Vaughn Palmer: Politicians’ own words coming back to bite them | Vancouver Sun

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VICTORIA — It was a week of ironies, as whole flocks of chickens came home to roost for some of B.C.’s activist politicians.

John Horgan, in his Opposition days, endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in a speech to the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, with Grand Chief Stewart Phillip looking on.

On Tuesday, a “despondent” Premier Horgan struggled with “my personal feelings” as throne speech day was disrupted by an unprecedented protest over NDP support for the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline.

Among those blasting the New Democrats for trampling the objections of some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs was none other than Grand Chief Phillip.

“Reconciliation will never be achieved at gunpoint,” charged Phillip.

“The Horgan government is picking and choosing which articles of the UN Declaration that it upholds and when,” he added via news release. “The rhetoric that is being peddled by the Horgan government is a purposeful and strategic effort to confuse and misinform the public.”

What about it? Horgan was asked by reporters when he got sufficient control of his feelings to meet the news media on the day after the protest.

“Grand Chief Stewart Phillip is the head of a political organization,” huffed Horgan. “If he wants to come and make political statements, that is entirely his right.”

No less the head of a political organization than Horgan himself. Nor is Phillip any more or less a politician today than he was back in 2016 when the NDP Opposition leader was happy to share a platform alongside him to endorse the UN Declaration.

Among those having trouble entering the legislature on throne sp… er, protest day, was Agriculture Minister Lana Popham, who was known to take part in a few protests in her Opposition days.

Early in the term of the NDP government, she acknowledged the challenge of going from activist Opposition MLA to minister at the cabinet table.

“It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be,” she told the Victoria Times Colonist. “I was used to lighting my hair on fire, and then all of a sudden I was in the line of fire.”

On Tuesday, the minister was confronted and stopped by a feather-wielding Chrissy Brett, who has been in the front lines of protests all over Metro Vancouver and southern Vancouver Island.

Thus did the once-amateur activist meet an experienced pro. And it was Popham who retreated, being unable to get past Brett.

Anti-pipeline protesters block the Granville St. Bridge on Monday, in Vancouver, BC., February 12, 2020.



Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart set the tone for the week by siding with the hereditary chiefs in the pipeline standoff.

“What is happening on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory will not help us reconcile with past wrongs or deal with the ongoing legacy of colonialism in our city, province and country,” declared the former NDP MP, showing no sympathy for his NDP counterparts in Victoria.

“Protests like this are happening all across the province and country, demonstrating how crucial it is for all leaders to put reconciliation into practice,” continued Stewart. “We will no doubt see more people demonstrating in solidarity.”

Protesters responded to Stewart’s quasi invitation within 24 hours, blockading a major intersection near Stewart’s city hall, disrupting traffic, bus service and even ambulance service to nearby Vancouver General Hospital.

Another politician compelled to reflect on the week’s ironies was Attorney-General David Eby, who came up through the political ranks as an activist on myriad causes.

While the A-G was attending the legislature in Victoria, protesters invaded his Vancouver-Point Grey constituency office, driving his distraught constituency assistant to lock herself in the bathroom.

Protesters stage a sit-in at B.C. Attorney-General David Eby’s constituency office on West Broadway in Vancouver, B.C. on Thursday, February 13, 2020.

Jason Payne /


That crossed the line, according to the former head of the Civil Liberties Association.

“The line for me is the safety of my staff and the security of information that we hold for constituents that we’re doing the case work for,” he complained.

But at least the protest organizers had a sense of humour. As an aid to monitoring police conduct without getting arrested, they distributed a guide for “legal observers” at protests. The co-author was none other than David Eby, during his days with the Civil Liberties Association.

Another politician who found the protesters arriving on his constituency office doorstep was Environment Minister George Heyman.

Before being elected to office, Heyman toured the province with a film that rang the alarm bells about the alleged dangers of natural gas fracking here in B.C.

As a cabinet minister, he announced that B.C. would unilaterally block increased shipments of bitumen from Alberta, then went to a celebratory dinner with a platoon of anti-pipeline activists.

But on the floor of the legislature on Thursday, there was Heyman lamenting that today’s activists don’t show him any respect when they visit his constituency office or protest outside it.

“Starting a little over a year ago, the visits and protests clearly took a different edge,” said Heyman. “We had more than one occasion where people came into the office, occupied the office, refused to leave. Some people were abusive to the constituency staff.”

It has gotten so bad that from time to time, he has had to close his office altogether.

Which is regrettable and, in my view, a job for police, same as with protests that block access to the legislature, transportation and the port.

But having pandered to environmental and Indigenous activists for years, the New Democrats should not be surprised that some of it has come back to bite them.

This content was originally published here.

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