Why I Climbed the Flagpole

I climbed the flagpole because I’m unhappily ashamed to be a ‘Canadian.’ Although I’ve never trended much towards any nationalist or patriotic proclivity, I’ll admit to a slight twinge of pride of nation was when a former Prime Minister, in spite of overwhelming pressure, said ‘fuck you’ to GWB when he wanted Canada to join in with his attack, invasion, occupation, torture, rape and massacre of Iraq. But given our current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper’s recent cowardly, grudging and sneering performance at Copenhagen, I’m utterly embarrassed to be a member of this country. And to make matters worse, the drunken Premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell joined Harper in Denmark to offer his ‘support.’ And to make matters even worse, Tzeporah Berman, CEO of ForestEthics Canada, which purports to work to protect BC forests and on other environmental issues, followed Campbell to Copenhagen to issue him an award for “Climate Leadership.”

After nearly a decade of Gordon Campbell at the helm, the British Columbia environment has taken a horrific corporate shit-kicking. With our institutionally corrupt and gerrymandered excuse for democracy, and with giant transnational logging corporation’s as his principal campaign financiers, Campbell has won successive majority governments by garnering on average, about 30% of the vote. And it is truly an embarrassment how cheap these corporations have been able to buy themselves a British Columbia government. The predictable result is that Campbell has presided over an unprecedented level of destruction in our forests. His very first act of government back in 2001 was to abolish the Ministry of Environment.

Next, he immediately reinstated the Grizzly bear trophy hunt. His government oversaw a culling of Golden eagles, which they scapegoated for the logging-caused extinction of the Vancouver Island marmot. As Canada’s ‘Most Endangered Species’ these marmots only survive in captive breeding laboratories now. Campbell gutted the provinces Forest Practices Code, and then attempted to privatize the public forests of BC, which comprise more than 90% of the provinces land mass.

Victoria’s tallest fire-ladder fully extended.

Campbell is responsible for a massive proliferation of fish-farming on the Pacific coast which has resulted in an epidemic of sea lice which has infected and is killing off our wild salmon. He has expanded the development of oil and gas, even pushing for oil and gas development in the clear Pacific waters and no mining application has crossed his desk that he couldn’t approve. Currently, he’s plowing enormous new highway infrastructure through the Burns Bog and is champing at the bit to allow giant American energy corporations to install “Run of River” power infrastructure in what remains of the provinces final intact watersheds. The list of Gordon Campbell’s voracious attacks on the British Columbia environment are far too many to cover in this essay, but his most egregious scheme of all is just now getting off the ground.

Premier Campbell is the lead proponent and champion of the proposed “Enbridge Nothern Gateway Pipeline” which is slated to deliver ‘dirty oil’ from the notorious Alberta Tar Sands, to the BC Central Coast. This 1100 km, 1 metre diametre pipeline will send half of Tar Sands daily production sluicing across our province, to be loaded onto more than 300 VLCC’s, -Very Large Crude Carriers- every year. This will result in a veritable super-tanker traffic jam in the narrow fiords and amongst the rock-pile that is BC’s Pacific coast and will guarantee horrific Exxon Valdez-scale oil disasters. A single accident will immediately destroy Campbell’s only, albeit seriously greenwashed example of a semblance of wilderness conservation. This year, after a decade of secret, exclusive negotiations with several select environmental collaborators, Campbell announced, onstage with his ForestEthics collaborators, that he had reached an agreement to “protect” just 30% of a tract of relatively contiguous primaeval wilderness known as the ‘Great Bear Rainforest.’ The other 70% has been handed over to voracious logging corporations.

I’ve been focussing my efforts on battling the Gordon Campbell Pipeline for several years now, even as the US-based Enbridge Pipeline corporations PR machinations proceed apace across the province. Currently, the significant majority opposition to the pipeline is disorganized, and several so-called environmental organizations, including ForestEthics, are positioning themselves to lead the fight. These due-process oriented, charitable status-quarding organizations have already established themselves as collaborators with the Neocon Campbell government, and Campbell has now ensconced them, including Berman on a new “Green Energy Task Force.” This task force has been set up to persuade the people of BC to allow wild rivers to be developed en masse by private American corporations for the purpose of providing “Green” power to the insatiable American market. Initially the ROR campaign, spearheaded by Campbell, and greenwashed by Berman, and bewilderingly, by Dr Andrew Weaver, -a noted BC climatologist who shared the IPCC Nobel Prize and who stumped blatantly for Campbell during this years election after his University of Victoria department received $94 million in funding from the Campbell regime- insulted the BC environmental community by equating anyone who questioned the private development of BC’s wild rivers as being ignorant climate-change deniers. Now, in the new Campbell-appointed Task Force, they are trying a kinder, gentler approach.

The once-powerful and united BC Environmental Movement has been divided into an unbridgeable schism, -between Grass-roots activists who stand in the way of business as usual, (BAU) and well-funded environmental bureaucracies who work according to BAU. These BAU organizations, with ForestEthics as the worst example, have become shameless greenwashers of the BC government and the darlings of the corporate media.

When Tzeporah Berman wormed her way through 100,000 awakened climate-change activists whose favoured slogan was “System Change, Not Climate Change to present her award to one of the very worst climate-change troglodytes on the planet, she utterly forfeited any remaining credibility she and the Canadian branch of ForestEthics may have had as an environmental activists. This was the final straw that drove me up the flagpole. It is of paramount importance to the world that all the stops must be pulled out to shut down the planet-killing Alberta Tar Sands mega-project. It is a black/white issue that cannot be compromised. It is essential that the people of the world understand that the Premier of BC is busily forwarding and facilitating that horrific blight on the planet, and people must understand the greenwashing that is greasing its wheels. It must be shouted out loud and clear.

Today, I have once again been charged with “mischief endangering life” a charge which could garner a lifetime prison sentence. This is the same charge I am already facing for another act of non-violent civil-disobedience which I committed earlier this year. I’m told it will cost me $50,000 to conduct a credible legal defence, -which of course, I could never afford. I have also been told that I do not qualify for legal aid, on account that I have no record of my recent employment history, which is basically odd jobs for cash. I live in BC’s vast underground economy, largely because I believe that it is unethical to pay taxes to Gordon Campbell and Stephen Harper. I believe that I serve my community with my environmental work instead, and even if there had been a paper trail, my income is so far below the poverty line that I’d be exempt anyway. I do not expect justice before the Gordon Campbell kangaroo court, and I guess, for people like me, jail time is a rite of passage.

INGMAR LEE is an activist living on Denny Island in British Columbia. He can be reached at ingmarz@gmail.com

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