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Reflections from Prison
  By Janette McIntosh. Introduction by the Rev. Dr. Allen Aicken and the Rev. Dr. Glen Davis
Janette McIntosh learned about faith in action and attained a passion for social justice at the knee of her parents, Clarabeth and John (Jack) McIntosh, who were missionaries with the Ko- rean Christian Church in Japan for 40 years (1961–2001). In that context, Janette was raised. The McIntoshes courageously advo- cated for Koreans living in Japan, many for generations, so that they might have the same rights as Japanese citizens. The witness came at considerable cost to the family.
Today, Janette is a Presbyterian elder, married with two children, living in the traditional unceded lands of the Musqueam, Squam- ish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
After a long period of prayerful discernment with the support of her prayer circle, Janette sensed the direction of God to take an action, along with a few prayerful friends, that some might not feel comfortable with. They breached a B.C. Supreme Court injunction against protests opposing the Trans Mountain Pipeline expan- sion and were arrested. Since the B.C. Supreme Court Injunction of 2018, over 240 people have been arrested for breaching that injunc- tion and taking a peaceful stand in opposition to the Trans Moun- tain Pipeline expansion. Protest- ers include people of faith such as Elizabeth May, former leader of the Green Party of Canada, and Steve Heinrichs, Director of Indigenous-Settler Relations, Mennonite Church Canada, and Kennedy Stewart, Mayor of Van- couver. Early on, the courts im- posed $500 fines and community service. Penalties have increased with nearly 40 people receiving jail terms from four days to five months.
On February 14, Janette, with two of her women friends, ap- peared in court and were sen- tenced to 14 days in a local prison. Covid restrictions did not permit visitors, but supporters brought drumming and song, and said prayers outside the gates and shouted forth their love, sup- port and assurance of prayer. Janette completed her sentence
safely and is now engaging in re- flection and plans for next steps in her witness for climate justice. Janette has told her story of what a deeply spiritual journey this has been as she undertook this wit- ness to follow God’s call to stand up for the protection and nurture of creation.
I am grateful for the Rev. Dr. Al- len Aicken and the Rev. Dr. Glen Davis’s encouragement to share some of my reflections from jail with you.
The words of the late Desmund Tutu spoke truth and gave me courage while taking action: “If you are neutral in situations of in- justice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Similarly, his words remained in my heart while I served “time for my crime”: “We are each made for goodness, love and compassion. Our lives are transformed as much as the world is when we live with these truths.”
As a Presbyterian with my early faith formation within the Ko- rean Christian Church in Japan, I certainly know the value of the Word and Prayer. After all, I am the daughter of a Presbyterian minister and “samonim” (honor- ary Korean name for the spouse of a pastor). I have also learned, firsthand, the importance of hav- ing a spiritual practice—connect- ing mind and heart, trusting in the Spirit. I never felt alone through- out this time. My family, the multi-faith Prayer Circle Action group and some Presbyterian and KAIROS friends have all been my community, despite Covid times. And none of my actions could have been made possible with- out prayerful discernment, the love and wise counsel, and more prayer. My trust in God helped me to let go and be okay with the unknown, with the support of the prayers of many, including some of you!
Handcuffed and shackled, on February 14, we were trans- ported in a sheriff’s van from the basement of the B.C. Supreme Court House to Alouette Correc- tional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge, B.C. Leaving downtown Vancouver at 4:30 p.m., it was surreal. I wondered how many drivers in traffic know that there are prisoners being transported
out from the building at the same time each day, merging into the flow. While waiting in our holding cells, the three of us women sen- tenced together discovered our voices, harmonizing songs famil- iar to us, singing to pass the time, keep warm and to encourage one another. We were kept apart, but we never felt alone.
Received by the guards at around 7:00 p.m. with a brown bag lunch in our cells, we were screened for COVID-19, vitals checked, urine sample submitted, and even X-rayed for any ingested illegal substances! Covid proto- cols are taken very seriously, and medical care is 24/7. We started in a “Segregation Unit” for the first three days, and then remained in the “Induction Unit” as a cohort of 12 women—five white, five Indigenous and two South Asian; women ranging in ages from ear- ly 20s to late 70s. Our individual cells were approximately 1.8m x 4m with two narrow slits of “window” for natural light, along with a toilet and sink, and a televi- sion high up on the wall. Lights always on, a loud fan, and heavy unit doors randomly slamming shut throughout the night made it difficult for light sleepers. Even though there were scheduled times for meals, time in and out of our cells seemed random, often a pleasant surprise to be “let out.” We were well-cared for though,
and the guards were well-trained to handle the mental health chal- lenges some inmates struggled with, including nightmares. I prayed for peace for the inmates and guards every night.
We were able to sit and have meals together and have some conversations. We worked on a jigsaw puzzle together, too. Peo- ple seemed to enjoy our singing, and some participated in a sing- ing circle the night before we left. The power of prayer and the power of song for strength and healing is something I will always remember from this time. It was encouraging to know that there were others outside the prison walls praying and meditating with us at the appointed times of 7:00 a.m., 12:00 noon, and/or 7:00 p.m. as people’s schedules al- lowed. We had two chaplain visits and I read two books. One was given to us by the chaplain: We’re All Doing Time —a Guide for Get- ting Free by Bo Lozoff, founder of Human Kindness Foundation, and another I found on the book cart: When All you Have is Hope, co-authored by John Reynolds and Frank O’Dea, a co-founder of Second Cup, about his inspiring journey.
I wrote some letters. I also received a few—thank you! We were also fortunate to be able to connect with our loved ones by phone, free of charge dur-
ing Covid restrictions. I tried to demonstrate love and compas- sion whenever I could in my encounters with fellow inmates and guards on duty. I was cog- nizant of the racism, gender and age-based discrimination, and the education, employment, race and ethnicity-based power and privilege that remain in Canadian institutions, churches included. Systemic racism and colonialism get in the way of true reconcilia- tion, but I try by building relation- ships. I also struggled with the images on the television screen, a juxtaposition I was made aware of—of the truck convoy in Ottawa demanding “freedom,” the esca- lating tensions in Ukraine, and the Olympics—all happening while we were in jail. I prayed for peace and understanding throughout my time.
I am glad I’ve been able to see this through. I had done eve- rything I could—speaking and writing to MPs, MLAs, signing petitions and writing directly to the PMO. I’ve marched the streets many times over the years, both individually and as part of KAIROS and interfaith coalitions, as well as with environmental groups. I am very much motivated by the deep sense of responsibility I feel and commitment I have to envi- ronmental stewardship; also by
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