B.C. Pipeline Protests: What’s Your Reaction?

This week on Cross Country Checkup, host Duncan McCue was asking CBC listeners to weigh in on the B.C. Pipeline Protests, centring around the activism of the Wet’suwe’ten First Nation. I’ve decided to offer my reaction as a counterpoint to Andrew Scheer’s speech to the press on Friday.

Image via Twitter via @mikegraeme on Instagram

First off, I support the protests. (Shockingly, Scheer doesn’t.) This is much easier for me to say as someone who has not yet been affected by the rail closures, but I trust these protesters. Indigenous peoples know the land, and knew it deeply for many millennia before settlers arrived.

They especially know water. They understand that water is sacred and not to be messed with. You don’t even have to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of this statement to know that it is literally true. Water is the actual source of life on this planet, and as such should be inviolable. The more of it we poison, the more we endanger our species. That’s just a fact. White folks do have a tendency to ignore it, but the perils of all those important environmental facts we tend to ignore are becoming less and less ignorable.

One of the things I loved about Scheer’s speech is how he kept talking about all these other activists who have “no connection with the Wet’suwet’en people” but are protesting nonetheless. Thanks, Andrew, for emphasizing how much support these protests are garnering from all kinds of people! And to think, they have “no connection” with the Wet’suwet’en nation – except an objection to this pipeline process, a distrust of the companies involved, a concern that the Canadian government is on the wrong path, a knowledge that pipeline spills are commonplace, an understanding that once you wreck a piece of land you can’t undo it, and an appreciation for the fact that sometimes a disruptive protest is your only option.

The big point that people focused on in Scheer’s speech was when he repeatedly flashed his gross ignorance by saying that Indigenous protesters should “check their privilege.” Yes, one’s jaw does drop. This guy wanted to be Prime Minister. He’s white, straight, male, middle-aged, and (kind of) Canadian – and just dumb enough to dare to speak about privilege as though he has any clue what it is. (He can’t; he’s too busy wallowing in it.) I will leave this rebuttal to the eloquent Jesse Wente:

These protests aren’t happening as a way to aggravate “everyday hardworking Canadians.” It’s not about average Canadians. It’s not even about the politicians, although they need to be listening. It’s about wrong decisions being made, and no other recourse but to make your voice as widely heard as possible. (As a teacher in Ontario under Doug Ford, I know a bit of that feeling.) In this way, this protest by Wet’suwe’ten and supporters is an amazing achievement. They remain unarmed even amid police violence, they have sung and drummed their message, they have stayed strong and their numbers have only grown – and they have made international news. When CN closed their rail lines, they assured this protest’s seminal place in history.

Though it seems Scheer is picturing all these folks lounging around in the “luxury” of being able to protest for days at a time, this demonstration of solidarity and strength of purpose is not taken lightly by its participants. To the protestors, it’s clearly not a game or a prank or even a political manoeuvre – at least not in the way that politicians are always manoeuvring. They have no voters to please, no polls to dominate. They have a mission. And I think what politicians need to be aware of is not people with the “privilege” to protest – it’s people with the urgency, the soul-deep investment, and in some cases, the desperation to protest. When you have that, the lawfulness or unlawfulness of the activism is no longer relevant. Scheer can go on and on about “law enforcement” and “enforcement of the law” (gah, he’s such a broken record), but this is now about right and wrong.

When one people marginalizes another people for centuries, it follows that the marginalized have much less to lose than the privileged. (And when I say “marginalized” in reference to the relationship between Indigenous peoples and settlers, I mean imprisoned, sickened, abused, murdered, driven out, generally treated as subhuman… and on and on.) It follows that the marginalized have a much better idea of what is real and crucial in life than do those who can afford to have petty problems.

And I personally think that politicians are going to come up against more and more of this: protestors who can’t afford not to take action. Environmental emergencies are marginalizing more and more people every day. Those people are seeing first-hand that the climate crisis is indeed a life-or-death calamity. At that point, the law seems superficial. In December, Australian authorities toughened up protest laws (not environmental ones) in anticipation of growing unrest over environmental problems, but that country is literally burning down. People’s priorities are forced to shift when they’re fighting for survival.

The one thing Scheer and I agree on is that Trudeau is disappointing on this issue. Except that while Scheer thinks Trudeau is not cracking down enough, I think he’s showing a shameful lack of progressiveness. His environmental buzzwords are for nothing now that he’s Pipeline Guy. It’s so unimpressive as to be embarrassing at this point. A true leader would look at this problem and say, “Hey, I have kids. Climate change is real. Let’s think outside the barrel and make a green economy actually happen so as to stave off the apocalypse.” But Justin is not up to that, apparently.

So, to sum up: thank you, B.C. pipeline protestors. You are doing an amazing thing, and you know it’s necessary. I support you.



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Let’s have Sisterhood take over the world – boys, girls, and all.

Let’s talk about Sisterhood. It’s a much bigger concept than simply having female siblings. I believe that Sisterhood, big S, encompassing millions of diverse humans, is what today has been about.

I’m aware that there was a big, braggadocious, depressing, basically unthinkable event going on yesterday. It was my day off. I studiously avoided all exposure to it. Instead, I’ve been ruminating on more worthy things.

Image via The Master Shift

In November, I weighed in about the political situation and how it must be combatted with courtesy and civilized conversation  and critical thinking and especially LOVE. I felt the need yesterday to focus on that. Love is what we use to fend off and neutralize hate. Love is what we’re here for. But what does that look like on a grievously upsetting day?

Sisterhood popped up as a theme as early as breakfast. One of my wonderful, gifted American cousins – who happens to be an only child – had written a beautiful Facebook post that included these wise words:

Sisterhood shines brilliantly when we lift each other up, giving tough love when our sisters aren’t reaching their full potential… and celebrating each other’s successes from a place of abundance and admiration instead of envy. 

Sisterhood is about collectively raising and empowering the young girls in our lives. 

Sisterhood is sharing in the flawed, exhausting, pressure-filled, body-centric, mysterious, perfectly imperfect experience of being a woman. Sometimes we are violated, silenced, overlooked, or underestimated. Too often, we are our own worst enemies. 

Sisterhood is turning into our mothers, taking care of our mothers, and becoming mothers. 

Sisterhood is coming together in the hundreds of thousands, all over the world, to be heard.

This prompted me to re-read one of my favourite Momastery posts, in which the carpentry term “sistering” is explained. It’s kinda perfect. It’s all about getting close, locking in, being there and supporting where support is most needed.

It occurred to me that Sisterhood, in its greatest sense, is not just for women. It can embrace the people of all genders who sister each other.

Yes, I know that brotherhood is a thing, and a good thing in many ways. I firmly believe boys need more bonding experiences. Brotherhood connotes standing united together, leaving no one behind, knowing who’s got your back, and no doubt much more. It also connotes frat parties, army platoons, and street gangs.

Sisterhood, on the other hand, has gentleness. It is strong and fierce, and gentle. It can get angry and still be kind. It is brimful of compassion. Sisterhood is open; it confides; it listens; it feels deeply. It is not afraid to be vulnerable, nor to give tough love, nor to speak its heart.

It has been my privilege in life to know many men who understand and participate in this kind of Sisterhood – including several who are related to me. One of them had his 30th birthday yesterday, which made all of us who know and love him feel comforted on that date.

{Thank you for being amazing, Sistermen – the world needs you more than ever.}

And today is another birthday, that of a faraway sister-of-my-heart whom I rarely see, but with whom I can always fall into step when we meet.

I have many Sisters, Canadian and American, who have been marching today in various places, including Washington. It has made me really happy to check in with them and see Sisterhood governing. Wise words spoken – incisive wit – reverent listening – peaceful gathering – pink pussy hats – acknowledgement of privilege – generosity – joyful solidarity. Humans supporting humans in our imperfectly human way.

sisterhood womens march on washington
Image via cbc.ca, Julia Pagel

Last night, I was fortunate to be in the audience at the Guelph Lecture On Being Canadian, presented by Jeannette Armstrong, Okanagan knowledge-keeper, professor, researcher, writer, protector. She spoke of the importance of listening to and understanding the exact opposite of your own perspective, in order to achieve balance. She spoke of coming together to heal the world. The unity in the room was palpable. Sisterhood.

It seems to me that in these past two days, that balance of opposites is exactly what the world has seen.

To all Sisters: we know there are tough times ahead. We know that to provide the balance for what is coming, we will have to use extra measures of patience, warmth, empathy, and understanding – for each other just as much as for those on the other side of the scales. We need to think hard, check ourselves, and use the most love that we can muster.

We are meant for this challenge. We’ve got this.




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