OPINION: Camp Cloud's sacred fire should not be extinguished

Camp Cloud exists to monitor the dangerous activities occurring at Kinder Morgan’s tank farm. Camp Cloud fulfils its responsibilities by alerting the wider community to the clearcutting of trees and the moving in of camp housing, pipes, machinery and more infrastructure within the tank farm’s gates that threaten the safety of Burnaby and our coastal waters.

Kinder Morgan’s expansion violates Coast Salish laws that require respectful relationship with and stewarding of the land and waters that we all rely upon. We recognize that Camp Cloud’s presence is premised upon stopping Kinder Morgan and that its temporary structures will come down when its work is accomplished. 

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Regarding the city’s recent eviction notice and injunction application, the right thing for Burnaby to do is to find a way to respect Coast Salish laws by first requiring Kinder Morgan to comply with both Coast Salish laws and Burnaby’s bylaws before taking any hasty action against water protectors. 

The structures and trailers at Camp Cloud function to support a community of water guardians. We call for flexibility with city bylaws for this temporary but necessary community that works for larger collective well-being. Ways can and need to be found to ensure both safety and continuity of Camp Cloud.

The small, symbolic and monitored fire that the elders have stated as being sacred represents the spirit of the people fulfilling their responsibilities to Coast Salish laws and land. Section 2A of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects people’s freedom of conscience and religion and the right to tend this sacred fire. By nurturing this sacred fire, Camp Cloud is supporting work that prevents future forest fires in a time of global warming. The sacred fire is medicine against the unholy fires caused by long-term disrespect for the land. 

Burnaby’s fire chief apparently has the power, but no will, to permit ceremonial fires. Systemic racism effectively means barbecues get privilege over sacred fires in Burnaby’s bylaws. If Burnaby moves to take police action against Camp Cloud, but not against Kinder Morgan, then this unfortunately falls into the trap of a divide-and-conquer pattern that furthers the defeat of our goals.

Camp Cloud has shown that it is concerned and vigilant regarding safety, which is why they have water near the fire, dampen the ground under the fire on a regular basis and have firekeepers nearby at all times.

We hope the city will find ways to peacefully respect the sacred ceremonial practices and temporary structures at Camp Cloud. If we all share the goal of protecting this coast, we also need to find ways to take care of each other and build a culture of respectful relations.

Written by Rita Wong, along with Cecily Nicholson, Annie Ross, Steve Collis.

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