oil and gas company, Alberta Talisman Energy? Would this be for a denial, of greenhouse gas emissions?

    BC isn’t Alberta’s province. Nor is BC Harper’s province, his part in the HST, hasn’t been forgotten either. BC province belongs to us. Neither one have the right to force the Enbridge pipeline, nor the dirty oil tankers, on the BC province and the people.

    The Campbell/Clark BC Liberals, have thieved enough from us as it is. Our BCR, which wasn’t for sale. The HST wasn’t on Campbell and Hansen’s radar either. Campbell also thieved and sold our rivers as well. The dirty diseased fish farms, are an atrocity forced on BC too.

    For some reason, Canada has produced the worst crop of politicians, ever in this nations history. The lies, deceit, corruption, thieving, dirty tactics and cheating by politicians, is revolting. Greed trumps common sense, every time.

  9. What needs tobe recognized here is that when it comes to FN governance, it is not the majority who wield influence. It is those who are Chiefs and on Council who wield all the power. These seer often held by traditional bloodlines, like royalty. Imagine having all the decisions in your life ruled by the House of Windsor.
    The Chief and Council hold the money received for all band members. It is their decision as to who gets a house or a job. Want a better scool, ak the Chief. It is to those few who hold power to keep the standards of living low and the addictions on track. Go through a reserve and see who lives in the nice houses and who gets the good jobs and travel paid for by corporatns or governemnts intent on getting what they want. It only takes the corruption of a couple of people in power to destroy the wants and needs of other less powerful Band members. Ever tried to do an audit of a FN government? Impossible

  10. Gloria. First Nations have been divided as effectively as the rest of us. The Government uses money to create divides within FN communities, as they do with society in general.

    You will find many First Nations opposing the pipeline/tankers. Go to TerraceDailyFrontpage to find objective articles on many relevant subjects.

  11. We have supported the First Nations, on many of their issues. We have signed petitions for them. Attended their protest rallies. Passed messages for them to, our family’s and friends, also on the net.

    The F.N. did let us down, when they signed in favor of fish farms. If they let us down regarding, the Enbridge pipeline and the dirty oil tankers…Our relationship with the F.N. would be severed.

    If they are not sincere about, protecting their, rivers, streams, lakes, hunting grounds, salmon and their ocean waters? Which one of us, would ever trust the F.N. people again?

    I have e-mailed politicians, on the deplorable First Nations schools. I was angry at our government for not recognizing, the F.N. WW11 veterans. The highway of tears, and everything I thought unfair, to the the F.N. people.

    If the pipeline and the dirty oil tankers, are all about money, for the F.N…I would be far too let down, to support them anymore.

Comments are closed.