This is how it began: a handful of people clinging tenuously to things like employment, relationships and housing in order keep watch over two small patches of the mountain. After spending 13 hours locked down to Kinder Morgan’s Westridge terminal with and activists Adam Gold, Mia Nissen, Dan Wallace, and Liam Mongeon, Brzev and a few others began spending night and day at the top of Centennial Way in the park, or down at the clearing where the oil and gas giant cleared the first trees.
They were soon joined by friends from out of town, people who quit their jobs to be there more often, and local mothers dropping by every morning and evening with food and clothes and candles. The bike ride up there is wretched, but the view is breathtaking, and after a summer spent doing research in blockade camps and resistance communities all over BC with my partner, it seemed only right that we should go, too.
Over the course of the past two months, the camp grew from a pile of tarps in the parking lot into a vibrant community space, complete with covered kitchen, sitting areas, and information boards.
After caretakers kicked surveyors off the mountain and surrounding area several times, Kinder Morgan applied for an injunction on the two main borehole sites, and the courts announced on November 14 that it would grant the injunction effective Monday November 17 at 4 PM.
A mass rally brought hundreds of people to the camp on Monday, but RCMP didn’t move in. The mood was quiet, if a bit tense, as everyone waited to see when they’d decide to enforce the court order. Until Thursday, November 20, when Burnaby RCMP—backed by forces from surrounding communities of Delta and Surrey—stormed in and tore the whole thing down.
Now it’s national news, with the number of arrests topping 70 and rising every day. And while it seems unlikely anyone will be able to stop work long enough to prevent Kinder Morgan from collecting the data it needs to continue with the project, the impact the camp and the subsequent events are having on both public opinion and investor security is undeniable.
After largely ignoring the people who built the camp on the mountain, the Globe and Mail this week published a flurry of stories about controversy surrounding the project and the billions of dollars in development money tied up in court thanks mainly to First Nations-led opposition. Talking heads, aware of the province’s strong history of resistance to major development, are conceding that this is big, even for BC. […]
In spite of most of the media coverage focusing on the middle-class white person angle, some of the most powerful forces behind the blockade have been indigenous women.
When the weather turned cold, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh elder Sut-lut arrived and made a sacred fire—lit with ceremony and kept burning and free of anything but wood until the person who lit it chooses to put it out—and she and her sister Clarissa came almost every day to tend it. Sut-lut said that after hearing about 18-year-old Jakub Markiewicz chaining himself under a Kinder Morgan Jeep on October 29, she was compelled to come up to the mountain and start talking to the caretakers. As grandmother and mother, she said, she feels a special connection to the mountain and to the people defending it. She was on Burnaby Mountain, up the hill from the camp, on May 31, 1997 when she got the news that her only daughter had been murdered. […]
Arrested on Thursday after lying down on the cedar log her younger brother is carving into a totem pole, next to the spot where Kinder Morgan has been drilling 24 hours day, she has returned almost every day to tend the fire, along with indigenous women from these territories and others. They have kept the fire burning through the night, inviting elders and young people to come sit with them. RCMP moved the fire from its original spot inside the camp to an area out of the way of Kinder Morgan’s equipment, but it’s still inside police lines, which means anyone hoping to get near it needs police permission and escort.
As drilling continues round the clock and Kinder Morgan gets closer to finishing this round of work, people continue flood the mountain. A group of women acting in solidarity with the Klabona Keepers, the Tahltan elders fighting an injunction to protect the Sacred Headwaters of northern BC, spoke out yesterday and crossed police lines. A bus full of organizers and activists from Victoria got on the ferry to spend some time on the mountain. Burnaby residents continue to supply food and firewood in spite of the road closure and heavy police presence.
Kinder Morgan will likely finish its drilling and leave with the information it came for, but the caretakers have ensured the company will at least think twice before coming back again.