Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘protest

The Time Comes

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The Guardian is hosting a documentary  by Nick Broomfield about the ‘Kingsnorth Six’, the environmental activists who scaled a tower at a coal-fired power station in protest against pollution in 2007. The resulting court case drew support for them from leading scientists, and their subsequent acquittal proved historic and changed government policy.  I would like to embed the video here but apparently I can’t do that so here is the link. The video is about 20 minutes but is well worth your time.

You can also read the story and download the music. 

Al Gore famously said that he did not understand why people were not chaining themselves to power stations. Actually I think that may well be because the elites who control our society have come up with fairly effective strategies for convincing people that protest and direct action are pointless. After all action at Eagleridge Bluffs did nothing to stop an absolutely needless desecration of a unique habitat. And last week Betty Kraczyk once again lost another of her court cases over that protest. The timing of the protest at Kingsnorth was crucial. It came before an election and at a time when the environment seemed to matter to people i.e. before the great financial crash.

The people in this video talk about why they felt they could not wait for an election. “It would have locked us in” they say. Well that is what our decision to continue to widen the freeway will do to us – with similar consequences for greenhouse gas emissions. Interestingly it is only CO2 that they talk about, whereas obviously there is a lot of very nasty stuff indeed going up that chimney. And Jim Hansen came over to defend them.

At one time I would have supported some kind of direct action to try and stop the Gateway – even though I knew it would have been a quixotic gesture at best. And by the time we did do the democratic right thing, the attention of the voters was elsewhere. I very much doubt we could have secured a jury trial (something the English prosecutors must now recognize was a strategic error) but even if we had, the probability of twelve people understanding the legal principle that Kingsnorth established being repeated here is slim to none.

My admiration of this small band of ordinary people is boundless. I know I could not physically have done what they did – but what they risked was much greater. The important point is that they did actually change government policy. I do not think any action – no matter how bold or well timed – could change policy here: while Britain’s “New Labour” may be “Thatcher in trousers” they are still in the social democrat tradition. The BC Liberals – and the federal conservatives – are quite a different matter.  

More sobering for us is not only the Gateway going to proceed but the possibility of some kind of democratic breakthrough has also vanished for another generation at least. For us, the time came, and went: and we missed it. And now we have to live with the consequences. We have governments here that are determined to widen freeways, build a pipeline and a terminal to export oil from the tar sands, expand the production of oil, gas and coal, allow open net salmon farms on wild salmon runs, allow free range to run of the river power no matter what the consequences – and so it goes. The “Best Place on Earth” will be pretty much trashed by the time any change can happen. No matter what else the rest of the world decides to do, for Canada it will be business as usual for the foreseeable future.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 1, 2009 at 9:43 pm


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Come out and support your neighbours–

It’s time to tell the Province:


Attention all! The time has come to bring the Gateway Project crashing down.


The government of BC is trying to tell us that the Gateway Project is a done deal. They are doing preliminary work to prepare for the twinning of the Port Mann bridge and are taking steps towards building the massively destructive South Fraser Perimeter Road. The environmental, social and economic effects of these measures would be tragic and irreversible…for residents north and south of the Fraser, through the Valley, and throughout the region.

However, the Province still does not have federal approval for either of these projects, and no contracts have been signed with the companies that will actually do the work. With the Provincial election months away,and federal and municipal elections happening as we speak, politicians are trying to paint themselves “green” and hoping that Gateway will NOT become a big smelly public election issue, so that they can move ahead on it after the elections. So, NOW is the perfect time to bring Gateway back to the front pages – to draw attention to how disgusting the idea really is and to show the region that ALL of our communities, along with environmental groups, economists, decisions-makers and especially VOTERS, stand together to say NO TO GATEWAY.

Citizen action has stopped freeways here before. We can do it again.


On Saturday September 27 there will be a giant rally in a park at the foot of the Port Mann bridge, at the point where the SFPR and an expanded highway #1 would intersect. This symbolic location will be a staging ground for bringing together people concerned about all the aspects of the foolish and backward proposal we call Gateway.

The Rally is at Robin Park in Birdland, in Surrey. Birdland, at the foot of the Port Mann Bridge,  is one of the communities that stands to be most devastated by the proposed 80km and hour, 6-lane SFPR highway to accommodate all the new the diesel trucks coming off the expanded Delta Port. Robin Park would be paved over by the SFPR if allowed to proceed and the highway would drastically reduce the quality of life in this neighbourhood immediately.


Saturday September 27, 1pm
Robin Park, Birdland, Surrey

Featuring inspiration by community leaders, environmental activists, elected officials, and YOU.
Bring signs and banners and drums, tell your neighbours, bring your family and friends! Together WE CAN STOP THIS.
Download a flyer at, to copy and distribute to your neighbours – and check that site for more details.
There will be a FREE SHUTTLE BUS from the Gateway SkyTrain Station to the rally. Please carpool, take transit, or organize buses to the rally if you can!


Concerned citizens in Surrey and Delta have joined forces to produce lawn signs (see to illustrate their frustration. The signs say WE DON’T WANT THESE TRUCKIN’ FREEWAYS!  These will be available by donation at the Rally, or feel free to make your own and start distributing them to your neighbours. For more information about Lawn Signs contact ben (at)


See you all out on Saturday, September 27, to witness the historic beginning of THE END OF GATEWAY!
…pass it on…


Ben West | Healthy Communities Campaigner
Wilderness Committee | Canada’s largest membership-based wilderness preservation organization
ben (at)
w: 604-683-8220 | c: 604-710-5340 |

Written by Stephen Rees

September 15, 2008 at 7:27 am

Posted in Gateway

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Communique from Bear Mountain Tree Sit

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The following message is passed along as I received it.  I do not know what was removed, or who by, at the [snip] mark

We are the people who have occupied the forest on the site of the proposed ‘Bear Mountain Interchange.’ We are people from Victoria, Langford, Brentwood Bay, Sidney, Sooke, and Colwood. We are the southern Vancouver Island community, but more than anything else we are people concerned about our future generations ability to live and breathe on this planet.

Our basic reasons for being here are simple. The government structures established in colonial Canadian society are unacceptable. The present political structure is currently enabling our managerial society to exploit the land for the benefit of car culture. This is indeed an interesting part of human history as we possess unique opportunities like never before: We can continue to develop in a nineteen fifties style mentality and perpetuate the global economic paradigm that is melting the glaciers and putting holes in the ozone.

Or, we can learn to reduce our ecological footprint, we can learn to live sustainably. We need to consume to survive but we do not need to rape our planet. Let there be no mistake, the petroleum economy is killing us. At this point in our development we should be protecting what little there is left of our intact eco-systems. We should be limiting the growth of our cities, not carving out mountaintops and paving them over with highways. It has been alleged in recent communication with the City of Langford that we are opposed to the interchange simply because there has not been a proper archaeological survey of the proposed path of the interchange. [snip]

While this is assertion is not wrong, our objections run much deeper. We are opposed to the political and economic system that places private property interests, and short term financial gain over everything else. We oppose the management society dominated by car culture that ceaselessly continues to grow and dominate the earth.

We demand thorough questioning of these values: That one can own land and therefore determine its fate for all future generations; developers must not be allowed to dictate our future.

To those who would destroy the earth for profit: Expect resistance on all fronts.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 7, 2008 at 11:47 am

Al Gore is coming to Vancouver

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“An Inconvenient Truth” has been a great success, and Al is still touring, doing his slide show. He will be attending a reception at the Westin Bayshore Hotel. Gore will be introduced by PREMIER GORDON CAMPBELL, after which he will present “An Inconvenient Truth” to an audience of Board of Trade and Industry executives. DAVID SUZUKI is Special Guest.

Gordo has, of course tried to show that he can be the greenest premier by announcing a great target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But the biggest challenge we face here is transport – it is the biggest single source of ghg and the hardest to reduce. And even the Province now admits that the Gateway program will lead to a significant increase in emissions. So why is it still on the agenda? Why is the (completely bogus) Environmental Assessment going on? Why are they pretending to consult the public when they have no intention of cancelling a stupid, retrograde step that will destroy everything this region has tried to achieve for the past 25 years. And, by the way, why doesn’t Gordo remember writing the Livable Regional Plan?

There is going to be a rally outside the Westin Bayshore. See you there.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 23, 2007 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Gateway

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Gateway Consultation Process

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There are currently open houses being held around the region as part of the Environmental Assessment process. There has been some discussion on the lrc-general list as to whether it is worthwhile participating

…from my point of view (and I have a Ph. D. in Community & Regional Planning and have taught Planning, Development and Policy for three years at SFU’s Urban Studies Masters Program, currently teaching Urban Sustainable Development there), the public consultation process of the MoT has been nothing but a sham. There is a classic “ladder of citizen participation” designed by Sherry Arnstein to evaluate degrees of citizen participation in public processes that I and many instructors of planning use to illustrate democratic public process. On this ladder Kevin Falcon’s MoT’s Process falls on the bottom step of the ladder (which Arnstein calls manipulation and non-participation). In the ministry’s own words, “from letters, petitions or other submissions that only state a position for or against a given project cannot generally be considered”. Thus, we as citizens have no real participation in making a decision NOT to approve this Gateway Project, but merely to comment on improving or adding bike lanes or slightly shifting on or off ramps, etc. As I said, what a sham! However, I do think people should go to the open houses and tell them what a sham this process is, and what a shame for democracy. So, I am going to do that myself at the Vancouver Open House on Tuesday, 5-9 PM at the Italian Cultural Centre.

Mike Carr

I cannot say I agree with Mike that going to these affairs does any good. It is not about should the project go ahead as Falcon has said that it is a “done deal”. That deal excluded anyone who might have a legitimate interest in it except those who stood to profit from it. The Deltaport expansion is not part of the process either, even though that is said to be one of the drivers for both Port Mann 2 and the South Fraser Perimeter Road. In fact, it is clear now that part of the SFPR is to be funded by the PM2 tolls! Not only that but the Liberals out manoeuvred the opposition by tying the port expansion into the Tsawassen Treaty proposal. Now no-one could argue that the TFN need a treaty – after all the first stage of the port expansion destroyed their traditional way of life with no compensation. And we have not had much progress in the treaty process to date, so understandably Carol James did not want the NDP to oppose it. Even though the process has been highly suspect to say the least.

When the consultation process is so clearly flawed, we should not participate in it, because that lends the thing credibility that it does not deserve. I will not take part, but I will be part of the protests next weekend. And I hope you will be too. Because when they patronize and marginalize us – and set up bogus “astroturf” groups to appear to speak for the proposal and run ludicrously obvious biased “surveys” – we have no other course of action than to turn to protest. Which is, in human history, the only way that progressive change has ever been brought about. Resistance stopped the freeway through Chinatown and downtown. It will stop this one too.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 22, 2007 at 5:52 pm