Sadly, Violence May Be on the Way in Battle for BC’s Environment


I don’t like the way things are heading in this province for I foresee violence.
Damien Gillis and I, the “owners” if you will of the Common Sense Canadian ( wish to make it abundantly clear that the very last thing we want is violence. At the same time we feel an obligation to assess what is happening and report that assessment to you. To be silent, in the face of the evidence we feel would be irresponsible.

There are situations developing which past evidence clearly tells us that we must be deeply concerned. Violence happens when people, being so much less powerful than their oppressors – large companies and government – become frustrated with the inability to be heard and have their concerns listened to. Any who have attended one of the so-called environmental assessment meetings – as Damien and I have – will sense the deep anger and, that word again, frustration as they see the government and industry all but in each others’ arms as they deny the public the right to be heard.  If, God forbid, violence does come, the large companies and the senior governments will be clearly to blame but will piously cite the “rule of law,” saying that they are merely taking what the law gives and that the public must accept that.
The underlying truth is that the public is sick and tired of government and industry lying. If you look back in history, most civil disorder has been because the situation is not as the authorities and those who hide behind their skirts say it is.
First let’s look at the fish farm issue. I know something about this subject because I involved myself in it from the beginning. For nearly 10 years now the Liberal government has known about the disastrous harm these fish farms do to migrating wild Pacific Salmon. Over and over the government has been shown by experts to be wrong in its policy and over and over the government has bobbed, weaved, and lied.
Aggravating the situation big time has been the media who, rather than examine the evidence, have ignored it and given column after column on the op-ed page to supporters of the industry, especially to the environmentalist turncoat and failed fish farmer, Patrick Moore, and Mary Ellen Walling, the Executive Director of the Fish Farmers Association. Incidentally, Moore is now advising a large lumber company in Indonesia on how to wipe out their ever-diminishing rain forest and look “green” as it does so.
There are signs of life coming from the Cohen Commission on disappearing Fraser River sockeye, where the Commissioner has ordered fish farms to release data on sea lice. There is not, sad to say, similar action being taken by governments on Independent Power Projects (IPPs), nor pipelines and tankers on our coast. And this is where the violence will come, from unless a sea change is seen in government policy.
The Axor Glacier-Howser undertaking in the Kootenays is the most serious IPP situation because the public has made it abundantly clear that they will do whatever is necessary to stop the project. I have no doubt that they mean it. I’ll do more on that in columns to come but for today let’s concentrate on the oil pipeline and tanker issues.
First, the pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to Kitimat proposed by Enbridge, whose safety record is appalling, is approximately 1200kms long over all with about 2/3 running across BC. In fact it’s two pipelines – one to take the Tar Sands crud (aka bitumen) to Kitimat and the other to send back to Alberta in what they call “condensate,” a liquid natural gas product. (Bitumen sludge is so viscous that it can’t be pumped through a pipeline without first being diluted by condensate).
Isn’t this neat-o? We get twice as many chances for a spill!
Second, there is the issue of transporting the Tar Sands gunk down the BC Coast. (Don’t forget that this shipping catastrophe in the making is already in place in Vancouver through the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, but that for another day).
The governments involved (Federal, Alberta, and BC) and Enbridge don’t want you to notice that the pipeline and the tanker are the same issue –  like Doris Day used to sing about love and marriage, “you can’t have one without the other.”
Let’s not overlook another important point: These aren’t risks involved here but certainties waiting to happen.
Imagine a revolver with 100 chambers and one bullet. If you put that to your head and say you’ll just pull the trigger once, the odds are there and obvious. If you say you’ll it for a year the odds are shorter but still you’re assessing a risk. If you say you will do it forever, it is no longer a risk but a certainty.
Then there are the consequences to deal with. If the bullet is made of marshmallow, who cares? If it’s a bullet, it’s death!
The Tar Sands gunk is not marshmallow.
If there aren’t risks involved, why would the company concern itself with what isn’t? But listen to what Enbridge spokesman Allan Roth had to say about tanker traffic:
“There’s been a tremendous amount of engineering studies and risk analysis studies. Extraordinary measures are planned with respect to marine safety and these are the highest modern standards for engineering…The risks have to tell us the probability (is) as close to zero or very close to that (my emphasis) before we would even propose the project.” (The words “very close to that” must send a shiver down the backs of all British Columbians).

This reminds me of a story. Many years ago I was in the Anchor Pub in Greenwich, England and went into the loo. On the condom machine was etched “These condoms manufactured up to the UK’s highest standards,” over which was scribbled, “So was the Titanic.” There you have it, Mr Roth, highest standards don’t count when tragedy strikes.

Let us not overlook the pipeline itself. The ca. 800 km in BC transverse superb wildlife habitat including some 1,000 rivers and streams. Once permission – God forbid! – is granted Enbridge will go into its environmental protection mode, which is to do no serious inspections and, if tragedy strikes,  bring help to bear in leisurely fashion as they did with the Kalamazoo River a few months ago, Of course they will explain their slowness saying that it’s because the damage is in wild remote country – which is the reason they can’t be inspected regularly and a very strong reason it should not be done. One need only look at the Kalamazoo spill to see what Enbridge’s attitude is to spills – lethargic is too energetic a word to describe it.

In keeping with the morality of this industry, truth is no barrier to self-serving flackery. The usual corporate tactics have recently been exposed as Enbridge, with the airy wave of the hand, stated that First Nations are getting behind the projects .


Clearly Enbridge hasn’t seen Damien Gillis’ “Oil in Eden: The Battle to Protect Canada’s Pacific Coast” (on this website), where President of the Coastal First Nations, Gerald Amos, and the formidable Gitga’at elder, Helen Clifton, made it abundantly clear that, in Chief Amos’ words, these projects “are not going to happen.” They were also caught off guard by an unprecedented joint declaration against the project by over 60 First Nations last week, the day after they tried assuring the public and media everything was falling into place for the project with First Nations.

I sadly, but honestly believe that a showdown on the pipeline/tanker issue will raise tempers too short to handle. And there’s another factor involved – the governments will point out that China has “invested” nearly $2 BILLION in the Tar Sands and the bitumen is largely for them. Thus they will say we must give into China.
Thus we will have the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. 
There is no compromise. You can’t have a little bit less of a pipeline. It’s all or nothing at all.
When the inevitable happens, the usual procedure will take place. Protesters will refuse to go away, the governments and companies will call the protesters nasty names and people will be jailed for contempt of court, a gross distortion of democracy that turns a civil dispute into a crime if that’s what big government and big business so desire – and they will.

The blame in fact will rest with the governments, joined as they are at the hip with environmental predators who keep their campaign coffers filled.
The plain fact of the matter is that all three governments involved don’t give a rat’s ass for the environment or those who live in it and feel a sacred obligation to nurture it and pass it on intact for those to come.

How’s this?

Times are changing and governments don’t understand that. Citizens have little respect for what in my early days were called “our betters.” I can’t get my MP, Conservative John Weston, to talk to me about environmental concerns, and coincidentally the other day I received a letter from another of his constituents with the same complaint. Why the hell should he care? He’ll win because the Liberals won’t and that’s all that matters.

I hate to talk about the “old days,” but in my lifetime I’ve seen an enormous disconnect arise between the governed and the governors. When I was in government, my colleagues and I constantly faced a hostile media who didn’t believe a thing we said. My home city of Kamloops had small town versions of the Jack Websters and Marjorie Nichols who would nail me as soon as I got off the plane. I had to answer for my actions or be found guilty in absentia.

Politicians now, hearing no tough questions from the media, and seeing and hearing nothing in the print or electronic media, assume that there are no tough questions to be asked.

In many ways, the overflowing discontent I foresee can be blamed on the free ride politicians get from the media.

Harry Belafonte once said in one of his great songs “don’t turn your back to the masses, mon” – good advice that those who sit in authority over us should, in my not so respectful opinion, pay heed to.

If they won’t, they must answer for the consequences, not the public that has been cheated of its democratic right to be heard prior to the decision having been taken.

But they won’t. 


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

11 thoughts on “Sadly, Violence May Be on the Way in Battle for BC’s Environment

  1. Apparently no one saw the intervies of Christy Clark, which was done right after Campells reignation, when the TV s reporter asked Clark if she would consider running again for BC politics and her answer was quote ” Let me be clear on that unlike everybodo else…NO” end quote. And yet, here she is?. It is this lack of personaly integrity that we dont need more of in BC politics, She outright lied about it, right on TV. Having said this, what other things is she going to lie about while in office? Food for thought

  2. Disgusted, first you were comparing us to Rwandan propaganda sponsored by a genocidal government, now it’s Glenn Beck. If you don’t recognize the difference between us and them – let alone between Beck and a Rwandan dictatorship – then I can’t help you. I asked you to put your name to your comments because you alleged cowardice on our part. I was illustrating the difference between us and yourself. We believe it’s important to discuss these issues in an open, transparent, and proactive manner in order to avoid the very calamities we fear are coming should we remain on our present course. Your allegations are simply preposterous.

  3. Damien,

    Why should I use my real name? You don’t ask it of any of your cheerleaders offering the usual rhubarb.

    I stand by what I said. You say “the very last thing we want is violence” (but it’s still on the list of things you want, because it would make a great story, and you and Rafe could say “I told you so,” right?) Then Rafe rants on like Glenn Beck using inflammatory language which WILL incite people to violence.

    “distinguish between media commentary on the subject and the incitement of violence.” Yes. That’s the same language Beck uses to distance himself from all the people who say and do crazy, hateful things after being influenced by his words.

    Don’t pretend you don’t do exactly the same thing.

  4. It is big business that governs this country. Politicians are merely figureheads. Campbell’s corrupt sale of the BCR, has blown wide open, to a very dirty scene. So, yes people are angry. They have found, deformed fish in Lake Athabasca. They have found oil in the mighty Athabasca River. At the rate big business is contaminating our clean drinking water, water will become more valuable than oil, because, you can’t drink oil. Our water goes to the states and Mexico. Read the water war crimes. Water is just a dirty a business as oil is. Our oceans are dying. Air is poisoned. Lakes, rivers, streams are poisoned. All the caustic crap, even leaches into the soil. All of this for, the corruption and greed of big business. The site C dam, to give OUR water, to the dirty tar sands. Farmland flooded for the dirty tar sands. How stupid. You can’t eat oil either.

  5. Disgusted, why don’t you put your name to your comment before you allege cowardice our way? Is this not an important conversation to have – out in the open? How is that cowardly? Do you not distinguish between media commentary on the subject and the incitement of violence? There is one glaring problem – amongst many – with your analogy. We are not the oppressive regime in power. We are engaged citizens and media commentators representing the under-represented public and the environment. To compare us with a violent, oppressive regime engaging in state-run propaganda and genocide is absurd and disgusting on your part, whoever you are.

  6. Violence = revolution and I firmly believe BC and Canada are on the brink of a short, sharp revolution, where the people revolting, tired of corrupt politicians and courts, take the law into their own hands.

    What will be the spark that ignites this conflagration, no one knows, but in BC, the malodorous stench of Gordon Campbell and his cronies raping this province, abetted by a corrupted media has all the signs of erupting into the uncharted territory of Canadian revolution in the near future.

    When 30% of a countries population feel disenfranchised, so are the seeds of revolution sown.

    Tick, tick, tick, the clock ticks away for class warfare.

  7. Your disclaimer is the same the Rwandan radio stations used before they broadcast songs about butchering Tutsis and “squashing them like bugs.” We’re not the message, just the messengers, right? Cowards.

  8. Very nicely said Rafe. I also see our government as not working for us anymore. When did this shift happen? During the big bull market of the 80’s and 90’s? Why can’t we be reasonable anymore? Greed has now overtaken all else and the suits have no respect for anything. Money has become the food source of egos and violence is the only thing to knock it back to its’ place of unimportance.

    But you are right, death is the greatest equalizer of them all.

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