The Defend our Coast rally in Victoria on Monday, October 22, garnered national headlines, but just two days later this pipeline protest became even more impressive as it swept across the province. In what could be the most widespread display of unity in B.C.'s history, Wednesday, October 24, saw 70 events in communities across the province, where thousands took time out of the work and school day to "Defend Our Coast". Gathering at local MLA offices in places like Prince George, Kelowna, Courtenay, and Bella Bella, the ordinary folk from B.C.'s small towns and big cities stood together to demonstrate an "unbroken wall of opposition" to oil tankers and tar sands pipelines.
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Parents took their kids out of school, shop owners closed their stores and workers left offices and factories. Networks of people who normally connect online emerged from behind their computers to stand together. Separated by hundreds of kilometres, communities stood together and marked a historic day that will forever contribute to the identity of our province.
Cold, wet weather was braved. Arms were linked. Songs were sung. Powerful words were shared.
While people were out chanting "No Tankers. No Pipelines. No Tar Sands", my focus was on what we are fighting for, not fighting against. Over the last three months I have had the privilege of sharing people's stories of the B.C. coast in a collection of Best Pacific Ocean Stories. The stories are beautiful in their diversity. They come from fisherman, First Nations, scientists, SCUBA divers, tourists, teachers, kayakers and artists whose lives have been shaped and coloured by the ocean. The stories are told in writing, song, video, photography, animation and paintings and they include reflections, recollections, messages and moments in time where connections to the coast were made and love for the ocean was crystallized. Within the diversity of stories there is a powerful unifying thread: a profound expression of gratitude to what the ocean contributes to our lives.
The people of B.C. depend on the ocean for their livelihoods, culture, health, food, medicine, recreation and inspiration, so they are not only willing to defend it, they are compelled to.
The ocean defines the character of the people of the West Coast — any threat to the ocean is a direct threat ourselves.
So, while this unity across B.C. is unprecedented, it is by no means surprising because defending the coast is defending ourselves.