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Civil disobedience warranted for pipelines, tankers, fish farms, private river power
What is civil disobedience?
I ask because I’m going to be urging such a course in the times to come.
Although he didn’t invent the idea, Mahatma Gandhi invented the modern term when he protested a tax on salt imposed by the British which hurt the poor Indian especially. He broke the law deliberately and went to jail for doing so.
A more current example was that of the Freedom Marchers of the 1960s who challenged the segregation laws of the Southern US by “sitting in” at segregated restaurants; by Rosa Parks who defied the laws of Montgomery, Alabama, by sitting in the white only section of a bus; and by Dr. Martin Luther King who in the same time urged peaceful demonstrations.
Many would go back much further in time to Jesus.
What are some of the rules?
- It must be non violent. That is a very important rule.
- The law being protested must be unjust in one or more ways. It must be imposed unfairly or itself contrary to law or justice or both.
- Those protesting must be prepared to go to jail.
- There must be no other reasonable way to attain justice.
- They must be effective.
Where do I suggest civil disobedience?
Fish farms, for one area. Government policy allows them yet they are not only in violation of the UN law requiring the Precautionary Principle but against Canadian law in this regard.
So-called “run of river” projects which, without fail, severely damage the river and its ecology usually to the point of - for all intents and purposes - utter destruction.
Pipelines - especially the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines taking the ultra toxic bitumen from The Tar Sands to Kitimat - which don’t pose a risk of huge environmental damage but the certainty of it.
The utter lack of government concern for the environment and the public that wishes to preserve it is underscored by the recent decision of the federal government to dam the Kokish river near Port McNeill – a river that is home to all species of salmon, resident Rainbow, Cutthroat, Dolly Varden and has both a winter and summer run of steelhead.
Tanker trafficking of bitumen from Kitimat or through Vancouver Harbour which, again, don’t pose risks but certainties of huge environmental damage.
Civil Disobedience has had successes in the past in BC but too often there have been one or two who have refused to obey the law and once they have been jailed, the protest has petered out.
We must organize such that scores, even hundreds, defy the law and are ready to do time.
There has been very little by way of organization in the overall community but First Nations appear to be ready and, if nothing else, the rest of us must be prepared to support them and face the same consequences.
Our first step must be, in my view, a clear statement by environmental organizations and individual British Columbians that we will stand shoulder with First Nations - and we at the Common Sense Canadian plan to meet with their leaders and see how we can help.
Rafe Mair was a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. Since 1981 he has been a radio talk show host, and is recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists.This article originally appeared in the Common Sense Canadian.