Juvenile pink salmon infested with sea lice. Photo Alexandra Morton
The following letter was published in the Campbell River Courier-Islander, July 8, 2009 under the title "Civil disobedience may be the next step for British Columbia":
Alexandra Morton's victory in her epic battle against salmon farming giant Marine Harvest and the BC government appears to have been short lived. Rafe Mair reported the following in the Tyee, July 6:
"I have been reliably informed that the provincial government has already made the necessary bureaucratic moves to transfer this file back to the tender mercies of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and that Marine Harvest abandoned the constitutional part of their appeal having been assured that nothing would change."
This is a chilling reminder that our legal system is an instrument of power, not of right. Something that I have personally learned the hard way as I observed and occasionally helped Betty Krawczyk in her heroic yet unsuccessful court battles to assert our right to public participation.
You lose in court? Tough luck. You go to jail and get stuck with the court costs, as did Betty.
You win in court? Who cares. The power elites quickly work out backroom deals among themselves to cancel your victory, as with Alexandra Morton.
Those two remarkable women perform an essential public service, one through her repeated defeats and the other through her deceptive victory.
They expose the nature of the beast. They demonstrate that the so-called "representative" democratic system in which we live is a fig leaf for the elite class to assert its power over the people.
The elite class, this strange hybrid of the government and corporate spheres, does not give a damn about the rule of law. They simply use it when it suits them and treat it as irrelevant when it does not.
Marx (not Groucho, the other one) once wrote that between equal rights, force decides. Most normal people believe that they have the right and duty to protect the commons against corporate recklessness. The elite class believes that it has the right to accumulate money whatever the cost. Well, here you have it. Between those two rights, force indeed decides.
In the latter part of his Tyee column, Rafe Mair illustrates an essential point, that force does not necessarily have to equate violence. It can also take the form of peaceful resistance. Today, the West Kootenays are pretty much in insurrection mode over the privatization of their rivers, yet their show of force has remained non violent. Rafe Mair is predicting a wave of civil disobedience in our province, Clayoquot style, and I see it coming too. Indeed, it is the next logical step once one has lost confidence in the ability of the courts to protect the people from corporate thievery.