BC Capital paper stigmatizes protest

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On 27 March the Times Colonist of Victoria British Columbia published an opinion piece titled:

Police OT costs rise sharply thanks to protests, rallies” The editorial notes that the costs the police spent in attending to climate protests in the BC capital had increased dramatically. The paper reported that “department had spent $183,000 to police 34 protests, compared with $82,765 on 40 events all of last year…almost as many events as they did in 2019, the department says the protests have been “longer, larger and more resource-intensive” in the first two months of 2020.”

While appearing to be a factual statement of events, the editors appear to lay the blame on the protests for additional costs. Really? While the Times-Colonist wrote that protests are longer and larger than previous, they failed to ask why? The rejection of a policy of environmental exploitation by a ‘larger’ section of the public, which at that particular time was focused on an indigenous land dispute, were the mobilizing factors.

Why not a headline of ‘Public opposition to gas pipeline leads to increased costs for city’? Well one reason may be the ownership of the capital city’s newspaper. It was purchased nine years ago by Glacier Media, whose energy division publish the Daily Oil Bulletin and Oilweek magazine, and the Canoils brand of data products and the Heavy Oil & Oilsands Guidebook. To say that the Times-Colonist ownership is invested in fossil fuels is an understatement, it is a part of the industry. Glacier Media’s purchase of many local newspapers in the metropolitan Vancouver area, especially those through which the Trans-Canada pipeline expansion will pass is something to pause and consider as well.

It has long been noted that the press is free to those who own them, and today they are mostly owned by corporations. They are not a public good which does its reporting without fear or favour any more. Despite the fact that pipeline construction is continuing during the corona virus crisis, the environmental movement is supporting a commitment to public health by practicing the social distancing requested by our health sector and not putting its numbers out on the street.

Soon, however, restrictions on public distancing will be lifted. What will occur then? A British academic made the following prescient observations that the public will have “… a renewed awareness of the fragility of our complex societies, of global interconnectedness, and the benefits of taking heed of scientific warnings and prescriptions. The pandemic occurred against a backdrop of unprecedented concerns about climate change and accumulated impacts of extreme events. Anyone who thinks that Covid-19 has displaced this may be in for a shock: It could be precisely the opposite.”

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