Nine-year-old Lee McNamee, in blue t-shirt, holds the line at a peaceful protest camp on Kennedy Lake in the summer of ‘93. Police removed McNamee from the protest that day, but he wasn’t charged as he was too young. (Photo courtesy of Maureen Fraser)

Pipeline protests spur memories of Clayoquot protests for Tofino and Ucluelet locals

“I could see there was something so special to protect.”

Back in the era of the Meares Island logging protests, Maureen Fraser’s Common Loaf Bake Shop had a sign on the door that read, ‘This business supports the preservation of Clayoquot Sound’.

Her Tofino bakery was a hub of activity during the blockades, which saw thousands of people from all over the world stand-up to Canadian forestry company MacMillan Bloedel.

“People would climb up into the trees that were supposed to be cut down the next day. The loggers would show up the next morning and couldn’t cut the trees down because there was somebody up there,” Fraser recalls.

Days after the Liberal government announced plans to purchase the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and related infrastructure for $4.5 billion, Fraser asks the question: Is this pipeline really where we should be drawing a line in the sand?

She thinks the Trans Mountain is a flash point, and that it’s not just about a pipeline, but about the greater issue of climate change and what we should be doing as a species to slow it down.

“I’ll get arrested over this,” she said. “I am really concerned about the direction we as a species are going and I’m going to draw the line right here and say I do not want anymore oil and gas development. I want us to be looking at a different way of being in this world and reducing green house gases.”

READ: Pipeline protest in Port Alberni

READ: Key dates in the history of the Trans Mountain pipeline

Her son, Lee McNamee, is all too familiar with battling for the environment. When he was nine years old, police removed him from a logging protest at second bridge on Kennedy Lake.

“I knew that was going to want these trees around when I was older. I could see there was something so special to protect,” said McNamee.

His frustration on the topic of federal investment in oil and gas is overt.

“I wonder what green economies could flourish with that kind of money? How many solar panels can billions of dollars bring?” he asked.

“This decision paves a path. We can’t make the decision to turnaround towards green in say 50 to 100 years. We can’t go okay now we are going to start building solar panels. We have the opportunity now and the revenues and the resources now and the future is green. There is no more future in oil. There isn’t.”


Hundreds of people protest the logging of Clayoquot Sound in the’90s. (Photo courtesy of Maureen Fraser)

Green Party member and former mayor of Ucluelet, Bill Irving, worked for MacMillan Bloedel during the blockades.

“The solution that came out of the [Clayoquot protests] was a balance between environment and economy,” Irving said, noting that about 180 full-time jobs were lost during the process.

“It was a very difficult and cynical adjustment. I think Ucluelet was sort of branded as the working town and Tofino the environmental town. That was a very unhealthy process. It divided us into camps very quickly. It took years to unravel that,” Irving told the Westerly.

And now, the Trans Mountain anti- and pro-pipeline protests divide Canada into two new camps: Alberta’s economic gain versus British Columbia’s protection of the coast.

The solution to our carbon saturated environment and the petrochemical pollution that we have is not a one-time protest of the [Trans Mountain] pipeline, Irving states.

“Let’s address existing problems, not just shut off the pipeline. Let’s focus on the bigger issues that are out there like the existing tanker traffic and heavy vessel traffic and the plastic pollution in the ocean. That’s a long-term message the government can’t dodge once the cameras are turned on,” he said.

When Fraser first hung that sign on the door of her Tofino bake shop, some people warned her it might turn away customers.

“That’s not my concern,” she replied. “My concern is standing up for the environment in this area and letting everyone know that this business supports that.”

QUICK FACTS

  • Oil and natural gas is Canada’s largest export industry, creating nearly $110 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) and generating more than 500,000 jobs across the country. Source: Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (www.capp.ca)
  • According to a report by Clean Energy Canada (www.cleanenergycanada.org), it’s five times more difficult to purchase an electric car in Canada than in the U.S. Ottawa offers no federal Electric Vehicle incentive, and only three provinces offer rebates: Ontario, Quebec, and B.C.
  • By 2030, Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects there will be 50 times more electric cars on the road than there are today.
  • The Port of Vancouver sees about 30 to 50 crude oil tankers per year, out of a total of about 3,160 vessel calls annually. With the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project approved, this number could increase to about 400 tankers per year, or about 11 per cent of our total vessel traffic. By comparison, The Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands sees about 8,200 tankers each year and Singapore hosts about 22,200 tankers. Source: Port of Vancouver (www.portofvancouver.com)

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