The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.

On Burnaby Mountain, Confronting the Gorilla

Why I rose before dawn to join protesters against Kinder Morgan's proudly heavy 'footprint.'

By John Vaillant 22 Nov 2014 |

John Vaillant is the acclaimed author of two works of nonfiction, The Golden Spruce and The Tiger, and a forthcoming novel, The Jaguar's Children (Knopf, January 2015). Follow him on Twitter @JohnVaillant.

Kinder Morgan has been on my mind a lot lately and, when I woke up at four o'clock Friday morning, it was there, waiting: an 800-pound gorilla with greasy hair that lumbered across the border from Texas and is squatting now on Burnaby Mountain -- close enough to crowd me out of bed. Gorillas are lousy sleeping companions at the best of times, and this one doesn't sleep. Who has time when one's stated goal is to ''continually leverage our large footprint of assets and actively pursue expansions, joint ventures and acquisitions so that we can further increase... distributions and... dividends.''

Kinder Morgan, whose lightning bolt logo appears to have been borrowed from the forehead of Harry Potter, is so good at leveraging its gorilla-sized ''footprint of assets'' (and exploiting loopholes) that, in just 20 years, it has risen from the ashes of Enron to become not only the largest natural gas pipeline and storage operator in North America, but the largest independent transporter of refined petroleum products, and, according to its website, the largest transporter and marketer of CO2.

Today, the Houston-based multinational claims more than 11,000 employees and a ''combined enterprise value'' of 125 billion dollars. In other words, Alberta's oilsands, the Trans Mountain pipeline (publically held by BC Gas until 2005), and Canada in general, are little more than rounding errors in Kinder Morgan's gargantuan scheme of things. This is the gorilla sitting on Vancouver's doorstep, wanting to bore a hole through Burnaby Mountain.

No wonder I couldn't sleep.

Finally, at 4:30 a.m., I got up, feeling like a small and impotent handwringer in dire need of some coffee. But I wasn't the only one who was having trouble sleeping. Emails and Facebook posts, not half an hour old, were exhorting me to go to Burnaby Mountain where 26 protesters had been arrested, their camp dismantled, and drilling equipment trucked in during the night. Reinforcements were needed. There was talk of critical mass, invocations of Clayoquot Sound.

They say activism is born of discomfort and mine has been building for years -- ever since Prime Minister Stephen Harper gutted the NEB's regulatory process in that infamous omnibus bill; ever since hearing about Kinder Morgan's plan to triple the Trans Mountain pipeline's carrying capacity of diluted bitumen, every drop of which will pass through the most densely populated region in Western Canada.

And for what? Currently, the Trans Mountain system generates profits of about 170 million dollars a year for Kinder Morgan, only about $1.5 million of which stays in Canada as tax revenue. All that toxic dilbit; all that risk to our water, land and air, and the benefit to B.C. won't even pay for a house in Point Grey. Sexy, nine-figure promises have been made about post-expansion pipeline revenues, but why on Earth would anyone believe them after the bill of goods we've been sold by a prime minister who refuses to face the facts of climate change, and who indulges foreign oil companies like a colonial governor handing out fur concessions?

582px version of Burnaby_Protestor
Police remove protestor on Burnaby mountain on Thursday. Photo by Jackie Dives.

I am angry at the gorilla but I am angrier at the government that invited it into our home. On Friday morning, as I layered up and donned my raingear, I really believed that those 26 arrests, and the tireless, truth-to-power integrity of Burnaby's mayor, Derek Corrigan in the face of the NEB's sham and shambles of a consultation -- not to mention the brazen temerity of a foreign company taking Canadians to court with SLAPP suits -- would motivate a groundswell. I thought there would be hundreds of frustrated insomniacs up there, rain or no rain.

In the end, there were only about 50 of us, but what we lacked in quantity, was made up for in quality: the words spoken at the rain-sodden press conference that morning by a multi-generational group of tribal and community leaders were lucid, impassioned and damning of a deeply flawed process, and the eight subsequent arrests were models of choreographed restraint. Even when trucks were blockaded and police hauled people off, there was virtually none of the pushing, shoving and hurled abuse that marred the previous day of protests.

582px version of Burnaby_Proteset
After 34 arrests, protestors vow to continue to block Kinder Morgan geotechnical testing on Burnaby Mountain. The company is reported to have begun drilling test holes. Photo by Jackie Dives.

As I write, there is a drilling rig just down the road from the Horizon Restaurant, preparing to dig test holes six inches wide and 250 meters deep. But there is also the city of Burnaby's pending legal challenge against Kinder Morgan's work. And between them, peaceful and steadfast, are the citizens who remain on Burnaby Mountain, staring the gorilla in the eye.  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free


The Barometer

Tyee Poll: What Coverage Would You Like to See More of This Year?

Take this week's poll