Letter: I went to jail for blocking TMX in Burnaby. I'm not surrending


Re: Did COVID kill Trans Mountain protests in Burnaby? Or just jail? NOW Opinion

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As women who’ve spent time in prison for our principled opposition to the expansion of the Trans Mountain (TMX) pipeline, we want people to understand that we respect and uphold the Coast Salish law of Nawt’samat – one heart, one mind, one spirit.

We are all related.

That is, we have been in peaceful ceremony outside the gates of the Trans Mountain facilities because we have a responsibility to care for one another and for the land. 

We believe our actions are for the benefit of everyone, including the workers at Trans Mountain, because we are in a collective climate crisis and need to transition off the extraction and use of fossil fuels. We honour our reciprocal relationship with the land, as we have learned from Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish and Musqueam community members.

We understand there are moments when people feel compelled to act, and moments when people are waiting out the corporate forces who’ve been entitled by the federal government. 

This government does not have the public interest at heart; it is throwing our whole future under the bus in its desperate grasp for temporary profit. We want people to understand that the very public arrests in 2018 were one form of action, but there are many more actions people can take and are taking, all the time.

The Mountain Protectors at the Watch House on Burnaby Mountain have been consistently surveilling, documenting the destruction to the mountain, and raising attention to the lack of safe distancing among workers, contrary to public relations campaigns that ignore real problems.

The everyday, ongoing efforts of citizens matter - not only the dramatic arrests, that we also saw in 2014 (where charges were dropped because of the inaccuracies of the company’s coordinates - another error in TMX’s ongoing endeavours). 

Scientists and physicians like Dr. Tim Takaro are pointing out we must decrease our reliance on fossil fuels, in this key moment in time.

The courts have not given us justice. They have sided with corporate greed against those who love the land and waters, using the phrase rule of law, and we see the blatant injustices of colonial rule of law when it privileges short-term profit for a privileged few over the health of the land and a livable future for everyone.

Rule of law has been applied in ways that are systemically racist in how they devalue Indigenous cultures and values like love and respect for the land.

More people are awakening to the climate crisis and to the need to respect Indigenous peoples and knowledge. This awakening guided both of us through prison, enabling us to clearly see the injustice and the violence of a system that punishes people for poverty, addiction and trauma.

We respect and care for our sisters in prison; they understand that a society premised on greed and unchecked, rampant extraction is a death knell for everyone.

We believe in building power with one another through cooperation and coordination, and we see this happening on an ongoing basis throughout the Lower Mainland and beyond.

Do not assume that the quiet before the storm is surrender. Ask yourself: what are you doing to protect the land and climate for your loved ones, their children and great-grandchildren? Not everyone has to get arrested in order to contribute to our shared future.

Rita Wong and Elan Gibson, Burnaby



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