** I wrote this at the same time as my other recent Ottawa tar sands protest blog posts. Just finally posting it now, finally; never mind why, too long to explain, OK? I wrote it as though I was telling my Mom about the protest (not all Moms want their kids taking part in protests & getting arrested…you know?)
I wanted to explain to you why I went to Ottawa a few weeks ago with the express purpose of being arrested at the tar sands protest that took place on Parliament Hill on Monday, September 26th.
As you know, civil disobedience has a long & proud history. People like Henry David Thoreau, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks & Nelson Mandela all committed acts of non-violent civil disobedience. The Council of Canadians' Maude Barlow was arrested on this particular occasion. I’m in mighty fine company!
Dr. Howard Zinn, an American historian, academic, author, playwright & social activist, said “Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy, it is absolutely essential to it.” I think he’s nailed something there.
I don’t know if you, or most Canadians, have any idea how ferociously destructive the Alberta tar sands project is. Or how far-reaching its impacts. 85,000 square kilometres – an area larger than Scotland! – is currently leased for tar sands development. Every barrel of oil extracted consumes between 3 & 5 barrels of water, releasing the polluted water into toxic tailings ponds that now stretch over 170 square kilometres. Even if they shut down the tar sands today, those ponds would need to be monitored for 150 years. That is some toxic!!
Our government subsidizes the oil industry to the tune of over $1 billion every year. I’m going to repeat that, to make sure you really take it in: Our government subsidizes the oil industry to the tune of over $1 billion every year. Yes. Our government gives over a billion dollars a year to the richest corporations, while slashing funding for the renewable forms of energy we need to be focusing on from here on in (& a thousand other things Canadians really need - crazy things like clean water...you know??)
And the oil industry - with its more than a billion dollars in gift money (our tax dollars, btw) - treats downriver communities with contempt.
Aboriginal communities downriver now have poisoned water, & their local ecosystems have been destroyed. The industry breaks both treaty agreements (20,000 treaty violations alleged by the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation) & international law.
A couple of years ago, Suncor had a spill. They called other companies in the area right away & advised them not to open up their water intakes. They waited 36 hours to tell the residents of Fort Chipewyan. I call that contempt. When oil company bigshots visit Fort Chip, they bring along their own water. These people know what they are doing. They don’t care about the people in the area, & they don’t care about the rare & aggressive cancers now affecting even the young.
For me, environmental issues are really, at bottom, always about people. When we trash the earth, we are trashing people. As Chief Jackie Thomas (Sai´kuz First Nation) said at the Ottawa protest, “If we don’t take care of the land, the land will not take care of us.”
I didn’t expect to see anyone else from this area at the protest – but I did. I saw three other Durham Region residents who, like me, were arrested because we feel we must stand up & be counted.
We knew that over 1200 people were arrested in Washington in late August to protest the Keystone XL pipeline & the tar sands, & that more civil disobedience will be necessary to force our governments to stop listening to the oil industry, & start listening to regular people (& common sense!).
I once saw a button that said, “Silence is the voice of complicity.” I believe this is true.
I want you to know I’m not at all ashamed of having been arrested (for the second time now). I’m proud of standing up for what I believe in. I hope you’ll be proud of me too!
I think you understand that I’m not doing this for me – I’m doing it for all of us. Especially for the indigenous people of Alberta, who are right on the front lines of this horrible assault – & also for my children & the grandchildren I may have one day.
As a funny placard I saw in Ottawa said, “Silly adults – the future’s for kids!”
p.s. There’s a really good, short (8½ minute) YouTube on the Council of Canadians Web site. It’s called “The Dark Side of the Boom: Canada’s Mordor.”
p.p.s. There’s also a well-done 10 minute YouTube about the protest that includes scenes from our civil disobedience training the day before, & snippets of the speeches at the rally on Parliament Hill. Plus a shot of Maude Barlow & her fellow arrestees. Amazing what's packed into that 10 minutes!!
p.p.p.s. You might want to check out my 4 other postings about the Ottawa tar sands protest:
- Tar Sands Action: Informative, Fun, INSPIRING!
- Tar Sands Action: Media Sleaze?
- Tar Sands Action: Random Observations
- Tar Sands Action: Words, Groups, YouTubes