Island Timberlands is expected to start logging this winter on Cortes Island. Their lands run from Coulter Bay in the east to Squirrel Cove in the west and industrial logging on these lands would cut the heart out of Cortes Island. Wolves, cougar and deer will have their territories and travel corridors disrupted, entire watersheds will be affected and some of the last remaining old growth groves with their rare and endangered ecosystems will be destroyed.
That an outside corporation can have such a devastating impact on the island environment and our community is not solely a Cortes Island story. It is a story that is being replayed throughout BC and indeed all over the world.
On September 23rd the Comox Valley Peaceful Direct Action Coalition hosted a town hall meeting entitled “Take Back Our Community”. A crowd of 400 packed the auditorium as Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians and a leading activist for the anti- globalization movement in Canada told us the story of her meeting with the head delegates representing the European Nations who are negotiating with the Harper Government for a free trade deal. Our water, fish, trees and other resources are all on the market table. Multinational companies could soon have access to our common natural wealth and their rapacious greed would trump local government and community will if the globalization players get their way.
She also told us the story of the Vancouver based company Goldcorp’s atrocities in Guatemala where they forced the local farmer residents off their land so the company could open pit mine for gold and pollute the fresh water sources from the cyanide leaching process. http://www.canadians.org/media/water/2011/06-Sep-11.html
Maude Barlow told us that globally, Canadian mining companies have the worst environmental and human rights record. She suggested that right now anyone travelling in Central America would be better off wearing a USA flag rather than the Maple Leaf!
Lawyer Leo McGrady wrote the first Guide to Civil Disobedience in BC. This document has gone through many revisions through the decades and just this week his office has been updating it with the latest protocols for this meeting. He explained that this document outlines the legal ramifications of protest in BC and it has been made available by McGrady’s law firm, free of charge for public use. http://www.mbwlaw.ca/Civil%20Disobedience%20Guide-Comox.pdf
It is essential that the public understand their rights in giving voice to their opposition to government policy. When does Peaceful Direct Action become Civil Disobedience and when does that become a criminal act? Anyone who is considering standing up for the common good of the environment and community should read this document.
The third speaker of the evening was Tarrah Millen, an activist with The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. http://www.seashepherd.org
She has been monitoring the Dolphin slaughter happening in Taiji, Japan and the subject of the film “The Cove”. At 21 years old, she also represents the next generation of activist and she spoke eloquently of the alienation that today’s computer and IPOD connected youth have with the natural world. Tarrah said that what galvanized her into action was when her father asked her that when she looks back at her life from the age of 30, did she make a difference?
The next morning about 150 of us gathered for an “ACT UP!” workshop, to find out about our rights and how to plan our own Peaceful Direct Action events. Even though the event was hosted by the coalition against the proposed coal mines in the Comox Valley, the information was invaluable for planning any sort of action. The culmination of the morning was to plan a peaceful march through downtown Courtenay to the offices of MLA Don McRae and MP John Duncan where we used Post-it notes to stick our own personal messages to the office windows. These notes were later collected up and will be delivered directly to the offices.
For many of us, it was a scary thing to draw attention to ourselves, to be part of a colourful, singing throng and possibly incurring the wrath of inconvenienced motorists stuck at a crosswalk waiting for 150 of us to stream by. But the sun broke through the clouds, cars honked and people waved and came out of shops for a look. No laws were broken and it was a gentle start in the campaign to Take Back Our Communities.
When the law enables a large corporation to rip the heart out of an island and community, destroying rare and sensitive ecosystems and the integrity of the watersheds and wildlife for the benefit of distant shareholders, then that law is unjust. According to Socrates, the original democratic thinker, only just laws are worthy of compliance; otherwise, he said, the citizen has a DUTY to obey a higher authority. According to Leo McGrady, there have been cases where the judiciary system has begun to think the same way. It is time for us to stand as a community, whether you live here, play here in the summer or just love the place; to take back our Cortes Island. For more information on how to get involved go to the Wild Stands website http://wildstands.wordpress.com/