Our View: Why seek arrest, pipeline protesters?

On Monday, thousands of people braved the cold fall air to protest the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

On Monday, thousands of people braved the cold fall air to protest and hear union activists, politicians, environmentalists and First Nations leaders slam the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

It’s great to see people exercising their democratic rights with peaceful protest and assembly on public space, in this case the Legislature lawn. Today, a protest is scheduled outside B.C. Liberal MLA Ida Chong’s office in Saanich.

It’s less gratifying to read that at least 1,000 people have signed up for civil disobedience training. Some groups announced they would seek to be arrested during the rally.

“Defend our Coast” protesters filling local jail cells as a means to protest a pipeline in the north seems misguided at best.

Passive resistance against police for trespassing or more active resistance through shoving or fighting makes for good evening TV news, but it does little to advance the debate about protecting B.C.’s coast and the North from oil leaks and spills.

By Monday afternoon, Victoria police weren’t willing to arrest people engaging in blocking traffic or setting up signs on the Leg lawn, and overall the rally was peaceful, respectful and well attended.

Protesters want to send a message to Ottawa and the provincial government, but the B.C. Liberals aren’t exactly laying out the red carpet for Enbridge. The province has acknowledged that people have legitimate concerns about the safety of heavy oil pipelines.

After recent public hearings in Prince George, the government slammed Enbridge for not providing practical solutions to the environmental risks, and noted the company lacks a spill response plan, among other systemic problems.

The protesting public and the government aren’t exactly speaking the same language on pipelines, but the gap isn’t huge.

On all fronts – with government, First Nations, the public – Enbridge faces a monumental battle to build its pipeline.