Rafe Mair: Civil disobedience against LNG plans is a must

Citizens line the Sea to Sky Highway to protest Woodfibre LNG (My Sea to Sky)
Citizens line the Sea to Sky Highway to protest Woodfibre LNG (My Sea to Sky)

It’s time to fish or cut bait, folks.

We’ve learned that some 200 LNG tankers and barges are slated to use the lower Fraser River and the company, WesPac, doesn’t even feel the public deserves a say through a proper environmental assessment.

We’re told by the company that LNG tankers have a 50 year safety record so there is naught to worry about. You should know, however, that the company lies through its teeth by leaving out four rather important words “on the high seas“.

The Fraser River is not the “high seas”?

Bear in mind, as reported here in The Common Sense Canadian, the recommended distances between the tanker and shore, set out by Sandia Laboratories as well as the industry’s own organization, the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO), makes it clear that both the Fraser River and Howe Sound are totally inappropriate for LNG tankers.

Neither government gives a fiddler’s fart.

Batten down the hatches

Courtesy of Eoin Finn
Courtesy of Eoin Finn

My main point today is that we must be prepared to fight and I don’t think we are. Most of us are brought up to believe that being a reasonable is the way to go through life and that this approach will be beget reasonableness from others. I fear that many opposed to LNG tanker traffic think that by being reasonable with the companies and the governments that they will see the light and cancel their projects.

They are dead wrong.

You can call me a cynic if you wish but I assure you that my “hawkishness” comes from real and extended experience in these matters.

Neither the federal nor provincial governments have the slightest concern what the public feels about LNG tanker traffic. They know best. They don’t care who owns the companies, nor about Scandia Laboratories, SIGTTO or any scientific evidence that doesn’t suit their purposes.

Speaking from experience…

Permit me to go back a few years to the 1986 Kemano Completion Project (KCP), agreed upon by Alcan, the federal government and the provincial government.

In order for this agreement to be made, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ condemnation of the project had to be ignored and, indeed, the major report was buried until 10 years later, when it was leaked to me by one of the DFO scientists who badly wanted the truth to be known.

The Minister of Environment of the day made it abundantly clear that the decision was a political one. The agreement, involving billions, was made in spite of this buried DFO report saying it would be an environmental catastrophe. You should know that if the government tells you they’re relying on science, you can be damn sure they’re studiously ignoring anything that might contradict their political ambitions.

If that were all, it would be bad enough but several scientists in the DFO were punished for not going along, through transfers, early retirement, loss of seniority and so on. All of us involved in that fight against the KCP felt ill when the story how these very fine scientists were treated came to our attention.

From this cautionary tale those who oppose LNG in general and tanker traffic in particular should know that the government and the companies won’t pay the slightest bit of attention unless we are prepared to employ non-violent civil disobedience at the appropriate time.

What would Churchill do?

At the start of World War II, the RAF flew many sorties over the Ruhr district of Germany, wherein most of the industrial might of that country lay.

Did they drop bombs and try to disrupt the Nazi war effort?

Not a chance. That might provoke retaliation!

Instead, they dropped pamphlets imploring the Germans to surrender!

Needless to say this was before Churchill became Prime Minister.

Rafe: Critics of Burnaby Mountain citizens are out of touch with public will for change
84 year-old retried librarian Barbara Grant getting arrested at Burnaby Mountain (Burnaby Mountain Updates/facebook)

Figuratively speaking, we who want to stop this LNG madness are dropping pamphlets over the Ruhr, unwilling to do anything that might anger the enemy. Little wonder the “enemy” doesn’t believe we’ll fight and that as long as they toss us a scrap or two along the way, we’ll remain docile and obedient.

Protest marches and the waving of signs have their place in fights like this. But, having said that, if we aren’t prepared in the final analysis to do what the good citizens of Burnaby did with Kinder Morgan, we might as well pack it in right now.

Being prepared for “civil disobedience” carries with it the responsibility of marshalling our forces and making it clear to companies and governments that we’ll employ this weapon without hesitation.

We’re brought up to respect and obey the law but what if the law is consistently stacked in favour of the “establishment”, as protest laws are?

The most cursory look at the history of liberty tells us that nothing was ever gained from the establishment of the day without it being forced from them against their will. Whether it be the Magna Carta, The Peasants’ Revolt, the Glorious Revolution, The Tolpuddle Martyrs, The American Revolution – you name it – it’s obvious that establishments never yield an inch of civil liberties and justice without it being taken from them.

Sham environmental assessments

Today, even the environmental assessment processes ostensibly to protect the public, are as phoney as wooden nickels and kowtow to industry while denying the most basic rights to the public.

The Christy Clark bunch are politically trapped into promises of great riches to the province from LNG, which won’t happen,  leaving them flapping their lips and hoping that something turns up.

Worst of all, we have no one to speak for us – our politicians are worse than useless.

Not so sturdy for the public

A recent example comes from my MLA, Liberal Jordan Sturdy. His pockets full of campaign money raised by Woodfibre LNG, he was asked about having a crook like Sukanto Tanoto, owner of WFLNG, as our business partner. He replied that Mr. Tanoto’s international reputation should not matter in whether his B.C. project goes forward. It’s the business itself that needs proper regulation, he said.

[quote]The government tends not to get into the business of vetting ownership.[/quote]

That sums up the “due diligence” done by the Clark government on behalf of the citizens of British Columbia!

We who desperately want to protect our environment and keep our population safe have no one on our side and everyone against us. To me, those odds are perfect, provided we have the courage to defend ourselves and let the government know this.

It gets down to this: we either play their game and, as we were taught in Sunday School, be polite and turn the other cheek, or we let it be known that in the absence of protection from our governments, we will disobey the unfair laws that allow these outrages to be perpetrated against us.

There is, sadly but truthfully, no middle ground.


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 rafeonline.com.

10 thoughts on “Rafe Mair: Civil disobedience against LNG plans is a must

  1. I’m grateful to Janine for the link. The “extra letter” devil snuck in and added a “c” to Sandia – I must watch more carefully for him!

    The concern about channel width is so basic one would have thought that any Premier and government with a mere soupcon of care for the public it serves would have thrown both these applications out on their respective asses from the start.

    Does the safety of communities not matter at all to these people? Nor the safety of the world’s greatest salmon runs?

    And where the hell is John Horgan and the NDP, the party supposedly with both a heart and soul?

    1. BC NDP somehow seem in favour of LNG export:

      “New Democrat natural gas development spokesperson Bruce Ralston issued the following statement regarding Petronas’ conditional investment decision to move forward on LNG.

      “New Democrats are looking forward to the possibility of a final investment decision. Unfortunately, the big promises made by Premier Clark and the B.C. Liberals in the last election have still not been met. There are no shovels in the ground, and no final investment decisions.

      “It’s good to see Petronas recommitting their support for this project, but there are still major hurdles to overcome.”


  2. Only one comment! I can’t believe it. Where are all the dissidents from Squamish? (I met a couple on the weekend that said “We need the jobs.”)

    This cabal of corrupts warrants a stronger voice than a bunch of sign waving people. Rafe is right – pamphlets will not suffice. Get on with Plan B!

  3. Here’s a link to the 2004 Sandia Labs risk analysis report for an LNG Spill on Water:


    This ‘industry bible’ discusses the 3 hazard zones around an LNG tanker and provides recommendations regarding the safety of nearby populations. Exclusion zones around the tankers, building safe shelters that the community can use to protect against a vapor cloud and blast back and installing warning signals. Additionally this report recommends that should an LNG tanker be allowed so close to communities that a risk assessment and emergency response plan should be made on a case by case basis (per community).

    The BC Govt has promised us ‘world class safety’ with regard to LNG shipping. That would mean following ALL the recommendations in this report and not ignoring these vital public safety measures.

    We need to take into account that there could be an ‘accidental’ spill of LNG on water or an ‘intentional’ spill, e.g. a terrorist attack, as recommended in the report. My understanding is that Woodfibre LNG didn’t take an intentional spill into account in their emergency response plan. Their worse case scenario is that just one of the 5 holding tanks would/could release its LNG cargo. The Sandia report uses a worse case scenario of 3 of the 5 holding tanks spilling LNG onto water.

    Are BC residents going to provided with ‘world class’ safety with regards to LNG shipping/tankers… or not?

  4. Civil Disobedience is necessary when a government is clearly acting in bad faith towards the populace.
    Building a 10 billion dollar damn with taxpayers money that will power 1 Huge LNG plant.
    Allowing them billions of litres of water for basically nothing.
    Letting them poison all that water with “secret” chemicals then pump said water back underground for disposal. No more questions about that though.
    Tax credits and deductions that will leave us with lets see ..poison water , earthquakes environmental degradation and empty coffers. Temporary jobs in construction hopefully not filled with TFW … fingers crossed Christy !! Just because half of the voters that bothered to vote believed the Neo-Liberals 100 billion , 100,000 jobs pie in the sky bs regarding fracking our province to death shouldn`t trump the needs of the province. If you believe lots of people the Neo-Liberals have overstated every benefit to us , we need to re assess.

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