MLA Adam Olsen on the Recent Wet’suwet’en Swartz Bay Protest

This week I saw my riding grapple with mixed emotions to the protesters who blocked the Swartz Bay ferry terminal for two hours in what they said was an act of solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who are opposed to the Coastal Gas Link pipeline currently being constructed in their territory.

Living in this vibrant democracy is not easy. We all recognize the constitutionally protected right to protest, but when these acts of democratic engagement impact our daily lives, it can be hard to stand behind those foundational principles. Things are often easier in theory than in practice.

But nothing worth doing ever does come easy. The very freedoms and rights we enjoy today as Canadians have not come easily and protecting them today requires every one of us to remain diligent and engaged.

While I must defend the right for people to peacefully demonstrate it is also important to publicly encourage people to use tactics that advance the interests that they are demonstrating for, tactics that nurture relationships not deepen divisions. Not all peaceful tactics help build constituencies of support and unfortunately shutting down a major ferry terminal is not an action that builds goodwill even though it may be peaceful and nonviolent.

The challenges in front of us requires patience, compassion, and a constant reminder that we are all ultimately on the same side. We all want the best for our families and our province.

As the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands I am acutely aware of the impact delays on the BC Ferries service has on constituents and all islanders. Indeed, issues with the BC Ferries are among the most common concerns raised by constituents in our communities, important issues I continue to advocate for. The ferries are not just there for the convenience of travelers.

Islanders rely on ferries as a lifeline for medical appointments, food, jobs... everything. This past week’s protest that blocked the Pat Bay Highway at the Swartz Bay ferry terminal, was thankfully peaceful and limited to a few hours, but it would have been respectful if the organizers provided some warning and given people the opportunity to adjust and plan.

But it is important for me to be clear: I support the right of the citizens of Canada and British Columbia to peaceful, nonviolent demonstration. It is a constitutionally protected right and an important part of our democracy.

I want to be just as clear that this and other acts are a direct reflection of governments failing to address the deep division in our society that has evolved over generations. I am committed to my part in mending these relationships. That means navigating the turbulence created by these issues with humility and self-reflection and yet remaining resolute that we cannot afford to have our constitutionally protected rights diminished.

Adam Olsen, MLA Saanich North and the Islands

January 23, 2020 9:30 AM

Community Comments

  • Avatar Colin Coe says:

    Yeah Adam "there were good people on both sides I guess". This was an assault on an interprovincial link and critical infrastructure. Not only were people inconvenienced they missed medical appointments, business appointments and all commercial activities were obstructed. Those who caused this faced absolutely no consequences and laws were broken.They should have been arrested and faced class action lawsuits. There are many government policies that I don't agree with. Should I shut down Victoria airport? Would you support that as my "right to protest" or does it depend on whether you support the cause. Almost certainly it is the latter. The Wetsuweten are a band of 255 according to Wikipedia. So clearly a minority are in opposition. Apparently those elected by the band came to agreement as did all of the other FN along the route. The benefit agreements will amount to many hundreds of millions and $680 million of contracts for the pipeline alone will go to FN enterprises. Yet you support the shutting down of key Canadian infrastructure. Rather than tacitly supporting illegal activities why not act as an intermediary to resolve this issue.

  • Avatar Jacquelyn Menard says:

    In total agreement with Colin Coe.
    It shows the limitations and unrealistic idealism of most Green party's policies. And that is why they are so few MP Greens in Canada.

  • Avatar Nelson Kennedy says:

    Excellent argument and point of view, to which I totally subscribe! Well written and well said! Thank you Colin.

  • Avatar SSIDancer says:

    There are significant errors in your research regarding the Wet’suwet'en numbers and what they have agreed or not agreed regarding the LNG pipe line issue in your post. Try APTN for info on this subject...... APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network).
    As for people missing appointments. etc. we have two ferries leaving this island that allow us to access Victoria so obviously there is no reason for an appointment to be missed, business appointment to be missed or commercial deliveries etc. may be delayed for a couple of hours getting here, but not missed leaving Salt Spring Island as one planned or any other island for that matter in the Gulf Islands.

  • Avatar Kim Richardson says:

    Cultural Genocide = Ferry inconvenience?????!
    Your white entitlement is showing.....

  • Avatar Cindy Toutant says:

    I am sorry but there were funerals missed, radiation appointments missed, long awaited medical appointments missed. How incredibly selfish to dismiss others life issues merely to satisfy your needs..Those couple of hours you so easily dismissed affected others lives in a dramatic way.

  • Avatar Cindy Toutant says:

    I thought this was about the pipeline? That's why you boycotted BC Ferries isn't it? Now it's about something completely different? Way to insert another reason that people's lives were directly affected, some in a negative way. I call the YOU entitlement. Also, it's not white entitlement Dear, medical appointments, funerals etc HUMANS were trying to get to don't have a race attached, just humans trying to live their lives.