"My name is Lucy and I am a 24 year old woman who is ready to take responsibility and accept the consequences of my actions. I write this letter not as a defense, but rather to provide insight as to why I did what I did.
My actions were not intended to attack the integrity or subvert the legitimacy of the court, but were motivated by my deep love and care for my fellow humans and nonhuman relations, and my understanding of the risks that this pipeline poses to our collective well-being. I was motivated to halt pipeline construction by my desire to stop the suffering that this pipeline's construction and operation will inflict. I was not acting with violence, but rather with the intention of preventing violence.
In 2021, I graduated from McGill University with a first-class honours Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and Urban Geography. I switched into this program midway through my degree after the release of the 2018 IPCC report because, after understanding the limited window of time in which humanity had to avoid the worst of the climate crisis, I felt motivated to contribute my life (or at least the next 12 years) to this. After switching programs and facing a barrage of horrifying statistics about the likely state of our future world over the remainder of my lifetime, I began to experience an immense sense of doom, grief, and anxiety. This switch in my studies coincided with an abusive relationship, and as a result of these two simultaneous factors, I became depressed and suicidal. It was at this point that I told myself that if I could contribute in any way towards helping humanity avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis, it was worth staying on this earth. And so I stayed, I started therapy and counseling, and I got involved with climate justice activism as my reason to keep going. Four years later, I am still in counseling, I have overcome addiction to alcohol marijuana and tobacco, I am healing, and I am just as committed to climate justice as ever, despite increasingly harsh reality checks and never-ending news about the oncoming consequences.
Following the release of the latest IPCC report on climate change, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, "climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels... investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness."
Canadians and creatures with which we share the planet are dying from climate change caused by increasing GHG emissions. The difference between a 1.5 degree warmer world and the current trajectory of 4 degrees warming by the end of the century represents preventable catastrophe for future generations of humans and other species. In 2021, BC was ravaged by wildfires that burned entire communities down (Lytton), a heat dome that killed over 700 people, and flooding that threatened livelihoods, all as a consequence of rising global temperatures... and we haven't even hit 1.5 degrees yet.
TMX will lead to increased emissions, with a planned 56% increase in tar sands emissions. It will pump an additional 890,000 barrels of fossil fuel into the atmosphere every day and increase Canada's greenhouse gas emissions at a crucial moment in time when global emissions must decrease to avoid the worst of the climate crisis. The government needs to take the climate crisis seriously to keep people from dying and to offer young people like myself any chance at a safe and secure future that isn't marred by constant catastrophe, suffering, violence, and upheaval.
More immediately, the pipeline threatens key human and nonhuman habitats with destruction, including many endangered species such as orcas, salmon, caribou, and nesting birds. It virtually guarantees the extinction of the Southern Resident Orca Whales in the Salish Sea and seriously threatens the livelihood of salmon (on which over 200 species rely) due to oil spills, pollution, and tanker traffic. A spill in the lower mainland would be catastrophic for our water supply, and millions of people could get sick as a result, more than our hospitals can contain. We could see people dying waiting for medical treatment just like we did during COVID19.
It also crosses and threatens to destroy many Sacred sites and waters for First Nations in BC. The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is against the expansion, along with many First Nations along the pipeline route such as the Secwepemc and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. In 2010, the Save the Fraser Declaration against all expansion of the tar sands was signed by 61 First Nations along the Fraser River watershed. In 2014, the Salish Sea Treaty made the Kinder Morgan Expansion Project (now TMX) illegal under Coast Salish Law. In 2017, the Treaty Alliance against Tar Sands Expansion was signed by 122 First Nations banning TMX specifically and other pipeline projects like it.
Pipeline construction poses a serious threat to Indigenous women and girls due to the relationship between resource industry "man camps" and MMIWG2S+. Man camps are temporary remote housing facilities for out-of-town workers (mostly men) in the resource extraction industry and have been linked to an increase in violence against Indigenous women, including harassment, assault, sexual assault, and missing/murdered women cases. This link between man camps and violence against Indigenous women has been well known to women from these communities for a very long time, and was affirmed in the federal Final Inquiry into MMIWG2S+ in 2019 which concluded that the crisis of MMIWG2S+ in Canada amounts to Genocide. Are we supposed to sit there and accept the risks that we know these projects pose towards our women, girls, and 2SLGBTQ relatives? In this way, TMX is genocidal.
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has issued Canada three warning letters to cease construction of the TMX pipeline until Free, Prior, and Informed Consent has been obtained by the rightful Indigenous title-holders along the route, and to immediately withdraw all policing/military/private security forces defending the pipeline construction. Canada has ignored these warnings.
I am Red River Metis through my paternal grandmother Aprille Nault, and I am a citizen of Metis Nation British Columbia. I am a direct descendant of people that fought in, and some that were murdered by the RCMP during, the Red River Resistance of 1870 and Northwest Resistance of 1885, like Andre Nault and Damase Carriere. Andre Nault was Louis Riel's first cousin (their mothers were sisters). The infamous events that kicked off the Red River Resistance in 1869 when Louis Riel stepped on the surveyor's chain and proclaimed they would go no further occurred on the property of Andre Nault, River Lot #12. During the Battle of Batoche in 1885, my great great great grandfather Damase Carriere broke his leg, was mistaken for Louis Riel, and the Canadian army tied a rope around his neck and the other end to a horse and dragged him behind the horse until he was dead. His battlefield torture is recorded as one of the most horrendous events during the struggle for the rights of the Métis in the Prairies, and he is buried with eight other Métis warriors who died in the Battle of Batoche.
The Alberta tar sands, which TMX is carrying bitumen from, fall within the boundaries of the Historic Metis Nation Homeland. Many Indigenous people from Alberta are demanding a moratorium on further expansion of the tar sands. Cree activist Clayton Thomas-Mueller explains, "a moratorium on [tar sands] development is required until the concerns of First Nations and Métis regarding the many serious issues that have been raised by this breakneck industrial development are addressed. These include the human-rights abuses; the human and ecological health crisis; the climate-change implications; the water- and air-quality implications; the treaty-rights implications; the tribal sovereignty and self-determination implications; as well as the cumulative socioeconomic impacts on the health and way of life of indigenous peoples. Each of these serious issues must be responded to, respected and protected in a permanent, traditional, Indigenous framework, in compliance with the spiritual and natural laws, treaties and inherent rights of indigenous peoples." (source)
You speak repeatedly of our apparent disrespect of the rule of law. I do not mean to challenge the importance of the rule of law, Madame Justice, but only to point out that the emphasis on the rule of law in a colonial court on stolen land is a cruel and ironic hypocrisy. The spiritual and natural laws of this land, and the original people of this land, predate these colonial courts by tens, hundreds of thousands of years. Even your own mother law, British Common Law, was ignored in the founding of these courts by way of the failure to make treaties, a violation of the Royal Proclamation of 1763. If we do not respect the rule of natural law, Madame Justice, the price we will all ultimately pay is far greater than a 21 day jail sentence. The floods, fires, and heatwaves are evidence admissible in court to this statement. I can think of no greater disrespect for the rule of natural law than to incarcerate those who uphold it, in a kangaroo court on lands for which your government has never acquired the legal title deed, in your effort to defend the most flagrant and egregious violation of this natural law - the continued expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure despite knowledge of the harm and violence it will cause to our mother earth and all her inhabitants.
I am an uninvited guest here on these unceded Coast Salish lands. The Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations whose land we are on, who never surrendered their land to the crown, and who are the rightful title-holders to the land where the incident in question took place in Burnaby, are opposed to TMX.
As Metis people, we are Otipemisiwak, the people that own ourselves, governed by the value of wahkohtowin, our kinship to all our relations. I have been taught by my Elders to always act with the next Seven Generations in mind. By allowing this pipeline to go through despite opposition from First Nations and despite the threats it poses to destroy our nonhuman relations and the lands and waters across BC, we are not living by the value of wahkohtowin. We are certainly not thinking seven generations ahead. I am Otipemisiwak and we are required by our history and our culture to fight for what is right, just like our ancestors did.
I am hopeful that in the future we will
see change towards a better world. I now understand that my actions
were not necessarily a step in that direction, and in the future I
would reconsider which actions would be most effective in bringing
about systemic change in the deeply exploitative and unjust society
that we currently find ourselves in. Our collective lives may depend
on it, and I invite you with open little T.Rex arms to join us on the
right side of history."
Lucy at Vancouver Law Courts Rally for TREXes before her sentencing for a 20 minute breach of the TMX injunction.