This is our moment to stop Kinder Morgan — here’s how we think we can do it

Let’s start with three assumptions. The first: if you’re reading this, you, like us, want to stop the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline.

March 24th bold action at the Kinder Morgan terminal facility on Burnaby Mountain. Photo Credit: Rogue Collective

Second, you realize we’ve come so close to winning this fight. In the last month, we saw an outbreak of historic resistance to this pipeline when over 10,000 people rose in Indigenous-led resistance to the project in BC, followed by nearly 200 arrests at the pipeline terminal on Burnaby Mountain and actions in over 50 communities across the country. In the immediate aftermath of that, Kinder Morgan issued a public statement saying that it would temporarily freeze spending on the pipeline while it attempted to restore investor confidence in the project by May 31st. And it looks like the company isn’t feeling too optimistic that they will succeed. Meanwhile, the Trudeau government is losing credibility from all sides of the political spectrum as it scrambles to pledge billions of taxpayer dollars and part the legislative seas in support of this project.

Third, we’re assuming that like us, you’re trying to figure out how we cross this finish line.

You’ve come to the right place. But we need to be up front about something: the strategy we’re going to lay out in the coming paragraphs is big. It’s going to require a lot of small, medium and big tasks taken on by many. It’s going to require us to take a big leap into the unknown and embrace the ride.

Trudeau’s government is gambling their political legacy on Kinder Morgan. They’ve made the political calculation that they can get away with a multi-billion dollar bailout, ignoring Indigenous rights, and disregarding communities and climate science. We have to show that they’re wrong and that their decision to go all-in on Kinder Morgan will cost them, both in BC and across the country. We have to show them that all across Canada people are read for real climate action that respects Indigenous rights and keeps fossil fuels in the ground.

We have good reason to believe that while Trudeau and his cabinet are ready to hedge their political future on this pipeline, the majority of of people in Canada oppose bailing out this pipeline. And that many Liberal MP’s are not be fully on board with Trudeau’s desperate pipeline push.

Back in 2015, the Liberals promised real change and yet they’re pulling all the tricks from the Harper government’s play book to trample over people and bend to the whims of Big Oil. So let’s show this government they are setting themselves up to lose big time if they bow down to Big Oil. Let’s show them what real change looks like. Here’s the plan:

First, we have to start a whirlwind.

The fight to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline is not new. This fight started on the same waters and lands where it’s being fought most voraciously today — the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples. From day one, members of these nations have been at the forefront of protecting the water, land, and climate from this dangerous project.

March 23rd #DefendtheWater action on Salt Spring Island — this was one action out of 50+ across Canada in solidarity with Indigenous-led resistance to Kinder Morgan

What’s changed in the past few months is that more and more people — people like many of you — are paying close attention and are hungry to take action. In fact, an ever increasing number of people are taking action every day.

In organizer speak, we’re on the cusp of something that Saul Alinsky, the venerable social justice activist and author of Rules of Radicals, dubbed “a moment of the whirlwind”.

In their 2016 book This is an Uprising Mark and Paul Engler describe the moment of the whirlwind as “a period of intensive protest that seems to defy the accepted rules of politics: where previously apathy had reigned, outbreaks of dissent begin popping up everywhere”.

A snapshot from another moment of the whirlwind: iconic Idle No More demonstration on Parliament Hill in 2013.

Think about moments like Idle No More, when an Indigenous-led uprising across Canada took over intersections and shopping malls with round dances, brought ten thousand people to Parliament Hill and forced Indigenous issues to the front and centre of Canadian politics. Or the Occupy Movement, where a call to “occupy everywhere” transformed a protest camp in Zuccotti Park into a global uprising for economic justice.

Contrary to what the media often report, these whirlwinds seldom come of out of nowhere, but rather happen when concerned people, from all walks of life, respond to a clear trigger moment — like a the March 10th call from Coast Salish leaders to “warrior up”, and more recently, our government pledging to spend billions of public dollars to bail-out a dangerous tar sands pipeline — with clear and sustained actions.

Once it’s moving, we need use the whirlwind to make this fight something more than a campaign.

Quite frankly, we need a revolution. We’re not talking about a revolution in the rusty kalashnikov and fatigues sense, but rather, a political revolution, in the Bernie Sanders sense. A moment where thousands of us step up and take action, many for the first time in our lives, to upend politics-as-usual.

That means this can’t be just a one-off day of action, but a consistent, growing drumbeat of political action and organizing. That means showing up week after week to make sure politicians know we’re not going away. That means talking to our friends and neighbours to get them involved. It means showing up and offering the amazing breadth and depth of skills that each of us bring and that power this movement far beyond what any organization, group or even coalition can achieve.

But, we have to recognize that this revolution is about more than just a pipeline.

It’s easy to look at the campaign to stop Kinder Morgan as a fight to stop a single pipeline, in part because the pipeline itself is such a terrible idea. But there’s so much more to it. This fight is about much bigger things that will define the course of national politics in this country, and fundamentally impact the rest of the world.

This fight is about justice.

First and foremost, this is about justice for Indigenous peoples and whether or not we, as a country, are willing to take a stand when a self-styled progressive politician preaches reconciliation and pledges to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) all while pushing a project lacking any modicum of Indigenous consent. Coast Salish Indigenous communities are vehemently opposed to this pipeline meaning there is a clear lack of Free Prior and Informed Consent (a pivotal pillar of UNDRIP) for the project.

The case of Colten Boushie, an Indigenous youth who was murdered by a white man is being taken to the United Nations after the Canadian courts failed to deliver justice to his family.

Beyond the question of consent, this is about the fact that Justin Trudeau called an emergency cabinet meeting when Kinder Morgan put its pipeline project on life support. An emergency cabinet meeting is something that none of the boil water advisories or suicide epidemics on Indigenous reserves warranted. Even more appallingly, Trudeau found billions of dollars for Kinder Morgan in a matter of hours while dozens of Indigenous communities lack clean drinking water. And, as Ronnie Dean Harris, one of the Indigenous leaders supporting the Burnaby blockade line, posted to social media, this is about the fact that “people may get more jail time for crossing an invisible line of an injunction than you can get for killing an Indigenous youth in this country.”

This fight is about survival.

Outside of the Ottawa political bubble, it’s pretty common knowledge that building Kinder Morgan would make it impossible for Canada to meet its international climate commitments. But, what does that actually mean?

Last May, a delegation of Pacific Islanders travelled to Canada to bear witness to the tar sands and fight against the Kinder Morgan pipeline. They came because, unlike those of us who live in Canada’s cities, their homes are literally disappearing because of climate change. For them, this isn’t about some future threat, or abstract math to them — climate limits, quite literally, equal survival. During this visit, these Pacific Climate Warriors, who resiliently assert the mantra “we are not drowning, we are fighting,” joined Coast Salish Indigenous peoples in BC in the resistance to the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Simply put, securing a safe climate for the planet and everyone that inhabits it means leaving the majority of fossil fuels in the ground. That means absolutely no tar sands expansion projects like Kinder Morgan.

This fight is about our government choosing foreign billionaires over people.

Autumn Peltier, 12, cries as she hands gifts to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and calls on him to protect the water. Photo by Alex Tétreault (2016)

From boil water advisories on Indigenous reserves, to the opioid crisis, to the lack of affordable childcare, and the skyrocketing cost of education there are so many pressing issues impacting the health and survival of some this country’s most vulnerable people. And yet none of these national crises have received the kind of response that our government gave when a Texas oil company cried for help. When Kinder Morgan announced it would freeze all “non-essential” spending on the Trans Mountain pipeline, Trudeau’s government leapt to their service. The government suspended an international mission, held an emergency cabinet meeting, found the political will to pony up billions of dollars, and pledged legislation to defend Kinder Morgan.

It seems the Trudeau government finds it far too easy to ignore critical social problems in this country, particularly ones disproportionately impacting impoverished and racialized communities. Yet conversely, this same government is quite literally leaping to the aid of Texas oil billionaires with such gusto.

This fight is about dignity.

Back in 2015, Justin Trudeau made a slew of promises to people in Canada. He promised that Canada was “back” on the International stage as a major contributor to global action on climate change, he promised to make real reconciliation with Indigenous peoples a pillar of his agenda, and he promised to overhaul the shattered National Energy Board review process for every single pipeline project. All these promises, and more, he broke. Put another way, this Prime Minister may well be, at least on progressive promises, one of Canada’s most notorious serial liars, and we’re not willing to take that sitting down.

In many ways, the Kinder Morgan pipeline has become a symbol for all the broken promises that Justin Trudeau made when he won the 2015 election after running on a platform for “real change.” Joining the resistance to this project is part of a broader fight to hold politicians accountable to the promises they make when they try to win our votes.

What happens now lays the foundation for what happens next.

A few weeks ago. almost a thousands people showed up to greet Trudeau with a #StopKM message as he joined a Liberal party fundraiser in Vancouver. (JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The simple truth is, if Justin Trudeau is willing to pump billions of public dollars to bail out this fossil fuel project, he’s setting a precedent for every single other fossil fuel project that this movement is fighting, whether it’s the Teck Frontier Mine in Northern Alberta, the Line 3 pipeline in Manitoba, the renewed push for fracking in Quebec, or plans for offshore oil drilling off the coast of Nova Scotia. If this government puts forward legislation that overrides local and regional opposition and governments to get Kinder Morgan built, there’s nothing to stop them from making that the law of the land. And, what kind of country are we becoming if we stay silent while this government spends public money, that could do public good, bailing out Big Oil?

To stop Kinder Morgan, it’s going to take all of us. It’s going to take something bigger than most of us have ever made happen before. And, the truth is, we might not win. But if we don’t try, we can guarantee we’ll all be the worse for it.

Getting involved is easy. Click here, find an action being organized near you or sign up to host one. If there isn’t one, think about organizing one. We’re confident that together, we can find some other people near you who want to stop this pipeline.

This is our moment, let’s seize it.

This piece was written collaboratively by the 350.org tar sands team in Canada — Cam Fenton, Atiya Jaffar, Aurore Fauret, Clayton Thomas-Müller, and Katie Perfitt.
March 10th: a historic moment of resistance when Coast Salish Indigenous leaders built a Watch House on the path of the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline on Burnaby Mountain and 10,000 people marched in solidarity.
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