Kitimat’s preparedness for civil disobedience questioned

Douglas Channel Watch questioned councillors as to the town's readiness for protestors against the Northern Gateway Pipelines.

Is Kitimat Council preparing for potential surges in civil disobedience?

That’s what Douglas Channel Watch wants to know, ahead of a decision by the federal government on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines proposal.

DCW’s Murray Minchin asked councillors at the May 26 committee of the whole meeting whether the town has planned for protests.

“Twenty-thousand people have already pledged to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Yinka Dene Alliance against Enbridge. Those numbers will surely grow if Prime Minister Harper approves this project and if Premier Clark rubber stamps the project’s permits,” he said.

Minchin drew parallels to the protests at Clayoquot Sound on west Vancouver Island in the 90s, which drew out thousands of protesters and led to hundreds of arrests.

That, said Minchin, was in the days before Internet even, and is sure the potential is there for even larger protests in the Kitimat area.

“Kitimat is uniquely designed to accommodate thousands of tents in the many large green spaces throughout the community,” he said.

He said citizens have even begun preparing, with the BC Civil Liberties Association holding a recent “Know Your Rights” tour informing people about their rights in dealing with law enforcement.

Douglas Channel Watch knows as much as anyone else as far as when the federal government may or may not approve the Gateway project but such a decision is anticipated this month.

A few days from the meeting when the Sentinel asked for response on the presentation, Mayor Joanne Monaghan simply said that any issue around preparation for protests in Kitimat is a police matter and they would hand over consideration to the local detachment.

Staff Sergeant Phil Harrison said that it’s an issue that is on their radar, but even so they have no indication so far as to whether protests on the project will be large scale or smaller ‘mom and pop’ kinds.

“We certainly realize, especially in the northwest here…once this Enbridge thing starts up again there’s going to be protests and it’s probably going to go throughout the whole summer,” he said. “But large scale protests? I don’t know how large they’re going to be.”

When they do hear more he said they will dialogue with protest leaders to ensure safety.

“We’re a neutral party, we don’t take one side or the other. We’re just there to make sure that the people are safe and property is safe,” said Harrison. “As long as those are looked after, protest to your heart’s content.”