What would it take for you to hit the streets, placard in hand, to stand up for or protest something you really believe in?
A couple of protests have made headlines in Canada in recent days. An estimated 200,000 university students took over the streets of Montreal last week in opposition to planned tuition hikes. Closer to home, in Vancouver on Monday (March 26) hundreds of people gathered at the art gallery to speak out against proposed Enbridge and Kinder Morgan oil pipelines in B.C.
We’re not sure if any Whistlerites were among the crowd carrying signs that read “no tankers on our coast” and “no more spills,” but there has been local opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal and other similar projects. Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden stated during a public council meeting in January that she would “march in the streets” against the Northern Gateway project, and other locals have publicly expressed their opposition.
If you’ve got concerns about the expansion of oil pipelines on B.C.’s coast, what have you done about it?
Perhaps it’s simply a numbers game, but we are struck by the contrast in media coverage of the two demonstrations. The Montreal protest made national headlines and received extensive coverage on the CBC. Conversely, it seems the mainstream, corporate media mostly ignored the Vancouver rally.
An article in the Province newspaper pegs Monday’s turnout at just 300 people, while CKNW estimates that 1,000 people attended. We can’t find any coverage of the protest by the CBC and other big-name Vancouver media outlets.
So what gives? Sure, 200,000 students halting traffic in downtown Montreal, and continuing, smaller student protests since, is bigger news than 1,000 First Nations members, environmentalists and others marching outside Enbridge’s Vancouver offices. Isn’t it? Interesting that the CBC covered a protest in Vancouver earlier this month where a reported “hundreds” of people called for an inquiry into the so-called robocall election scandal.
But what would it take to get 200,000 or more laid-back Vancouverites and others in B.C. to stand up against the oil projects? Or any other cause or issue, for that matter?
The closest we came to those kinds of numbers in B.C. was a near-general strike in 2004, which started with 43,000 striking hospital workers and stopped short of more than 200,000 workers striking against the provincial government, according to the Libertarian Communist Federation (libcom.org).
You might think we’re not really the placard-wielding types here in Whistler, but local teachers recently took to the Village with signs and banners to raise awareness about the ongoing labour dispute. And local dog lovers rallied here in February 2011 to stand against the famous sled dog slaughter.
Not that protests are the only way to get governments and other powers-that-be to sit up and take notice.
While the asphalt plant remains at Cheakamus Crossing, those agitating for its removal over the last two-plus years have shown just how effective it can be to engage with a municipal council and take other steps to fight for change.
Yes, it takes effort, time and the risk of putting yourself out there to stand up for injustices or push back against governments and corporate giants. And we’re talking about more than just sharing a link or pressing the “Like” button on Facebook.
Whether it’s oil pipelines, some other environmental issue, the Occupy movement or another cause, what would it take to bring our your inner activist? Surely we could all stand to forego a few hours of TV or computer time to help make a positive difference.
- Jennifer Miller