British Columbia has seen forest fires, heat waves, double rainbows, the northern lights and a waterspout in the last six months. Now we can add floods and mudslides to that long list of wild weather.
The dramatic footage of destroyed roads, flooded towns and a runaway giant barge made it to evening news around the world — even before the tragic confirmation of at least one fatality, with more likely to come. More people remain missing. Nearly 18,000 people have had to leave their homes. Flood evacuees are staying in temporary shelters with wildfire evacuees. All of the major highways to and from the Port of Vancouver are shut, meaning supply chain issues are imminent. Power went out all over the Lower Mainland and parts of Vancouver Island.
Premier John Horgan has stressed the need for the province to become more resilient to deal with extreme weather. “I think all British Columbians fully understand that now we have to better prepare for events like this, but we couldn’t have even imagined it six months ago,” he said in a press conference on Wednesday. “We need to start preparing for a future that includes more regular events like this, and we fully intend to do that.”
A lot of people haven’t been impressed by the province’s handling of the latest climate disaster. The government didn’t respond to media requests last Sunday, when meteorologists said in no uncertain terms that an “atmospheric river” was coming. Province-wide emergency alerts weren’t issued. Local governments were left to make their own choices, and B.C. deflected criticism by essentially blaming them for not doing more to protect their citizens.
This summer’s forest fires may also have made the floods worse. Horgan can’t control the weather, but he can certainly control the logging and resource extraction that’s led to the increased scale of devastation.
Last week, before the floods, Robert Hackett wrote in Rabble, “Memories of last summer’s deadly heat domes and wildfires still burn deeply. B.C. is experiencing the global consequences of carbon-intensive extractivism.” He described the province as “clearly in a state of climate emergency — but the government is not in emergency mode.” This hits especially hard when you consider the delayed governmental response to the crisis.
B.C. declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, days after the rain fell. Now, people across the Fraser Valley are running low on supplies as panic buying empties grocery stores. People with medical needs are having problems restocking prescriptions as pharmacies are shut — and people who use drugs aren’t able to access harm reduction options.
And while Sumas Prairie became Sumas Lake, the RCMP were deployed to Wet’suwet’en to arrest land defenders, elders and legal observers, and enforce Coastal GasLink’s injunction. At the time of writing, 14 people have been arrested. Whoever is in charge of this decision needs to consider whether arresting climate protesters in the midst of a highly visible natural disaster is really the best use of police resources.
We’re not out of the woods yet. Monday night into Tuesday could see more rain, and the possibility of another storm. B.C. might have to demonstrate their disaster preparedness sooner than expected.
This Week From Passage
“It’s Time For Our Governments To Think Beyond Vaccine Mandates.” Nora Loreto.
The federal government has time and time again shirked responsibility for stopping COVID-19 from spreading in workplaces, leaving it to private industry or provincial governments to make their own rules. This has created “an incoherent mess.” Vaccine mandates won’t make everyone get vaccinated, so governments need to prioritize looking after the most at-risk communities.
“Here’s How To Fix Canada’s Vaccine Rollout For Children.” Nora Loreto.
Health Canada approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged five and up on Friday. But just as the rollout for adult vaccines was inequitable, so will it be for kids. Columnist Nora Loreto lays out two ways that governments could improve: prioritizing badly affected regions first, and vaccinating kids at school.
“Strike At The University Of Manitoba: Interview With David Camfield.” Adam D.K. King.
The University of Manitoba Faculty Association represents about 1,200 people, who have been on strike since November 2 over low salaries and other issues. Adam King talks to David Camfield, an associate professor in labour studies at U of M, about the strike’s goals in both U of M and beyond.
Continuing Stories And Quick Hits
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced he’s repealing the three agriculture laws that sparked huge protests, more than a year after enacting them.
- The United Kingdom has voted to change rules on members of parliament having second jobs after allegations of corruption and “sleaze.” Three-quarters of the public are concerned about government corruption. Normal country!
- Ontario is set to debate Bill 8 this week. If passed, it would give workers 10 days of emergency paid personal leave, and 14 days during a pandemic.
- Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all counts. Gonna go out on a limb and say, as much as the American carceral system is fucked, this verdict is more fucked.
Elsewhere In Canada
“The De-Radicalization Of An Anti-Trans Activist.” Charlotte Dalwood, Rabble.
In 2019, Alicia Hendley founded “Canadian Women’s Sex-Based Rights”, an anti-trans group that painted trans rights as in conflict to women’s rights. And then, around late 2020, she left it. Charlotte Dalwood argues that ex-transphobes might be one of the most useful tools in dismantling vocal transphobia.
“Deportation Of Frontline Worker Shows Violence Of Canada’s Immigration State.” Kasim Tirmizey, Stefan Christoff and Jessie Stein, The Breach.
On Friday, Mamadou Konaté, an Ivorian asylum seeker who worked on the frontlines during the pandemic, was supposed to be deported. (He received a stay of deportation earlier this week.) This story has some depressing similarities to that of Carlo Escario. Both serve as a reminder that people are often denied status through violent, discriminatory policies.
Around The World
“The Belarus Migrant Crisis Shows The Hollowness Of European Humanitarianism.” Cyryl Ryzak, Jacobin.
At least nine migrants have died trying to cross the border from Belarus into Poland. Belarus is accused of trying to use the migrants as leverage to extract money from the EU, but this problem wouldn’t exist without oppressive border regimes. This is a fascinating, depressing look at an under-covered geopolitical nightmare.
“The U.S.-Led Bombings That Ended The ISIS ‘Caliphate’ Killed Scores Of Civillians.” Trevor Aaronson, The Intercept.
Look, we all know that the U.S.-led bombing campaigns that were ostensibly targeting ISIS militants actually caused mass civilian deaths. But seeing the horrific toll written out, interspersed with stories of specific events and people, makes it all the more tangible. Civilian harm tracker Airwars says they have confirmed 1,417 civilian deaths from foreign airstrikes, but estimate the real number could be more than 13,000.
One Last Thing
Trans Awareness Week has taken place over the past few days. Yesterday was Trans Day of Remembrance — a chance to remember all the lives lost to anti-trans killings in the past year. Anti-trans violence disproportionately affects Black trans women, as a deadly culmination of misogynoir and transmisogyny.
Everything I wanted to say about Trans Awareness Week — both its importance and its flaws — was summed up in this piece at them. by James Factora, titled “Trans People Deserve So Much More Than Your Awareness.”
What is the point of trans awareness? Trans awareness is meaningless without trans action.
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