Zoe Blunt at the fence

(c) 2015

I get love letters. I get death threats. Out here in Canada’s Wild West, cold cash and brute force have mostly succeeded in subduing the land and anyone who tries to defend it.

Until now. The bullies have met their match.


Highlights from the archive:

I’m No Action Hero
Hate Mail from Haters
Let Them Eat Condos
Great Bear Rainforest: The Clearcut Truth
Kwakiutl: We are Going to Start Fighting
Interview with the Earth Liberation Front
Squat or Die
Why My Dad Killed Himself
How to Oppress Men
Derrick Jensen: This Abusive Civilization
First Nations Activist Dies After Release from Jail
Earth Day Mini-Riot
Vancouver Island Hippies: Top Security Threat for 2010?
Assplode Therapy
Road Kill: Highway Construction Blocked by Protesting “Raccoons”
Live Nude Animals
Dumb Asses Run Our Province

More about me here.

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To Save a Rainforest

CathedralGrove save walbran
“I’m in love. With salmon, with trees outside my window, with baby lampreys living in sandy streambottoms, with slender salamanders crawling through the duff. And if you love, you act to defend your beloved.” — Derrick Jensen

Pacific Coast people have always defended the places we love. Most of British Columbia is unceded indigenous land, because native peoples never abandoned, sold, or traded their land away. Many fought fiercely against the power of the British Empire. Cannonballs are sometimes still found embedded in centuries-old trees along the shore – leftovers from the gunboats that tried to suppress indigenous uprisings in the late 1800s.

Photo: Nuu-chah-nulth war canoes by Edward Curtis, BC Historical Society

Nuu-chah-nulth war canoes (Edward Curtis, BC Historical Society)

A century later, descendants of the settlers have joined forces to battle corporate raiders. In the 1980s and 1990s, a groundswell of eco-organizing brought thousands of people together to stop clearcut logging in the cathedral forests of Vancouver Island’s Pacific coast, where timber companies were busy converting ten-thousand-year-old ecosystems into barren stumpfields and pulp for paper.

During those years, police arrested hundreds in Clayoquot Sound and the Walbran Valley at mass civil disobedience protests. Young and old alike sat in the middle of the logging roads and linked arms. The resistance went far beyond the peaceful and symbolic: unknown individuals spiked thousands of trees to make the timber dangerous to sawmills. Shadowy figures burned logging bridges and vandalized equipment. The skirmishes went on for over a decade.

Clayoquot Sound, 1993

Clayoquot Sound, 1993

We won a few battles. Several coastal valleys are protected as parks. But many of them have been logged. And now the logging companies are coming back for the valleys that remain unprotected.

One of the worst corporate offenders is Teal Jones, the company currently bulldozing the majestic Walbran Valley, two hours west of Victoria, BC. They are laying waste to a vibrant rainforest for short-term profit, without the consent of the Pacheedaht First Nation, the Qwa-ba-diwa people, or anyone else outside of government and industry. Teal Jones does not even own the land; it was taken from indigenous people in the name of the BC government sixty years ago.

Pacheedaht territory

Pacheedaht territory, Vancouver Island BC

This year, the elected leadership of the Pacheedaht First Nation threw its support behind building a longhouse in the contested valley, on the land that has sustained them for countless generations. At the same time, locals are pushing back against the logging by occupying roads and logging sites. This in spite of the company’s court order telling police to arrest anyone who blocks their work. Forest defenders are regrouping, but the destruction continues.

Women for the Walbran and Forest Action Network are ramping up to break the deadlock. We’re hosting direct action trainings to share skills and develop strategies for defending ecosystems. The agenda includes tactics like non-violent civil disobedience, occupying tree-tops, and backcountry stealth. We’ll have info on legal rights, indigenous solidarity, and more.

Tree-sit occupation, Langford BC. (Photo: Ingmar Lee)

Our adversary, Teal Jones, is a relatively small company. Its owners are relying on the police to protect their “right” to strip public forests on Pacheedaht traditional territory. Profit margins are slim, and lawyers are expensive. The forest defenders are poor, but we have community support and a wide array of strategies for beating Teal Jones at its own game. Every tool in the box: we can launch a mass civil disobedience campaign, carry out hit-and-run raids on costly machines, coordinate a knockout legal strategy, or deliver the tried-and-true “death by a thousand cuts” with a combination of tactics.

However it plays out, Teal Jones is on borrowed time in the Walbran. But that’s cold comfort when the machines are mowing down thousand-year-old forests like grass.

Photo: Walbran Central

The forest defenders do have certain advantages. On the practical side, we’re investing in the gear and training that will provide the leverage to win. We have a legal defense fund that’s both a war chest for litigation and a safety net for those who risk their freedom on the front lines. But our best defense is the thousands of people who love this land like life itself. Many live nearby and visit every chance they get, others came once and fell in love, and untold numbers have yet to see the Walbran’s wildlife firsthand, but they hold it in their hearts.

Photo: Stasher BC

Those who love the land are a community. We are the organizers, sponsors, and volunteers who drive this movement forward. Everyone who shares these values can be a part of it; no contribution is too small. We’re going all-out to defend the forests, rivers, bears, cougars, otters, and eagles of the Walbran Valley. They sustain us and we give back by fighting to protect them.

Walbran River, the heart of the Walbran Valley, spring 2016. (Photo: Walbran Central)

Remember: Forest Defenders Are Heroes! 

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The Courage to Speak Truth to Power

speak truthThe more we challenge the status quo, the more those with power attack us. Fortunately, social change is not a popularity contest.

Activism is a path to healing from trauma. It’s taking back our power to protect ourselves and our future.

From a spoken-word presentation in Victoria BC, 2009

Thank you for the opportunity to launch my speaking career. Some of you may know me as a writer and an advocate for social and environmental justice. Others may know me as a cat-sitter, odd-jobber, and temp slave. (Laughter)

I knew when I started out as an activist that I would never be a millionaire and I was right. But I have a certain freedom and flexibility that your average millionaire might envy.

The market demand for social justice advocates is huge right now. It’s a growth industry. And the job security is fantastic – there is no shortage of urgent issues demanding our attention. Experience is not necessary, people come to activism at every age and stage in their lives. It’s that easy!

OK, it’s not actually that easy. (Laughter) But it is a fascinating time to be a “radical.”

There is a great tradition of courage and action here on Vancouver Island. There is potential for even greater future action, so we are doing everything we can to nurture that potential. Building community, linking up networks, teaching, learning, coming together, healing – this is all part of the movement.

For most of my adult life, I suffered from social phobia. I was afraid of authority, filled with self-doubt, paralyzed by anxiety. Getting interviewed live on national TV doesn’t make that go away. But hiding under the covers doesn’t cure it either. So my insecurities and I just have to get out there and do our best.

What compels me is the knowledge that we’re rewriting the script – the one that says, “You don’t make a difference. It is what it is, you can’t fight city hall, the big guys always win.” We can remember that we are not powerless. And when we choose to stand up, it is a huge adrenaline rush – bigger than national TV or swinging from a tree top. That’s the reward – that flood of excitement that comes from taking back our power and using it effectively, for the collective good.

It helps to get love letters from friends and strangers who want to thank me for standing up for what’s important, and who get inspired to take action themselves.

But it’s not all warm fuzzies and celebratory toasts. We face backlash and punishment and threats to our lives and safety.

I led a workshop for new activists this year, and I asked them, “Who are your heroes?”

They named a dozen. Gandhi. Martin Luther King. Tommy Douglas. Rosa Parks. These folks led amazing, heroic movements, but our discussion focused on the ferocious backlash they faced. British media reports on Gandhi when he was challenging the monarchy had the same tone as white Southerners responding to Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus. It was vicious. “Uppity and no-good” were some of the polite terms. They were targeted with hate speech and death threats. We hear the same now about whistleblowers. And feminists and environmentalists. It can be terrifying.

The more we challenge the status quo, the more the entrenched powers attack us. The more effective we are, the more they attack us. As Gandhi said: “First the ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”

The fight for justice and liberation won’t be won by popularity contests.

Every “hero” finds her own way of dealing with the counter-attacks. Some laugh it off. Some pray, some cry on their friends shoulders. Some go on the counter-offensive, some compose songs, some write long academic papers deconstructing their opponents’ logic. The important thing is, they deal with it, and they don’t give up.

We take care of each other as a community. Because we are all so fragile. Because there is so much trauma and despair everywhere and it affects everyone. But inside that despair, in all of us, there is a solid core of love for the earth and the knowledge that we can act in self-defense. That’s where we find strength.

It’s humbling to note that the economic downturn has done more to preserve habitat and stop climate change than all of our conservation efforts of the past years combined. We take responsibility for recycling and turning down the thermostat, but who is responsible for the scale of destruction from the Tar Sands? That project is the equivalent of burning all of Vancouver Island to the ground. It negates everything we could hope to do as individuals to fight climate change.

How do we deal with that horrible reality? I couldn’t, for the first year of the campaign. I didn’t want to look at the pictures and hear the news stories about the water and air pollution and the rates of illness among the Lubicon Cree people. The scale and the horror of it were too great.

I’ve worked on toxics campaigns and I dread them. Old-growth campaigns are inspiring, because where the action is, the forest is still standing – it’s beautiful and magical and we’re defending nature’s cathedral from the bulldozers and chainsaws. The good earth is here, and the evil destructive forces are over there. It’s clearcut, so to speak. But when a toxics campaign is underway, the damage has been done. The landscape is poisoned and people have cancer and spontaneous abortions, and the birds, the fish, the animals, are dead and dying. It is a scene of despair.

If it sounds traumatizing, it is. And we are all traumatized.

Look at this landscape – concrete, pavement, bricks and mortar, toxic chemicals, but underneath, the earth is still there. We have whole ecosystems slashed and burned without so much as a by-your-leave. We’ve lost whole communities of spruce, marmots, murrelets, arbutus, sea otters, and geoducks. These are terrible losses.

And we humans suffer on every level. Is there anyone here who doesn’t know someone who’s had cancer? Who hasn’t seen the damage caused by diseases of civilization? Who here hasn’t been forced to do without for lack of money? Are there any women here who have never been sexually harassed or raped or assaulted?


Something fundamental has been taken from us here. How do we deal with these losses?

I consider myself fortunate because after a lifetime of abuse from my family and male partners, I participated in six months of Trauma Recovery and Empowerment at the Battered Women’s Support Centre in Vancouver.

And I got to know the stages of trauma recovery:
Acknowledge the loss, understand the loss, grieve the loss.

And the stages of grief:
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

These steps are a natural and necessary response to the loss of a loved one, and also to the loss of our humanity and the places we love.

There are people living in national sacrifice zones, people who burn with determination to make change. They are angry, and they have a right to be. I am angry because I’m not dead inside, in spite of all they’ve done to me. Anger is part of the process of grief, and it’s useful. It grabs us by the heart when people are hurting the ones we love.

For me, part of the process is taking action – rejecting helplessness and taking back power. Stopping the bleeding and comforting the wounded.

I fall in love with places and I want to protect them. I fell in love with the Elaho Valley and some of the world’s biggest Douglas Firs in 1997. That forest campaign was a pitched battle, far from the urban centers, against one of the biggest logging companies on the coast at that time.

In the third year of the campaign, I walked into my favourite campsite shaded by majestic cedars. I saw the flagging tape and the clearcut boundaries laid out, and I realized it was all doomed. I could see the end result in my mind’s eye: stumps and slash piles as far as the eye could see, muddy wrecked creeks, a smoldering ruin.

I realized no one was going to come and save this place – not Greenpeace or the Sierra Club, no MP’s private member’s bill, or whatever petition or rally was being planned back in the city. It was as good as gone. All we had to do was stand aside and do nothing, and this incredible, irreplaceable forest would be just a sad memory.

But after that realization, and after the despair that followed, I had a profound sense of liberation. If it is all doomed, then anything we do to resist is positive, right? Anything that stops the logging, even for a minute, or slows it down, or costs the company money, or exposes it to public embarrassment and hurts its market share, is positive – it keeps the future alive for that one more minute, one more hour, one more day. It was a revelation.

Acceptance, for me, meant being able to act to defend the place I loved. It meant standing up to the bullies and refusing to let them take anything more from me.

In the third year of the Elaho campaign, it was just a handful of people rebuilding the blockades, defying the court orders and continuing the resistance. We didn’t quit when the police came, or when we were called “terrorists” and “enemies of BC.” We didn’t quit even after 100 loggers came and burned our camp to the ground and put three people in the hospital.

The attack was a horror show. People were in shock. But a crew was back with a new camp five days later. By then, the raid was national news. And our enemies had nothing left to throw at us. The loggers didn’t know what to do next. Short of killing us, what more could they do?

We had called their bluff.

We didn’t know about the negotiations going on behind the scenes. We didn’t realize that we had already cost the loggers more than they could hope to recoup by logging the entire rest of the valley. (They were operating on very slim profit margins.) We found out when the announcement came that the logging would stop. And it never started again. We won. Now the Elaho Valley is protected by the Squamish Nation — and by provincial legislation — as a Wild Spirit Place.

The violence of the mob showed the level of fear and desperation of the losing side. It was their weapon of last resort and it didn’t work. And they lost.

In the fourth year of the stand for SPAET – the campaign to stop the development and protect the caves, the garry oaks, and the wetlands on Skirt Mountain. We faced the same tactics – we were called “terrorists,” and in 2007, the developers sent 100 goons to rough up people at a small rally. And again, most of our comrades are still in shock. There’s only handful of us still bashing away at the next phase of development.

We are winning. The other side has thrown everything they have at us and they have nothing left.

There are still sacred sites on SPAET. The cave is still there, buried under concrete.

Meanwhile, the developer’s little empire fell apart, either because of our boycott campaign, bad karma, or because it was operating on the slimmest of shady margins. We took the next phase of development to court. Our campaign, and the economic downturn, turned out to be enough to scare off investors and cancel the project, at least for now.

This work is difficult, painful, and traumatic. So the first step to courage is to acknowledge that pain and loss. We need to name what has been taken from us. Then we can cry, and rage, and grieve. We can name the ones who are doing the damage. We can reach down inside and find our core strength and our truth, and use it. That’s where courage comes from.

Martin Luther King said, “Justice shall roll down like waters, righteousness like a mighty stream.” But I’m impatient. I want to see that mighty stream now – what’s the hold-up? What’s holding us back, when there’s so much to do?

We’re not heroes, actually – none of us is smart enough, or tough enough, or connected enough, to take this on alone. We’re don’t have superpowers. We are only human, we struggle and suffer and sometimes, we win.

Some folks assume I have some vision, some over-arching game plan, some magic power that gives me an edge. Nope. Most of the time I am just flailing around on the political landscape, taking potshots when I see an opening. Sometimes it’s intuition, and it pays off. When we are right, it is amazing. When we win, it sets a precedent for the future.

In order for evil to prevail, all that’s required is for good people to do nothing. Don’t be one of those good people.

Activism is part of the healing. It’s taking back our power to protect ourselves and our future.

Thank you for the opportunity to tell these stories today.


Image via the Speak Truth the Power Project.

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Filed under Environment, Feminism, Hate Mail, Legal Battles, Love Letters, Misogyny, Politics, Zoe Blunt

The Return of the Wingnut

The Wingnut Lawsuit at the House of Solidarity

The Wingnut Lawsuit at the House of Solidarity

Heads up! After a year and a half of sulking, the wingnut is back and stupider than before. I’m in court this month because this Libertarian dude is still trying to sue me for things I wrote on this blog three years ago. He’s not doing a very good job of it.

It started in 2012 when the wingnut and his buddies invited a well-known white supremacist to speak at a rally at the BC Legislature. We showed up to counterprotest. A few of the nuts confronted us and their feelings got hurt.

Now this dude is trying to sue me for libel in Supreme Court. For this round, he’s filed over one thousand pages of documents, plus a half dozen DVDs and minidiscs. Everything I’ve published in the last ten years, my blog, Twitter, everything other people have written about me, private messages hacked from a friend’s email account (luckily mine was more secure), and police reports from all the times he tried to get them to arrest me.

This guy also claims the police should arrest me for “hate crimes” against him as a white male.  I wasn’t aware he had made police complaints until he brought them to the court. It’s astounding.

I’m in court tomorrow. Stay tuned for the report back about the hearing. If the court won’t strike his claim, I will have to go to trial with the loon. I’m representing myself.


UPDATE August 4: the hearing was only half-finished in June. The wingnut has the opportunity to present his side next but so far he won’t confirm a date to do that. My next trick would be compelling him to meet his date with destiny.

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Privileged dudes litmus test

Privilege dudeDealing with male sociopaths in social justice and media collectives

Privilege-denying dudes. They’re everywhere, even in our social justice collectives and alternative media groups. Some are dangerous, some are just enablers. In the last ten years, I’ve probably butted heads with all of them.

Got privilege-denying dudes? It’s not always obvious, because they know the language of anti-oppression. The difference is, they use it to manipulate others and hide their motives. Bad faith is the key indicator that your dude is a privilege-denying piece of shit.

But privilege-denying dudes have their uses. The worst offenders – the violent sociopaths – provide a handy litmus test. They draw out the smarmy suckups who chime in to defend the asshole’s “right” to abuse women. Without this support, the sociopaths wouldn’t be half as successful at what they do.

Simply removing an abuser won’t cure a PDD infestation, because privilege-deniers quickly turn any group into a political wasteland dedicated to preserving the patriarchal status quo above all else. Sometimes, it’s just better to walk away.

The litmus test instantly shows whether your sincere-sounding dude is actually a sexist jerkoff, and whether your white-male-dominated collective deserves another minute of your time.

In Vancouver, my litmus test was this misogynist woman-beater who stalked me for about a year. He came to my workplace, he came to my volunteer gigs, he would appear suddenly on the street and tackle me. I wasn’t the only one he attacked; several of us were getting the same treatment around the same time.

After the third or fourth time the stalker knocked me down, my world divided in two. Places where he was banned (there were several), I could relax and hang out. Places where he was welcome, I had to avoid. I started carrying a weapon everytime I left the house. I was wound tight, watching for him, waiting for him to hit me again. I was pissed right off.

It was no secret this guy was going around attacking women. He did it in public places, in front of lots of witnesses, and the women he attacked complained loudly. But the privilege-denying dudes who acted like they were in charge of certain social justice and media groups did nothing when he showed up.

One group of privileged dudes explained to me that their hands were tied. There was nothing they could do about the stalker. They couldn’t exclude him, because that would violate his rights. This is an inclusive space, they assured me. We can’t exclude people. But if you don’t feel comfortable, you can leave. I did.

In another collective, the alpha males went out of their way to enable the stalker. They invited him to meetings and to a large public event where I was volunteering. I will never forget their faces when the stalker showed up and made a beeline right to me. They enjoyed it. They watched every move, grinning and baring their teeth. They taunted me and egged him on. That was enough of that; I was out of there.

In a way, I should be grateful to that stalker. If it wasn’t for him, I might still be working with those ignorant suckholes. The stalker is a sociopath, and I don’t expect anything better from him. But it was a shock to witness men I thought of as comrades shitting all over me and the other women in the collective. (The stalker started harassing them too, and they all left soon after I did.)  Solidarity, for these assholes, meant using women however they liked, and mocking us when we complained.

Fast-forward to now: A 66-year-old political candidate was convicted of sexually assaulting a young teen. This creep has a huge hate-on for me because I told the world about his criminal record. So I’ve made him my new litmus test.

A self-styled “media activist” in Victoria invites me to work as a volunteer fundraiser for  “his” collective. When I ask, media dude says the creep isn’t a group member yet, but he’s welcome to join anytime he wants. It wouldn’t be ethical to exclude him, you see.

What about adopting policies to protect volunteers? No, no, never mind that – what dude-man really wants to hear is more about the harassment, please. Dates, times, witnesses, detailed descriptions of exactly what the creep said and did, and physical evidence (tape recordings, if possible). He needs to know all this so he can judge me. It’s for my own good. After all, he explains, I’m probably just paranoid. And if I’m so afraid of the creep, why don’t I just call the police? I tell him to fuck off and find someone else to exploit.

A longtime peace activist at a mini-conference in Vancouver explains that they hired the creep before they knew he raped a child. But they can’t exclude him now – it’s illegal to discriminate against people, you know. Does the peace group have a human-rights policy? A safe-space policy? Any procedures to address harassment? No, they don’t.

This activist isn’t a dude – she’s a woman in her 60s. Surprise!

By her logic, if Baby Doc Duvalier shows up, she’s obligated to let him join. If the Young Conservatives, StormFront and the entire Canadian Armed Forces want to participate in this peace group, they would be welcome too. Right, dudette?

It’s frustrating to explain the blindingly obvious to someone who should know better, but I’m giving it the old school try:

What I’m hearing from your letter is that you believe the group can’t “legally” exclude someone they would prefer not to work with. But any group, non-profit, club, committee, or ad hoc organization has the right to choose who to admit as volunteers and who to exclude. It is not discrimination to say “we don’t want to work with someone who raped a child and harassed another woman.”

Associations like [this peace group] are run on mutual-aid principles by like-minded people, and much of the work revolves around making principled decisions about which individuals, groups, and causes to support.

The courts have long held that “collegial” groups like yours have this right. In fact that’s a major purpose of such groups — to bring together like-minded people. It might be helpful to discuss this point with a lawyer or human rights advocate if it is not clear.

I follow up with the suggestion that “inclusion” means creating spaces and policies that support diversity and human rights, not providing a safe haven for creeps. That was five months ago. I’m still waiting for a response.

At this point, I have some questions for the privileged dudes (and dudettes): What the hell do you think we’re here for? Is this a social justice movement or a mutual admiration society? Is our movement so desperate that you need to recruit any sexist idiot and child-molesting dirtbag who comes along? Aren’t you concerned that this predator might be using you to find more victims? Are you so afraid of rocking the boat that you won’t even try to protect your own volunteers? What kind of “activists” are you?

Have you heard of the global war on women? Are you aware that hundreds of thousands of women are murdered by husbands, fathers, boyfriends, and strangers every year? Did you know that millions more women and girls are raped, molested, and terrorized? That gender violence is a weapon of war and social control? Do you believe that peace and justice includes peace and justice for women too?

Do you think being “nice” and “inclusive” is going to stop this shit? It won’t. You know what stops it? Stopping it. Let me show you how.


Dudes who feel the need to jump in with a privilege-denying comeback should consider the following:

1.      Dude, I don’t give a fuck if I’ve offended you. I really don’t.

2.      Don’t tell me I’m giving feminists a bad name. In fact, don’t tell me anything about feminism, jackass.

3.      I don’t need to forgive anyone, and I’m not going to apologize. The abusers are the ones who need to apologize — to me, and to their other  victims. Until they demonstrate some real remorse and a change in attitude, they’re my enemies.

4.      I’m not going to shut up about this bullshit, ever.

From Vancouver Media Coop, January 2011.

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Battleground BC

Protect the land and each other when push comes to shove

In every part of the province, industry is laying waste to huge areas of wilderness – unceded indigenous land – for mining, fracking, oil, and hydroelectric projects. This frenzy of extraction is funneling down to the port cities of the Pacific and west to China.

BC's gas projects

BC’s gas projects. Click for a full-size image. Courtesy of Watershed Sentinel.

In 2014, Prime Minister Harper stripped away all legal recourse for environmental defense by signing a new resource trade agreement with China that trumps Canadian and local laws and indigenous rights. Not even a new government has the power to change this agreement for 31 years.

For mainstream environmental groups (and my lawyers, who were in the middle of a Supreme Court challenge to the trade agreement when Harper pre-empted them), it is a total rout. We are used to losing, but not like this.

The only light on the horizon is the rise of direct resistance. BC’s long history of large-scale grassroots action (and effective covert sabotage) is the foundation of this radical resurgence.

But the question hangs over us like smoke from an approaching wildfire. How to stop it? The courts are hogtied. The law has no power. The people have no agency. This government simply brushes them aside and carries on. We get it. We’ve had our faces rubbed in it.


This is activist failure. The phase of the movement when most of the public is already on side, when we have filed all the lawsuits, taken to the streets in every city, overflowed every public hearing, and uttered every legal threat we can muster – and the end result is they are bulldozing this province from the tarsands straight to the coast.

This is the moment when we can expect activists, especially mainstream enviros, to become demoralized and quit. Or start on a campaign of self-delusion: Green groups are casting about for a strategy that will allow their donors to maintain false hope in a democratic solution. Election campaigns, for example. Some are still trying to raise money for legal challenges that were overruled by the treaty with China.


But small cadres are preparing the second phase of the resistance. Indigenous groups are reclaiming territory and blocking development at remote river crossings, on strategic access roads, and in crucial mountain passes. Urban cells are locking down to gates, vandalizing corporate offices, and organizing street takeovers.

It’s a good start. But now we have to look at how to be effective against powerful adversaries with the full weight of the law and the police on their side. How will we protect the land and each other, when push comes to shove?

The new rules don’t change our strategy to bring down the enemy: kick them in the bottom line. The resource sector will wind tighter as competition to feed China intensifies. Or conversely, we expect the industry will become even more desperate as demand and prices fall. Profits are slim enough to start with – made up in volume – and investors are jittery already.

Either way, it’s a fight to the death.

We urge our allies to heed the lessons of history. We don’t win by giving in or turning on each other. Tenacity, focus, flexibility, and diversity of tactics will turn back the invaders.

Celebrate the warriors. Raise that banner now, and we’ll find out soon enough who’s with us, and who’s looking to appease our new dictators.

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Filed under Environment, Legal Battles, Politics, Zoe Blunt

Outside Voice

Zoe on mike

Something happened this year. I realized my voice is bigger than me. I saw that it has a life beyond me. It’s more than my lips and vocal cords making the sounds. It contains more than my breath. It’s not really mine at all.

Something opened up and let the wind in. It pours in like a mountain stream through my chest. It rushes through my throat and bursts out uncontrolled. It’s a message.

This just happened recently. Growing up, I kept quiet and choked back words. But I also learned to sing. As the years went by, I stayed small and runty, but my voice got bigger and wider.

I first witnessed this voice power last summer when a friend was singing. I saw his voice coming out, and it had a force and a shape of its own. I was amazed. I’m beginning to understand.

This voice of mine compels me to say things that need to be said, whatever the consequences. Because this voice is bigger than me and it won’t back down. It won’t let me back down. I have to deliver the message regardless of the cost or trouble.

Even if I wanted to stop, the voice won’t let me. There’s a physical force pushing me. I can feel it between my shoulder blades. I hear it saying that I’m here to bear witness and say what needs to be said. That’s the promise I made.

So my voice makes me a target. I feel that heat, but I welcome it. It means I’m doing my job. The voice was heard. And I’m grounded like a lightning rod. Every attack on me is an attack deflected from someone who might be more vulnerable. Not that I’m super-sturdy all the time, but the good loving people around keep me rooted and upright.

Knowing my friends, and being with all of you, is a huge burst of positive energy. When we come together for a common purpose, we’re a force of nature. Our voices converge like a mighty river. Thank you for bearing witness.

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Filed under Love Letters, Zoe Blunt

BC’s Summer of Sabotage

Sabotage in BC. (c) 2014 Georgia Straight Thirty years ago, Paul Watson and a handful of tree-huggers spiked hundreds of trees on Grouse Mountain, just north of Vancouver.

Twenty years ago, Watson and others spiked 20,000 trees in Clayoquot Sound. Arsonists destroyed two logging-road bridges.

Fourteen years ago near Whistler, unknown “elves” wrecked machinery and spiked hundreds of trees in an active logging area along the Elaho River.

This is the story of the Elaho Valley, summer 2000 – the summer of sabotage.

Six months after this broadcast, the logging company that was trying to clearcut the Elaho Valley gave up and left. Now this cathedral forest is protected as a Wild Spirit Place by the Squamish First Nation.

More about the Elaho Valley campaign.

CREDITS: Zoe Blunt (spoken word) Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung (music). Produced by Green Monkey Radio and Coop Radio, CFRO 102.7 FM, Vancouver BC, August 15 2000.

Sims Creek, Elaho Valley

Sims Creek, Elaho Valley: Preserved forever as a Wild Spirit Place. Photo: Western Canada Wilderness Committee.

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Len Barrie guilty in tax charges

Len Barrie Guilty. Image (c) 2009 Bruce Dean VICTORIA BC — Disgraced Bear Mountain developer Len Barrie has pleaded guilty to tax charges in a BC court as he continues his karmic slide into oblivion.

Just five years ago, Len Barrie was golden – “living the dream,” as one newspaper reported. That dream has turned to dust, along with the millions he owes to everyone from day labourers to the government of Canada.

Len Barrie was once known for his mediocre NHL career, but his real fame comes from the antics that won him the title “Vancouver Island’s most racist developer.”

The McMansion that Barrie built in his brief heyday sold last week for a $10 million loss. The resort he boasted would be worth $3.5 billion was repossessed by the bank for a $300 million debt and now is up for sale. Word is it may go for as little as $50 million.

In laying the foundation for his resort fiefdom, Barrie chose confrontation over diplomacy. He drew the anger of local First Nations by destroying indigenous heritage sites and ignoring provincial guidelines on heritage preservation. Under his direction, builders bulldozed and blasted caves, cairns and gravesites that were used and tended by indigenous groups for hundreds of generations. He dispatched goon squads to assault and intimidate protestors, and filed a million-dollar lawsuit against indigenous activists who sought to protect the mountain they call SPAET.

Barrie was never charged with destroying indigenous heritage sites.

The first sign of the impending collapse at Bear Mountain came when nearby residents noticed work had halted at the interchange intended to link the resort to the TransCanada Highway. Soon after, we learned that Bear Mountain, which was responsible for the majority of the cost of the interchange, had defaulted on its payment to the city of Langford. It is not clear whether the resort ever made good on its debt. In any event, four years and millions of dollars later, the “Bridge to Nowhere” is a roundabout, and only a rutted overgrown track leads up the mountain to the resort.

In 2010, as his ill-fated empire crumbled, it emerged that Barrie had fleeced a raft of investors, including $13 million from fellow hockey players. Over a hundred smaller creditors were also bilked, including contractors, windows installers, concrete suppliers, plumbers, and general labourers.

It is small consolation that Barrie is in the same boat. His family trust was wiped out and all his properties are in foreclosure. At last report, he was living in Youbou near Cowichan Lake, in a modest house that was foreclosed but not yet seized by creditors.

In addition to the tax charges, the RCMP is investigating allegations of fraud relating to auditor reports that Barrie improperly diverted $16 to $20 million from the resort to purchase the Tampa Bay Lightning. The hockey team was sold a year and a half later for an estimated $80 million loss.

Court documents filed in 2011 allege that during this time, Barrie gambled and lost almost $2 million at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The casino filed suit when Barrie’s credit payment was refused by his bank.

Eight years after embarking on his development career, Barrie has lost everything. His reputation is irrevocably tainted by greed, arrogance, defaulted payments and broken promises.

Developers and hockey pros across Canada, take note: Don’t be that guy.

Update: In March 2014, the Boardwalk Regency hotel and casino in Atlantic City, NJ filed its own claim against Barrie. More details to come.

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Filed under Environment, Politics, Racism

70,000 march in Vancouver for indigenous reconciliation

Reconciliation Walk, September 22 2013, Vancouver BC.

Reconciliation Walk, September 22 2013, Vancouver BC.

Photo via @BenSimons28

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When is it OK for social justice groups to exclude people?

It’s a recurring debate. Should progressive groups be allowed to block people for ideological or other reasons? Aren’t we supposed to be inclusive and open to everyone? The old-boys club, ivory tower, gatekeeper mentality is what we’re fighting, right?

This question is often phrased as a demand by those insisting on inclusion.

Take the angry racist dudes who were asked to leave an Occupy camp in a public square.. They were furious at being called out and retaliated with accusations that organizers were violating their rights and discriminating against them as white males. Are their complaints legit?

Or how about Len Barrie, developer of Bear Mountain resort and destroyer of SPAET’s caves? Long before he became the most-hated developer on Vancouver Island, he was kicked out of the Royal Colwood Golf Club for bad behaviour. Barrie’s subsequent lawsuit claimed as long as he pays his dues, he should have the benefits of the club. The club violated his rights, he said, and he demanded reinstatement and damages. Was he right?

The thing is, when ideological adversaries insist on joining an advocacy group, the resulting conflicts can tear it apart. The anti-Occupy dudes harassed women, picked fights about “white rights,” and verbally abused those who disagreed with them. They escalated the situation to the point that general assemblies turned into shouting matches. But the other campers got together and threw the angry dudes out. Once that was done, the campers were able to put the conflict behind them and move on with their shared goals.

We don’t just have the right, we have the responsibility to bar people who would disrupt and derail our work. The concept is a long-standing principle of natural justice, one that is upheld by the courts and by federal law.

Advocacy groups like social justice organizations are based on shared values of mutual aid and solidarity. Every day we make principled decisions about what events and groups to support or oppose. The same goes for political parties. The New Democrats are not obligated to accept Young Conservatives. Peace groups don’t have to allow military recruiters in the door. If it were otherwise, no one would get anything done – they would just be crashing each others’ parties.

Similarly, private clubs and informal networks are based on mutual respect and camaraderie, as well as shared goals and ideals.

Mind you, those who feel they’re being discriminated against have legal recourse, like filing a human-rights complaint. And here’s what they’ll learn: they don’t have the right to be part of a non-profit group they clash with. If the purpose of the group is to advocate for indigenous rights, for example, the members are obliged to put indigenous people first, even to the extent of excluding others.

The Canadian Human Rights Act is a federal statute enacted by Parliament in 1977. Section 41 states:

If a charitable, philanthropic, educational, fraternal, religious or social organization or corporation that is not operated for profit has as a primary purpose the promotion of the interests and welfare of an identifiable group or class of persons characterized by a physical or mental disability or by a common race, religion, age, sex, marital status, political belief, colour, ancestry or place of origin, that organization or corporation must not be considered to be contravening this Code because it is granting a preference to members of the identifiable group or class of persons.

In the case of private or for-profit clubs, like Barrie’s, the law is equally clear. In his decision on Barrie v. Royal Colwood Golf Club (2001 BCSC 1181), Justice Edwards ruled:

[Quoting Lee v. Showmens Guild] “In the case of social clubs, the rules usually empower the committee to expel a member who, in their opinion, has been guilty of conduct detrimental to the club, and this is a matter of opinion and nothing else. The courts have no wish to sit on appeal from their decisions on such a matter any more than from the decisions of a family conference. They have nothing to do with social rights or social duties.”

In short, the courts are reluctant to reinstate a member of a social club when other members have decided that member has acted in a manner unbecoming a member, for the obvious reason that a club must be collegial.

In social clubs, goodwill among the members is important and the opportunity for cordial relations among members is a primary reason for these clubs’ existence.

Barrie lost his case because he lost the respect of his fellow club members. He behaved like a jerk, destroyed property, and lied about it. The judge noted that even if he ordered the club to take Barrie back, they would throw him out again, and rightly so.

Of course, a group that exercises its right to make such decisions may be subject to harsh criticism. Whites-only groups – and there are many – are correctly labeled “white supremacist” for excluding people of colour. The angry dudes were less accurate in calling Occupiers “fascist” and “racist” when the campers refused to accommodate their white-supremacist agenda.

There’s an obvious difference between those two examples. White supremacists want to keep oppressed groups down. Occupy supports oppressed groups rising up. One seeks social justice, the other a return to greater structural inequality.

The bottom line: Organizations that are united for a common goal, for camaraderie, or for the interests of a particular group, can’t be compelled to admit those who don’t fit their purpose. So if people don’t like you or don’t share your principles, you have no legal right to force them to accept you into their non-profit group or private club. You don’t have the right to crash their party. This concept applies across the board to everyone – all-black sororities, the Communist Party, men’s support groups, and radical feminist organizations. And it always has.

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Filed under Feminism, Politics, Racism, Wingnuts