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Rally for Glacier Howser in Kaslo

Rally for Glacier Howser in Kaslo

You will remember learning a couple of weeks ago that Marine Harvest, the principal Norwegian fish farmer despoiling our waters and killing our fish, had filed their factum in their appeal against Alexandra’s Supreme Court Judgment and had not appealed the constitutional finding that only the federal government had jurisdiction over fish farms. There was much rejoicing but many, including me, smelled a rat. Well, a rat there indeed was.

I have been reliably informed that the provincial government has already made the necessary bureaucratic moves to transfer this file back to the tender mercies of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and that Marine Harvest abandoned the constitutional part of their appeal having been assured that nothing would change.

Both the provincial and federal governments, after the Liberals stole the last election with 22% of registered voters, have arrogantly assumed that the battle for our rivers and fish has ended. In fact, it has barely begun.

A death in the family prevented me from attending a meeting in Kaslo on June 23 however my colleague, film maker Damien Gillis was there and reports thusly:

“It was a watershed moment in the campaign to protect BC’s rivers from private river power projects as 1,100 citizens packed  the high school gym in Kaslo, (a town of just 1,000!) to speak out for their  rivers at one of three public comment meetings regarding the environmental assessment application for the largest proposed project in the Kootenays – a 125-megawatt, 5 river diversion referred to as the Glaceir/Howser project, in the spectacular Purcell Wilderness northeast of Kootenay Lake. Not a single one in 3 hours spoke for the project.

The government representatives and proponent Axor Group – a Montreal-based construction giant – had refused myriad requests from citizens and local politicians to hold one of the meetings in nearby Nelson, the unofficial capital of the  region, where access to a much larger population base.  The move clearly backfired – reminding me of the time last year when the promoter of a comparable proposal on the Upper Pitt  River booked a tiny venue in Pitt Meadows only to see hundreds show up, forcing the fire marshall to shut the meeting down and the company to hold another meeting in a larger venue (this time over 1,000 showed up and the following day the Environment Minister pulled  the plug on the project’s controversial transmission line through a  Class A provincial park).  I remarked to a colleague on that night that that was the end of the project – a fatal misstep by the promoter.  I had a similar feeling in Kaslo, though this one is far from over.

Far from being deterred by the denial of a meeting in Nelson, local environmental groups banded together to provide bus transportation and other transportation to get people to the Kaslo meeting – and the result was staggering.  People of all ages came with costumes, banners, marching bands, meticulously researched and passionately articulated speeches – first rallying outside the school before the meeting, then lining up one after another at the microphone to say a resounding “no” to the project and the whole idea of privatizing our rivers for power we don’t need and can’t use (the bulk of this power would come in spring, the time of our lowest demand and highest supply) vowing that this project would be stopped. As local NDP MLA Michelle Mungall told the company to rousing applause, “These people are not uneducated about your project.  They understand it.  They don’t like it.  They don’t want it.”

After a disappointing provincial election for those who care about protecting our rivers, fish and wildlife, this night served to re- energize the movement around the province and showed this battle is really just getting started.  And the people of the Kootenays, famous for their love of nature and commitment to protecting it, are once again leading by example.”

I do not and never have condoned violence but it would be irresponsible of me, after my experience as Official Spokesperson for thr Save Our Rivers Society, not to warn that people around the province are fighting mad about both the rivers and fish farm issue, which are two sides of the same coin. They are not prepared to allow companies with the blessings of the governments they have helped finance, destroy our rivers and wipe out our salmon.

What will happen is all too clear. There will be people lying down in front of dirt movers, followed by a law suit by the companies who will then get injunctions from a court; the usual gimmick employed by environment ravishing companies with the blessing of governments turning civil disobedience into a crime. But, as I assess the situation, it will not be only two very courageous women, Harriet Nahanee and Betty Krawczyk went to jail as happened on the Eagleridge matter, but many to the point of endless protesters all ready to risk the consequences.

Glacier Creek - Kootenays, BC

Glacier Creek - Kootenays, BC

It would be a different matter if the fish farm and rivers issues were simply controversies where one side said they were right and the other side said, no, they were right. The science and the facts are not in issue. Every single independent fisheries scientist to be found confirms Alexandra Morton’s findings on the slaughter of migrating Pink and Chum salmon by lice from fish farms which is only the worst of many environmental assaults made by Marine Harvest and friends.

It cannot be denied that huge environmental damage is done by independent power projects as they dam and divert to produce power for the profit of shareholders of large corporations. It cannot be denied that this independent power can, for the most part, only be produced during the spring run-off when BC Hydro doesn’t need the power. The president of one of the largest companies, Plutonic, has said “one would have to be in a coma” not to know this power was for export. The record is clear that this power has been bought by BC Hydro, on instructions of the Campbell government, at prices double or more the amount BC Hydro can sell it for into the US. Fulfilling these orders, now in excess of $31 BILLION, obviously will drive our electricity bills, both industrial and at home, through the roof and bankrupt BC Hydro.

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