Direct Action: When the System No Longer Works

les-2By Les Macdonald
Published: April 28, 2016
I AM A FATHER first, engaged citizen second, and an entrepreneur third. As a business owner I have to use a lot of common sense to make important choices every day. Like thousands of other Sea to Sky residents, I am being drawn into a conflict that, frankly, I would rather not be faced with. But when a government systematically fails its citizens in spite of facts, in spite of overwhelming opposition to a project, that flies in the face of common sense, Direct Action becomes unavoidable. As a father, I want my son to look up to me and know that I stood up for him, for our family and for the continued recovery of Howe Sound.
I have to admit when I heard that My Sea to Sky was hosting a Direct Action Training Workshop I was a little unsettled. I had misconceptions about what direct action really is. When I went to the sign-up page I was relieved to learn that direct action is founded on non-violent actions. “We at My Sea to Sky feel strongly that peaceful direct action can garner the attention needed about critical issues facing our children and our community,” and, “By providing opportunities for training and learning, we aim to empower individuals as best we can so that they can choose to act in the safest, most effective way possible.” I wasn’t surprised at this peaceful approach since I haven’t met a single ‘radical’ person who is a member of My Sea to Sky. These folks are people like you and me. Regular people… good people who have no other choice considering the stakes.
 Of the three town halls hosted by Pamela Goldsmith, it was clear that the majority of residents along the Sea to Sky are opposed to Woodfibre LNG. In Squamish, extra chairs had to be brought in because the room selected for this event was only half as big as it should have been. It was clear, as person after person stood up to decry  Woodfibre, that there was little support for the project. After these town halls, the Environmental Assessment was passed for Woodfibre LNG in spite of everything. I was deflated and had lost even more trust in the federal EA system which has failed Howe Sound miserably. Direct action seems unavoidable at this point.
Citizens have been taking direct action as a last resort when all else fails for much of recent history. Direct action events you may have heard of:
—1848 to 1920: The Women’s Rights Movement results in passage of the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote.
—1954 to 1968: The African American Civil Rights Movement with leadership by Martin Luther King Jr won a Nobel peace prize for his role in the movement.
— 2014: The Peoples Climate March. On September 21 over 400,000 people peacefully demonstrated on the streets of New York City. Nearly everyone involved has positive things to say about this action.
 Looking back, one wonders how it was even possible that we had to take action at all for such seemingly intrinsic rights. Many of the rights we take for granted today were hard fought for. Today, our rights for a clean and safe environment are at dire risk. It is apparent that the current B.C. Provincial Government is hell bent on pursuing Woodfibre LNG in spite of the lack of demand and global LNG glut, in spite of the recovery of Howe Sound, in spite of the proven dangers of fracking, in spite of the track record of corruption and environmental destruction by Woodfibre LNG’s owner, in spite of Howe Sound’s citizens’ overwhelming opposition to the project and in spite of all common sense. When the entire system fails, as a last resort, people take a stand.
I want to be educated on my rights, on my options, and what it takes to actually make a difference. I think that ultimately, ignorance is far more dangerous than knowledge. I think we can all agree on that.
Les McDonald is a Squamish resident, entrepreneur, and father who is proactively engaged in his community.


  1. Edna Thomson says:

    To Les MacDonald,
    Thank you for your so very well-written letter which captures the very essence of this fracking & LNG issue in Howe Sound. There are, unfortunately many similar issues being played out throughout our beautiful Province; but, as residents of Howe Sound we need to focus directly to prevent the LNG plant from going ahead due to the faulty EA Approval process. YES! to the Direct Action workshop this Saturday!

    • Follow up on the Direct Action Workshop. It was a wonderful and empowering day indeed. It was so great to mix with people from West Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast, Northern BC and Squamish. Young and old, neck ties and tie dyes, entrepeneaurs and students all came together for a common cause. The love of Howe Sound and the communities on her shores. There’s so much to be thankful for and so much worth protecting. While there has been some debate on the purpose of this workshop, it’s been very open and transparent from it’s inception and I’m proud to have spent the day with so many wonderful people. I hope you can look around today and see the same wonderful splendor that I do here on Howe Sound. I’m truly grateful to live here with my family. The world CAN and WILL be a better place and we as citizens DO make a difference. Don’t ever lose sight of your power and your purpose no matter what side of the fence you might be on.

  2. Wolfgang W says:

    …Or better yet, let’s insist we have a public referendum on this, but doubtless at least some of the proponents of the Woodfibre LNG project would oppose it as tantamount to ‘mob rule’. Never mind, it is democracy at its most basic and best.

    If the Prime Minister, David Cameron, of the United Kingdom can take the risk with referendums on two very important issues for his country (Scottish independence and now about Britain’s continued membership in the European Union), I fail to see why public opinion could not be formally canvassed by referendum on as controversial an issue in Howe Sound as the establishment of a LNG facility. After all, that would give the proponents also an opportunity to show their support. What are they afraid of?

  3. Thomas Jefferson says:

    Quoting out of context Thomas Jefferson, although cute is a misleading position. It assumes the authors liberties are under threat by a foreign power, society and law and order is collapsing and the future is not certain. Unfortunately, the negative, apocalyptic doomsday tone sounds more like another current nihilistic group. Islamic State. To quote Martin Luther King is out of place and too often are these icons abused. Quoting the Peoples Climate March, as unique it this may sound, was actually a and Greenpeace (among others) organized event. Outside New York it barely made a bleep on the political radar screen. Democracy is the right to speak freely, but it also must accept to disagree with the presentation made about the call for Direct Action. We should be collectively concern about the use of “Direct Action”. It means an escalation, violence, harm to the public. Direct Action is not only a non-violent act but very much part of a militarization and therefore radicalization of the debate. Squamish society has no room for this talk. We just need to remember the Squamish 5 which ended up in bombings, and a period of instability, hate and violence. The author does have a responsibility towards his family and young kids to channel discontent into a positive outcome. Direct Action, as this is today’s buzzwords, quickly thrown around, is not the answer.

%d bloggers like this: