Support Fund for Jim, Stacy, and Tawahum

(Video credit: Grace Grignon/Extinction Rebellion Vancouver)

SUPPORT FUND FOR LAND DEFENDERS

Three Indigenous land defenders -- Stacy Gallagher, Jim Leyden, and Tawahum Bige -- were sentenced to 28 days in prison today (Oct. 6, 2020) by BC Supreme Court Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick for conducting ceremony to protect the land from the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline (TMX).

All three were arrested in August 2018 for singing and conducting ceremony for roughly half an hour in front of the Westridge Marine Terminal, charged with criminal contempt, and convicted in October 2019.

People are welcome to write to Jim, Stacy, and Tawahum at the following address:

North Fraser Pretrial Centre
1451 Kingsway Ave
Port Coquitlam, BC
V3C 1S2

We will update the address if they are moved to another location.

USE OF FUNDS

Mountain Protectors is aiming to fundraise to support Jim, Stacy, and Tawahum during their time in prison, and to support them if they decide to appeal the convictions or sentences (which all three are considering). Jim and Stacy are facing additional charges related to TMX, so it's also possible that the funds will go towards responding to how they have been targeted (which could involve more prison time -- see below).

CONTEXT

These cases, which have dragged on for more than two years, show how the RCMP and Crown prosecutors have targeted Indigenous peoples and cultures -- even as heightened awareness of institutionalized police racism and anti-Indigenous violence has mounted in Canada. The BC Supreme Court has been increasing the severity of penalties for breaches of the TMX injunction in a bid to deter further nonviolent resistance to pipeline expansion.

Since their conviction in Oct 2019, Stacy and Jim were again accused of criminal contempt in Nov and Dec 2019,  the only people to be charged for many months. The targeted nature of their cases was further underscored by a 500-metre stay-away order imposed against them at the request of the Crown. Stacy was recently tried on these new charges and is currently awaiting a verdict.

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs said: “As Indigenous peoples we are Caretakers of our lands and waters. Criminalizing these land defenders for upholding their responsibility under Indigenous law to conduct ceremony to protect the land from a destructive project like Trans Mountain is symbolic of systemic discrimination in the colonial court system. The Trans Mountain Expansion Project does not have the consent of impacted First Nations; our people continue to say no and our answer will not change.”

“Imprisoning these peaceful land defenders is systemic violence against Indigenous people. Praying for the land should not be criminalized. What’s criminal is extracting more oil and pumping out more pollution to accelerate the climate crisis we are in," says Ts'ing Kwiiaas (Brandon Gosnell) of the Mountain Protectors. “People understand that expanding the pipeline is game-over for the climate as we know it; the ones who should be prosecuted are TMX’s bosses and the politicians who are destroying our chances for a livable future.”

Hundreds have been arrested for nonviolent direct action to stop pipeline expansion, and fined or sentenced to community service, including Green Party MP Elizabeth May and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart. However, it is now these three Indigenous land defenders who are spending a month in prison (and potentially significantly more in the cases of Jim and Stacy).

“From the beginning, First Nations land defenders have been disproportionately targeted by Trans Mountain, the RCMP, and the Crown,” said Kris Hermes of the BC Law Union, who provided legal support for the hundreds of people arrested in 2018. “Instead of reconciling centuries of abuse, the Crown and the Court are ‘doubling down’ by ignoring Indigenous traditions, refusing to recognize ceremony, and by imposing the harshest penalties possible.”

ABOUT JIM, TAWAHUM & STACY

Jim Leyden was born in the Six Nations territory in Brantford, Ontario, and was apprehended during the Sixties Scoop and moved outside of his home territory for adoption. After moving to Vancouver he got involved in sweat lodge and Sundance ceremonies, ultimately becoming an Elder, Senior Sundancer and the head firekeeper for Sundance chief Robert Nahanee. Upon the setting up of the Watch House  and camp, he was asked to bring teachings and culture into the camp. Upon closing down of the camp he was asked to protect the Watch House by acting as a Traditional Watchman, keeping an eye on the work being done and reporting misconduct to the people and government agencies, ultimately being asked to act as the Watch House Elder. During the past 2 years he has engaged in holding traditional ceremonies and doing surveillance on the activities at Trans Mountain properties.

Tawahum Bige is a Łutselk'e Dene, Plains Cree, Two-Spirit, nonbinary poet, residing on unceded Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish territory. Since 2017, Tawahum has performed at over 40 different venues from BC to Ontario. Tawahum completed the first-ever Indigenous Spoken Word residency at the Banff Centre in 2018 while completing their BA in Creative Writing from KPU in 2019. Tawahum’s poetry and music makes vulnerable the process of growing and resisting on occupied Turtle Island. For Tawahum, beyond the festival, stage and page is the front-line, where their main inspiration comes from. They have hit the megaphone and mic at front lines to inspire their fellow warriors, whether at a rally, fundraiser, sacred fire or the siege outside the gates of Kinder Morgan in Burnaby.

Gitchi Makwa, Makwa Indodem, Stacy Gallagher follows the Anishinaabe ways of his mother’s ancestors. He behaves according to his grandmothers’ teachings and the natural laws. His responsibility is to care for the people and follow the original instructions through the blood memory of his ancestors. He serves the people as a fire keeper, opwaagan/pipe carrier, and by upholding his spiritual and ceremonial responsibilities. He has been up at the Watch House with the permission of Coast Salish elders since March 2018, humbly supporting land and water protectors and steadily respecting the Coast Salish law of Nawt’samat - One Heart, One Mind, One Soul, we are all related. Following his sacred responsibilities, he works to heal his relatives from addictions, trauma and the violence of colonization. When asked by his grandchildren seven generations from now, he’ll be able to answer “I’ve done everything that I could for you, my loved ones.”

BACKGROUND ON TMX

The $12.6 billion pipeline project was purchased from Texas oil giant Kinder Morgan by the Canadian government in May 2018; costs of the pipeline have ballooned  since the purchase. The project was opposed in court by the Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band, but all were recently denied leave to appeal by the Supreme Court of Canada. The TMX project also conflicts with Canada's commitment under the Paris Climate Agreement to keep global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degree Celsius. The project would impact numerous drinking water sources along the route, lead to a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet (threatening the endangered Southern Resident orcas), violate the self-determination of Tsleil-Waututh, Secwépemc, Qayqayt and many more First Nations, and put homes and facilities on Burnaby Mountain at risk -- among them, Simon Fraser University (SFU) and Burnaby Mountain Secondary School. The Province of British Columbia, the state of Washington, and 20 municipalities along the route including Burnaby  oppose the pipeline project.

The existing Trans Mountain pipeline is already a major environmental and public health hazard with a long history of disastrous spills . As recently as June 2020, 50,000 gallons of crude oil spilled  from a pump station located above an aquifer that supplies the Sumas First Nation with drinking water. The thirteen 67-year old tanks at the terminus of the pipeline are too close together to put out in the event of a fire, according to the Burnaby Fire Department. Around 240,000 people live within the 4.2 km radius of the site that is considered an evacuation zone, including 32,000 members of the SFU community. A growing number of insurers  have pulled out of the pipeline project amidst rising public pressure and financial risk due to climate uncertainty.

Note: This fundraiser is organized by Dana James and Rita Wong, members of Mountain Protectors and friends/family members of Jim, Stacy, and Tawahum. We are grateful to be living and working on unceded Coast Salish territories. The funds will be deposited into Dana's account and then e-transferred to Tawahum, Jim, and Stacy.
  • Abbey Piazza 
    • $75 
    • 10 mos
  • Arc Poetry 
    • $100 
    • 12 mos
  • Hannah Davis 
    • $10 
    • 12 mos
  • Jerry Cyr 
    • $50 
    • 14 mos
  • Sheila James 
    • $50 
    • 14 mos
See all

Fundraising team: Mountain Protectors (2)

Dana James 
Organizer
Galiano Island, BC
Rita Wong 
Team member
  • #1 fundraising platform

    More people start fundraisers on GoFundMe than on any other platform. Learn more

  • GoFundMe Guarantee

    In the rare case something isn’t right, we will work with you to determine if misuse occurred. Learn more

  • Expert advice

    Contact us with your questions and we’ll answer, day or night. Learn more