She was about to leave when Simon called.
“Part of Highway 16 has been washed out. I’m stuck in Burns Lake.”
“Oh no.” Her heart felt crushed. “Can you fly out? You can pay me back.”
“I might have to, but not from here, there’s no commercial airport. I’ll have to get a ride back to Smithers.”
“How far away is that?”
“A hundred and forty-three kilometers in the wrong direction,” Simon said. “But I can’t get out until the weather clears, anyway.”
It was the third day of a Pineapple Express, a meteorological phenomenon that funneled unseasonably warm moisture laden air from Hawaii to the Pacific coast of Canada. The rain coupled with the rising temperatures led to a rapid melting of the record winter snowpack in the mountains caused by the La Nina. The rivers throughout the province were on a rampage and flooding was widespread.
“I’m sorry, Mattie. I miss you and was looking forward to getting back.”
Simon promised to keep her updated, and she disconnected before her disappointment morphed into anger.
For five weeks, Simon had been at a remote camp in northern British Columbia supporting a protest against the building of a liquid natural gas pipeline that ran through the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en. The camp had been established for ten years and Simon had visited it a number of times, but this visit was in anticipation of the RCMP enforcing the court injunction granted to the construction company.
Three days ago, heavily armed officers enforced the order. Mattie watched, along with the rest of Canada, as police, looking more like special forces going into battle, scaled the barricade and amid screams, shouts and chants descended among the protestors on the other side.
Despite claims police used excessive force, it didn’t appear that way on the video coverage. The protestors were advised, warned and then, if they didn’t get out of the way, arrested according to the law. Those who had chained themselves to the barricade or refused to walk to the police vehicles were removed by force–how else? There was no clubbing, tear gas, or rubber bullets; the police seemed respectful, though knowing the country was watching might have had something to do with their behaviour.
Fourteen people were arrested and charged. To Mattie’s relief, Simon was nowhere in sight. He already had one conviction for contempt of court, and another would get him a maximum sentence of ninety days plus a fine. The government was gunning for Simon, of that she was sure, and they were the lesser of evils. Mattie could well imagine a contract on Simon’s life would be far less expensive than the money corporations lost due to protests he organized. You’re paranoid, she told herself. This was Canada where the law was respected and upheld, but during those sleepless hours it was another anxiety that visited her.
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