Nanaimo residents Mary Madsen and Dyane Brown were two of an estimated 3,500 people who took to the lawn of the provincial legislature in Victoria Monday to oppose major pipeline projects in British Columbia.
Both Madsen and Brown said they were willing to be arrested during the Defend Our Coast demonstration, but were thankful they weren’t despite being part of a road blockade.
No arrests were made during the day-long event despite coordinated civil obedience.
“The organizers really wanted the day to be remembered for the message without any violence,” said Madsen. “There was good communication between organizers and police and that was the difference. I’m a grandmother of three and Dyane is in her 70s so we were both a little scared of being arrested but it’s an important issue for us, and we were willing to put ourselves at risk.”
They both participated in an eight-hour workshop guiding them through the civil disobedience process the day before the demonstration.
The demonstration, along with its two dozen speakers, urged B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to not allow a controversial pipeline that would run from Alberta’s tar sands to Kitimat to be shipped by tanker to Asian markets. The group also opposes the twinning of Kinder Morgan’s existing Trans Mountain pipeline.
Clark has set out five conditions that need to be met before it will allow any pipeline on B.C. land. NDP leader Adrian Dix has spoken against the Enbridge project, and said his party would establish its own environmental review.
Madsen and Brown were two of more than 200 people who volunteered to participate in the action portion of the demonstration by standing with a 230-metre black banner meant to symbolize a supertanker.
Erecting structures on the Legislature’s lawn and blocking traffic are illegal.
“We ended up being in the wave that blocked the road so if there was going to be any arrests it would probably have started there, so we were in a scary position,” said Brown.
Both Brown and Madsen said they went into the demonstration to voice their concerns over the direction the federal government is taking the country and to defend the environment. After listening to the stories of First Nations who live near the tar sands, they said they came away with a more intimate objection to Canada’s largest polluter.
“The people who live there, they say their hearts are broken,” said Brown. “They have no running water, extreme poverty, and their land is being polluted. Before it was about my grandchildren’s future and how I love this coast and want to protect it. When I left it was with a wider vision.”
Smaller community rallies were held across B.C. on Wednesday. About 100 people voiced their opposition to the tar sands, pipeline and increased tanker traffic in front of NDP MLA Leonard Krog’s Nanaimo office at noon.
Earlier this week, the Council of Canadians launched its No Pipelines, No Tankers tour, which is scheduled to be in Nanaimo Friday (Oct. 26) at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.