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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

ROTHENBURGER – The time has come to put away anti-pipeline protests

Used with permission – originally posted in CFJC Today

AT WHAT POINT IS IT TIME to stop protesting and accept reality? I have the feeling that even after the last length of pipe of the Trans Mountain expansion is in the ground, somebody will be out there waving placards and vowing to fight it “for as long as it takes.”

Friday, it was revealed that the cost of the expansion has ballooned from $7.4 billion to $12.6 billion, not including the $4.3-billion purchase price. That brought howls from opposition MPs and from the Wilderness Committee environmental group, the latter calling on the federal government in a news release “to cut its losses and abandon the project.”

Said climate campaigner Peter McCartney, “There’s barely any pipe in the ground now but we know legal errors permitting delays, route changes and community resistance will drive up the price tag even further. There’s still time to walk away from this and the sooner the better.”

A couple of days before that, the Federal Court of Appeal decided federal consultations with indigenous groups had met the test. That has not pleased those who oppose the expansion.

One indigenous leader said it was a blow to reconciliation. Others vowed to launch a renewed legal challenge while they plan more protests.

If it has to get ugly, it will get ugly,” said one.

Meanwhile, plans continue for construction. Details of how work camps will be set up along the route — everything from laundry services to bag lunches and Wi-Fi — are in place. The finishing touches are being put on the route.

Just north of Black Pines, foundations were laid for a pumping station before the new round of consultations was ordered. No doubt, work on that will resume along with digging for the pipe sometime this spring.

When construction does get underway in earnest, the protesters will, no doubt, be ready. The Tiny House Warriors, whose members have been arrested in connection with previous protests, vow to expand their activities. You remember previous incidents at a public campground in the North Thompson and at TRU.

The North Thompson route — divided into “spreads” — down through Kamloops will be front and centre of the action. A few clicks from the pumping-station site I mentioned above, crews will excavate a long, deep ditch through several acres in front of my house.

I’d rather they didn’t do it but I have no intention of walking around with placards in front of their excavators. I know many land owners are in the same situation. They’ve chosen to work with Trans Mountain rather than against them despite the disruption it will cause in their lives.

They’re the ones most directly affected, the ones who will have this new pipeline on their doorsteps.

Their issue — having their properties torn up — might seem small in comparison to fossil-fuel consumption and land claims but they’re just as worthy.

There comes a time, surely, to know when to fold ‘em, to know when it’s past time to object.

Many support this expansion because of jobs and economic benefit.

We have a right to peaceful protest in this country. We are allowed to make placards and march around and chant. It’s a right we need to protect, but it’s also a right that must be used carefully.

Obstructing access to public places, throwing paint and ignoring lawful injunctions aren’t effective ways to win support for a cause. Do we really want repeats of the arrests in Burnaby, the Greenpeacers hanging from the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge, or Tiny House Warriors splashing their paint on roads and buildings?

Do we want scenes like the ones playing out at the Coastal GasLink pipeline right-of-way in northern B.C.?

There comes a time to withdraw from the field of battle and go home, having fought the good fight. That comes after legal challenges, peaceful protest and political rhetoric have failed.

We’re at that point now. The pipeline is going to be built — yes, it will be much more expensive than what we were originally told, but is that a surprise, especially with all the delays?

Nobody is going to “walk away.” As they say in the cops-and-robbers TV shows, “we can do this the easy way, or we can do it the hard way”.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He writes five commentaries a week for CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. 

He can be reached at


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