Opinion Column


Battle over Clayoquot Sound shows the power of peaceful protests

By Laila Yuile, City Hall

Clayoquot Sound near Tofino, B.C. (QMI AGENCY FILE PHOTO)

Clayoquot Sound near Tofino, B.C. (QMI AGENCY FILE PHOTO)


Columnists Laila Yuile and Brent Stafford battle over the issues of the day. The winner of last week’s duel on Russia was Brent at 65%.

This week’s topic:

Is civil disobedience an acceptable way to stop the Northern Gateway Pipeline?

Growing up in a rural area just north of Prince George — in a family that relied on both the land and the forestry industry to survive — was a precious gift from my parents. Admittedly, I didn’t fully realize this until I was an adult with children of my own, and felt an immense pressure to leave them with the ability to enjoy as much of the province as I did growing up.

We spent summers exploring wild country filled with hidden lakes, fishing, hunting and gathering in tune with the seasons — a way of life many still live today in many areas of B.C.

Read Brent Stafford's column

However, on a visit home during the early 1990s while the “War in the Woods” of Clayoquot Sound played out for the world to see, my dad and I argued over “those bloody tree-huggers.” He defended logging, while I was adamant that trees as old as time should not be cut. It was a sticky point for us until years later, faced with the results of mismanaged and poorly crafted forest policies, he began to see the writing on the wall.

Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.

The Clayoquot Sound battle was an epic example of lasting change that was a direct result of civil disobedience. Faced with the prospect of ancient coastal rainforests being logged, hundreds of protesters blocked logging trucks. In the end, they prevented the forest from being cut.

The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project has often been referred to as the next “War in the Woods.” The route travels through some of the most inaccessible, pristine wilderness in this province. A spill puts not only our lands, wildlife and coastal waters at risk, but also the way of life for many British Columbians. All the technology in the world can’t account for mechanical failure or human error and Enbridge’s record is hardly glowing. We simply can’t take the risk.

From Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr., civil disobedience has changed our world. In the words of Howard Zinn: “Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.”

When all political and legal options to halt this project are exhausted, non-violent civil disobedience will be the only recourse for the legions who stand united in opposition to this pipeline.

Laila Yuile is an independent writer, blogger and political commentator. You can read her blog at lailayuile.com.


Who wins this week's duel on civil disobedience?

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