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Anti-pipeline activists bring art vandalism to B.C.

Emily Carr's 'Stumps and Sky' smeared with maple syrup as they demand end to Coastal GasLink pipeline
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Self-described climate activists smeared Emily Carr's painting 'Stumps and Sky' at the Vancouver Art Gallery with maple syrup on Saturday. (Supplied)

Political activists with the so-called “Stop Fracking Around” movement have vandalized an iconic painting by renowned B.C. artist Emily Carr as part of their "demands" to end construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The adolescent activists, one of them identified in a press release as 19-year-old Erin Fletcher, smeared Carr's painting Stumps and Sky at the Vancouver Art Gallery with maple syrup and then glued their hands to the wall.

Saturday’s publicity stunt has been imported from overseas, where self-described “climate activists” in recent weeks have attacked other historic art works, from throwing tomato soup on Vincent van Gogh’s 1888 painting Sunflowers at the National Gallery in London, to dumping mashed potatoes on Claude Monet's 1890 painting Les Meules in Potsdam, Germany.

Carr’s Stumps and Sky is dated around 1934, part of the Vancouver gallery's permanent collection.

The gallery Saturday night said it "believes there will be no permanent damage" to the painting, and condemned the actions. The gallery said it was working with police on its investigation. 

"The Vancouver Art Gallery condemns acts of vandalism towards the works of cultural significance in our care, or in any museum," gallery director and CEO Anthony Kiendl said in a statement.

"A central part of our mission is to make safer spaces for communication and ideas. As a non-profit charity, we are an institution of memory and care for future generations. We do support the free expression of ideas, but not at the expense of suppressing the ideas and artistic expressions of others, or otherwise inhibiting people from access to those ideas."

In the press release, Fletcher is quoted as saying, “We are in a climate emergency. We are taking this action following Remembrance Day to remind ourselves of the countless deaths that took place, and will continue to take place, due to the greed, corruption and incompetence of our leaders.”

"When we go over 2 degrees Celsius increase in global average temperatures, we are looking at death and starvation at an unprecedented scale due to inaction on climate change," Fletcher is quoted as saying.

Fletcher went on to claim the Wet'suwet'en First Nation "has made it very clear that they do not want this pipeline,” which will transport natural gas from Northeast B.C. to the LNG Canada project being built on the west coast in Kitimat for exports to Asia.

While some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are opposed to the pipeline project, elected band councils with the First Nation have signed $300 million in benefits agreements with Coastal GasLink, one of 20 indigenous groups along the pipeline route to do so.

In a project update last month, Coastal GasLink said construction is now 75% complete overall, with nearly 6,400 workers employed at the end of September. 

Pipe installation has been fully completed between Groundbirch and Sukunka in Northeast B.C., and is nearly 90% installed between Sukunka and the Mount Merrick area east of McLeod Lake.

Construction continues around the Morice River area south of Houston, which has been the scene of several blockades and protests over the last several years, and where other acts of violent vandalism and confrontation occurred with workers earlier this year.

In February, an axe-wielding mob caused millions in damages to heavy machinery and portable buildings. No employees were harmed, and no arrests have been made in the incident.

The cost of the pipeline, started in 2019, has nearly doubled, from $6.6 billion to $11.2 billion

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