Yesterday, I was arrested and charged with Civil Contempt for failing to respect an injunction forbidding protesters from coming within 5 meters of the property where Kinder Morgan is trying to bring a pipeline for tar-sands bitumen to the Pacific. Herewith a few words on why this kind of action might work and how to go about doing it. Well, and I guess I should tack on a note about why the pipeline is a stupid idea and should be stopped, but I suspect most readers here are already on-board with that.

But before any of that, my strongest thanks to our gracious hosts, the good people of the Coast Salish, whose unceded territory we were on. They were friendly, inspirational, supportive, eloquent, and politically savvy. If we win this, it’ll be their victory as much as anyone’s.

No Courage Here · A lot of the social-media buzz is fulsome about the “Courage” of the protesters. Gimme a break; if this was a “brush with the law”, it was a soft-bristled make-up brush. Now bear in mind that I am speaking from a position of maximum privilege as a grey-bearded clean-cut well-off white guy. But the legal and financial consequences seem likely to be trivial, and there seems to be an awesome support organization in place for those a little less privileged than me.

Tim at Protect the Inlet

Thanks to the photog, who wishes to remain uncredited.

Seriously, the praise is embarrassing. I took public transit to within five minutes’ walk of the gathering place, marched for about fifteen minutes to the front gates, sat in the sun for a few hours singing songs, and was eventually courteously escorted away by affable police officers to a nice processing area under the trees where, in order to get released that day, we had to sign a document promising not to do it again. The only mildly scary bit was when the cop made a little speech claiming that getting arrested could damage your ability to travel, get a job, volunteer, and so on. Which in this particular scenario is almost certainly not true.

Then we walked back down the hill and took the train home. What could have gone wrong, but didn’t, in decreasing order of likelihood:

  1. It could have been a horrible freezing rainy sort of Pacific Northwest March day.

  2. There could have been cops with attitude problems who worked hard at making the experience unpleasant.

  3. There could have been people doing Black-bloc shit with the aim of making real violence happen.

  4. Some Kinder Morgan jerk might have decided to wade in and make trouble.

Why it might work · The project has been officially approved by the Government of Canada. Kinder Morgan has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from investors to finance it. Depending on how you slice your sampling, somewhere around 50% of Canadians (or British Columbians) support the project. How can a few people getting arrested in Burnaby slow down this juggernaut?

Charge sheet

Well, there are politics and there are economics. First, the Feds’ approval was unenthusiastic not to say agonized; it happened after the petro-heads moved the Overton Window by proposing this other batshit-crazy project called Northern Gateway and created a situation where it seemed like if you shut that down, you had to give something back, and that’s what Kinder Morgan is. But I’m pretty sure the local Liberal MPs around here are tossing and turning sweatily in their beds at night. And if you surveyed Liberal voters, I bet you’d find a huge anti-Kinder-Morgan majority. Thus, I expect that the Feds are prepared to expend exactly zero serious political capital to backstop this project.

More politics: The government of BC, which the pipeline traverses and where the tar-sands tar will leak when it leaks, is dead-set against the project. So is the government of Burnaby, where the pipeline terminates and accidents are most likely, as in totally going to happen. So is the government of Vancouver, which depends existentially on its harbor, where the tanker spill will happen when the tanker spill inevitably happens. And maybe most important, so are a large number of First-nations organizations, who are litigating furiously at multiple points along the route.

Which is to say, you’re not just one of a few rag-tag environmentalists up against the whole world. You have a lot of allies.

The important thing to remember is: Decisions that matter come down to politics and economics. If you want to stop this stupid pipeline, the thing to do is to make it politically painful for its backers and economically painful for its investors. Then go back and do it again and again and again.

Delay is the planet’s friend. The economics of tar-sands oil get lousier every month oil remains in global surplus, and every month that the disastrous effects of global warming become more evident, and every month renewable and battery technologies get a little better and cheaper. Which is to say, we don’t really need to stop this pipeline, we just need to slow it down and make its awfulness visible, then go back and do it again and again, and eventually the other side will, uh, run out of gas.

There are a lot of ways this could happen, but I’d like to highlight one of them. Suppose a few thousand people decided to do what I did, each requiring police intervention to write up all those Civil Contempt charges. Then suppose the City of Burnaby decided their taxpayers just couldn’t afford it and slammed the brakes on police overtime. Yesterday they had like 30 officers there, and it took them hours to arrest us and write us up. Suppose there were 300 protesters and five cops? Writer’s cramp alone might be enough to bring it to a grinding halt.

You think I’m joking? I’m not.

Practical advice · If you want to get involved, the first thing to do is to go visit Protect the Inlet and hit the Sign me Up link.

The people who are organizing this, first of all, are not recommending that you go out and violate injunctions. But since there are a lot of people like me who are so mad at the process that they are just gonna go take bold action anyhow, they’re providing training, advice, and legal support. The training is excellent and super-practical. If you’re trying to block access to something, is it better to stand up or sit down? If you’re being arrested, what should you say, and be careful not to say? If someone on your side is being crazy and escalating things, what can you do? And so on. So if you’re going to do this, please take the training.

Now, how do you get there? One good way is to drive (it’s at Burnaby 200 soccer field); there’s plenty of parking up there. You might get trolls sneering at you for driving to protest an oil pipeline, but screw ’em; obviously we’re heading for an electric-car future but we’re not there yet, and one of the key points is that even today’s oil-dependent world doesn’t actually need the tar-sands product.

But public transit is a good option too; that’s how I went yesterday. Take the Skytrain to Production Way, then go stand at the #3 bus stop and take the 136 line to a stop named “WB Forest Grove Dr NS Meridian Pl”. It only runs every half-hour, but no protest has ever started on time.

More advice:

  • Take something to sit on. I had a folding pad that I use for uncomfortable seats at ball games, and it may have saved my life. If, like me, you are a not-terribly-flexible person with a skinny bony butt, an extended sit-in can be seriously uncomfortable. But not with the right pad.

  • Dress with care. I had multiple layers and was glad of it; the morning was chilly, and then it got baking hot up against the south-facing Kinder Morgan gate under the direct sun. Also, I wore my Saskatchewan Rough Riders baseball cap, to inject a little Prairie culture and hey, it was St. Paddy’s, for the wearing o’ the green. And mostly to keep the sun from my eyes.

  • Should you take your phone? In the training course, they warned us that police have been known to confiscate phones, make sincere efforts to crack into them, and find excuses to not return them. So I didn’t take mine, which I ended up regretting — because I couldn’t take pictures and tweet away. And the arresting officer didn’t show the slightest interest in what I was carrying. Having said that, it was the first time in many years that I’ve been on a multi-hour outing without my mobile. I wouldn’t make a habit of it, but it did add an edge and some flavor to the day.

Why · There’s an excellent chance we’re heading for global climate-change catastrophe. If it isn’t obvious why digging up highly carbon-loaded fuel and making it cheaper and easier to get it into the energy economy is an egregiously stupid idea, I’m not sure that there’s much I can say that will help you.

But there are three other specific arguments in this case. First, this project is being rammed through against the wishes of a high proportion of the Native peoples whose land this is; their economies and spiritualities depend on the earth, and not the version that’s soaked in this nasty black toxic shit. Second, the place where it’s coming from, the Tar Sands project in Northern Alberta, is utterly appalling, wreaking havoc on the landscape and the water and the people. Third, a couple of dozen tanker-loads of bitumen a month running through Vancouver harbour, which has strong tidal currents, three bridges crossing it, and a couple of million people living around it, is really not very smart. The Globe and Mail has a fabulous multimedia article on the subject.

Please · If you’re in Vancouver, and care about this stuff, you can make a difference and it isn’t difficult or dangerous. Please consider coming along.

You don’t have to get arrested. Help is needed with cheerleading, supporting, and financial donations. But putting yourself on the line between Kinder Morgan and the planet you live on, it’s a thing that leaves you feeling good.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: NADENE eileen MORTON (Mar 18 2018, at 17:11)

your contribution is vital. so many of us on the islands who cannot afford the ferry are relying on you on the mainland...stand strong. i consider each and every one of you brave. t doesn't matter your income, ethnicity or age group. bravo. we will stop this.


From: Sharon Smith (Mar 18 2018, at 17:52)

Thankyou for standing up and thankyou for your perfectly crafted rationale. I have been supporting the protests and I will be on the line myself when I return to Canada


From: Deanna (Mar 18 2018, at 17:56)

Appreciated your words and actions.


From: Tony Fisk (Mar 18 2018, at 18:11)

Good luck with the campaign.

You think that obstructing the work will increase administrative overhead to the point where it ceases to be profitable. Hope that strategy works with Kinder Morgan, but don't assume your corporate opponent will be logical in the way you think. Maybe they will fold, if they aren't already too heavily committed.

By way of contrast, protestors at Adani's coal port at Abbott's Point, Queensland, were recently fined $8000 *each* for locking themselves to the gate.

Adani was fined a total of $12000 for allowing a massive coal ash spill to contaminate nearby wetlands. They've done nothing to clean it up, and they are appealing.


From: John Cowan (Mar 18 2018, at 18:11)

You know, if one person, just one person, does it, they may think he's really dangerous and they won't flame him.

And if two people do it, in harmony, they may think they're both Perl hackers and they won't flame either of


And if three people do it! Can you imagine three people loggin' in, singin' a bar of ``Alice's Usenet Flame'' and loggin' out? They may think it's an re-implementation of sendmail!

And can you imagine fifty people a day? I said FIFTY people a day, loggin' in, singin' a bar of ``Alice's Usenet Flame'' and loggin' out? Friends, they may think it's a MOVEMENT, and that's what it is: THE INTERNET GLOBAL ANTI-LOSSAGE MOVEMENT! And all you gotta do to join is to sing it the next time it comes around on the /var/spool/news/in.coming directory.



From: Trish (Mar 18 2018, at 18:14)

Just wondering why Canada doesnt make the oil conpanies do this:

The bitumen in solid form pucks, injected with an air pocket, float. In the event of an accident they can be scooped out of the water with a net. They could be shipped in almost obsolete open coal carts. To form the pucks equals jobs. To ship would revitalize the railway and create more jobs there. With unending automation what are companies giving back for our resources. I would thinks jobs would be part of that. So why not a refinery to make solid form bitumen pucks to ship. I think this option would take away the opposition. No pipeline, no pollution, no problem.

After all what could be more Canadian than solid bitumen ‘pucks’.


From: Charlene (Mar 18 2018, at 20:51)

Trish, there would still be opposition, as the planet is warming and this needs to be stopped. Bitumen pucks are still fossil fuels, requiring fracking which completely destroys the environment and uses an incredible amount of fresh water which it poisons, and wherever it is shipped it will be burned, heating up the planet.

The reasons to oppose it are many.


From: cheryl baron (Mar 18 2018, at 21:03)

Thanks for making it less scary Tim. I'm another person who has never been arrested and just barely had speeding tickets. I've signed up to help on the 24th.


From: Sally-Ann Mowat (Mar 18 2018, at 21:13)

Just an FYI - from someone who heartily supports your viewpoint & action & your writing on same, AND who also happens to work in copyright: Rogue Collective could nit gave been easier to "turn up". I googled "Rogue Collective" & Rogue Photo Collective was among the first hits. Cheers!


From: Raymond Lutz (Mar 19 2018, at 06:51)

Merci M. Bray pour ce compte-rendu!

Vous auriez dû résister un peu pour vous faire menotter: la photo aurait été plus dramatique, comme celles des arrestations de James Hansen... 8-)

Sur une note plus sérieuse, j'indique que suite à votre billet, j'ai donné 100$ à 'Protect the Inlet'.

J'avais contribué à 'Coule Pas Chez Nous' [1] et 'Solidarité Restigouche' [2] et je me demande encore comment les activistes de l'est du Canada pourraient montrer leur solidarité avec ceux de l'ouest. Il y avait une forte mobilisation contre Énergie Est, il faudrait qu'elle se conserve pour s'orienter vers Kinder Morgan... et aille au-delà du syndrome Not In My Backyard...




From: Jim Dunkley (Mar 19 2018, at 10:09)

Tim, here is a previous comment of yours on Kinder Morgan:

Interestingly, there’s been a Plan-B proposal recently from a huge company I never heard of called Kinder Morgan, which operates a big pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver. They want to triple its capacity and make my neighborhood the tar-sands depot. Local politicians, both municipal and provincial, are horrified.

Doesn’t seem that crazy to me. The waterways are wider, the weather’s better, the pipeline’s already routed, and we have the big-ship infrastructure. Also, the chance that the depot’s neighbors will be seen as expendable yokels by the steak-fed big-city big-oil executives is lower in Vancouver than Kitimat.

Hey, I still think the whole tar-sands initiative smells lousy; environmentally, politically, and literally. But however it comes out, let’s please not roll the supertanker dice on our north coast.

From April 2012.

I'm not suggesting that you are not allowed to evolve in your thinking, but you should be open about it.


From: Philip Kuefler (Mar 19 2018, at 13:22)

The KM pipe has been there since 1953 and has had no spills? The land from which the oil is extracted (Fort Mac) is cleaned and restored. Several oil companies are already in the Kitsilano harbor delivering jet fuel, oil and diesel along the coastline.

Oil from Planetary vegetation is pollution? The Aboriginal Population in Northern Alberta have know for thousands of years the oil was contaminating the Athabasca River.Your arguments are not rational, your confirmation bias is hypocrisy.


From: Fatidjah Nestman (Mar 19 2018, at 17:13)

I was arrested today at km. I thought I was prepared, but by the end of the day, one of the last to be arrested, I was shaking so badly, the police offered me handwarmers. It' a long day, layers, layers and more layers. We had to stand for hours on an incline and the muscles tire and cramp, especially if you are older. I recommend this action. 03/19/18


From: g (Mar 20 2018, at 10:28)

Jim, I think there's less inconsistency (or even evolution) here than you're implying.

Here's the 2012 post: He says, among other things, that "the whole tar-sands initiative smells lousy; environmentally, politically, and literally". When he makes conciliatory noises about the Vancouver pipeline in that post, it seems clear to me he isn't saying anything stronger than "if we really must do the tar-sands thing, then this pipeline is a better option than Northern Gateway".

Now Northern Gateway is dead and the question is no longer "Northern Gateway or Vancouver pipeline?", it's "Vancouver pipeline or not?". Thinking, as he does and already did in 2012, that "the whole tar-sands initiative smells lousy; environmentally, politically, and literally", his answer to that question is "not".

I do think this post would have been improved by a reference back to the 2012 one and some comments on what, if anything, looks different now from then. But I don't think it's fair to suggest, as you clearly are doing, that Tim's being disingenuous now.


From: David Mivasair (Mar 20 2018, at 11:50)

Please, please do not waste your arrest on a symbolic, performative event -- actually get in the way and STOP KM. Many of us have been doing that nearly every day since January. We have caused millions of dollars of loss to KM. THAT is why they filed for the injunction. Anyone who sashays up to the gate, poses for a photo, and gets arrested without stopping a truck or workers van for an hour or two has wasted their power to do that. This struggle is not about seeing how many people get arrested. That makes as much sense as an army seeing how many of its soldiers can get shot. We need to directly, physically intervene in KM's destruction -- and we can. We have. We will. Please join us in doing that. It makes sense to focus on having an impact, not on getting arrested. If you want to join actions with impact, write to or see the Justin Trudeau Brigade FB page. Thank you, Tim, for provide this space for discussion.


From: Jeny Jeeris (Mar 20 2018, at 17:22)

Thank you ,Thank you Tim Bray for this insightful blog .It was so inspirational and I am grateful to you and all the others who are so passionately focussed in protecting a part of Gaia where we as Canadians live. I have donated some money but would have wanted dearly to be present physically like you and the rest who have been wrongfully arrested for protecting the land from 'the foreign entity'.

Is there a meditation group that you know where those who are unable to be physically present can come together and send focussed energy to stop Kinder Morgan?

Jeny Jeeris


From: Kevin Purton (Mar 22 2018, at 02:10)

A history of spills from the Trans Mountain pipeline.

This pipeline is a bad idea. It represents an expansion of the petro-chemical industry when the latest science based information says we should be reducing it.


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