Maclean’s Interview: Wiebo Ludwig - Macleans.ca
 

Maclean’s Interview: Wiebo Ludwig

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Anti-oil patch activist on his arrest, the ‘very humane’ search of his property, and the EnCana pipeline bombings


 

Maclean’s Interview: Wiebo Ludwig
UPDATE: Wiebo Ludwig died of esophageal cancer on April 9 , at the age of 70, at home in Alberta. Here is our interview with the controversial figure from two years ago, after an RCMP arrest.

Wiebo Ludwig has long been a fierce opponent of the oil and gas industry. He claims that sour gas wells have led to health problems, including miscarriages, for his family, who live on Trickle Creek Farm, near Hythe, Alta. In 2000, Ludwig was convicted of charges in relation to the 1998 bombing of gas wells in Alberta, and served two-thirds of a 28-month sentence. After six bombings of the EnCana pipeline near Tomslake, B.C., the oil company received anonymous letters demanding it cease operations. On Jan. 8, Ludwig was arrested and the RCMP conducted an extensive search of his property for evidence. Ludwig, 68, was released without charges the day after his arrest. Since then, the RCMP have said they have “significant” evidence they will be submitting to the Crown.

Q: On the day of your arrest, you and your son, Josh, drove into Grande Prairie for what you thought was a friendly meeting at a motel with the RCMP to get an update on the Tomslake bombing. Walk me through that.
A: I expected to speak with the inspector from Calgary and, for a change, not focus on who was the bomber but how can we resolve the problems at Tomslake. As we backed in, four police cars came into the lot, plus a ghost car. One of the policemen walked up and said, “Mr. Ludwig, you’ll have to get out. We need to talk to you.” They wanted to arrest me, they said, for extortion.


Q: What was your reaction?
A: I said, “Extortion? That’s never come into my mind, unless you have access to my subconscious mind or something.” They chuckled a bit, but they were pretty serious. [An inspector from Vancouver] explained to me that was indeed the charge, and that I’d have to come along to the detachment in Grande Prairie.
On the way there, we pulled into a big-box store, where the police were taking down some person, a tough guy, apparently. One of the officers came up to the ghost car and said, “Boy, he punched so-and-so right in the head.” When they brought me to my cell, that guy was in there.

Q: The same guy from the scuffle?
A: Yeah. I said to the investigator and the person on duty, “Hey, what’s going on here? I saw this man in a violent takedown. You have a duty to make sure that my life and limb is protected. The Constitution guarantees me that safety.” “Yeah, that’s true,” he said. They told me to go in there anyway.

Q: How long was that other individual in that cell with you?
A: For a couple of hours.

Q: Did he speak with you?
A: I didn’t talk to him at first. He started to talk to me but I was feeling kind of shocked from being arrested, so I just lay there on the cot for about 15 minutes. He made an angry speech trying to justify himself as a regular troublemaker, eh? But I didn’t buy it. I could tell each time he wanted me to talk about myself, and I tried to get him to talk about himself, you know? Later on I brought it up, before they took me out to interrogate me, and he got pretty hostile. He said, “Do you think I’m a plant here? That’s really offensive.” He got really angry and stared me down. And I said, “Well, you know, I’m just saying they sure made it look like it. I’ve been in jail before, and I know they do those things.”

Q: How long was the interrogation?
A: Two five-hour sessions, roughly.

Q: Was it one officer asking you questions?
A: The first half of it was just one officer. The first half was all about saying they had a lot of sympathy for what our family went through. He showed me they had investigated this for quite a while, from 1991 to 2010. They had it all in little anecdotes pasted on the wall in chronological order.

Q: So he seemed somewhat sympathetic to your plight?
A: Yeah. After that first stint, I called my lawyer, Paul Moreau, and he said, “Hey, listen, they’re just softening you up. I would not talk anymore.” So I followed that advice.


Q: What was the reaction of the police when you refused to talk to them?
A: They said they could appreciate that, but they wanted to tell me a little story. He had a computer, with a 20- to 25-minute presentation of Nelson Mandela’s struggles.
So he showed how Nelson Mandela’s struggle lined up with ours. He said, “You know, the thing he did—and that’s what I want you to listen to carefully, Wiebo—he did a wonderful thing there, he didn’t try to sneak and say, ‘No, I had nothing to do with it,’ he just laid it all out, what he had done and why he had done it and he was respected around the globe for that, and, you know, it would do your cause a lot of good. If you would just lay this stuff out, you’d get a lot of respect, whatever your involvement has been.”

Q: What was your response to that?
A: I just listened. And it went on for another four hours.

Q: Did the police tell you why you were being set free and not charged?
A: The Crown didn’t feel [the evidence was] legitimately sufficient on which to hold me.

 

‘The RCMP said, “Mandela laid it all out. If you would just lay this stuff out, you’d get a lot of respect. ”  I just listened.’

‘The RCMP said, “Mandela laid it all out. If you would just lay this stuff out, you’d get a lot of respect. ” I just listened.’

Q: Your arrest and the search of your property has put you back in the spotlight. Do you welcome it as an opportunity, or is it a pain?
A: I had a sense before I got home that this might be a much more timely arrest and return to our case in Alberta, given the Copenhagen thing and the fact that that all failed. I said, “Let’s see what we can do to awake the public again to the great need for this.”

Q: Did the Mounties say why they thought you were guilty of extortion? Did they say to you, “Look, we believe your DNA is on this envelope, or on this paper?”
A: “On the outside,” they said, “there’s other DNA from postal workers who handled the envelope, but there’s definitely”—words to this effect—“a liberal sprinkling of your DNA in there as well. And you can trust us.” I didn’t say anything. But when they kept pounding away, I said, “I think it’s ridiculous.”

Q: You’ve said in spite of what has happened, you haven’t closed the door to helping the RCMP or meeting with them again. Why would you want to co-operate?
A: I have seen in life the us-and-them syndrome in jail and in small towns, and seen how we don’t treat each other first of all as human beings regardless of who we are, what kind of trouble we’re in. The fact that there were [so many] officers here for five days is quite a stress on a community. But we bore with that patiently and it seemed to create a pretty good atmosphere here.

Q: What about the possibility the RCMP have left behind listening devices? They did in 1999 after Karman Willis was fatally shot on your property.
A: I imagine that would probably be the thing they’d want to do.

Q: How is your family handling all this?
A: Pretty good, actually.


Q: So you don’t think there’ll be any long-term effects on the children?
A: I don’t think so. The last search we had 10 years ago was pretty rough. This was very humane, exceedingly humane.

Q: Did the RCMP seize your computers?
A: They seized all our computers and software, including cameras and tapes.

Q: What else?
A: We have quite a system of filing here, they took a lot of those. They were looking for stamps, and they showed me in jail what kind they were looking for. I looked in my drawer [when I got home] and there were quite a few different stamps. There was even one of those kinds in a pack of six—five had been used—and they didn’t take it. It was the Canadian flag stamp.

Q: That’s a fairly common stamp, isn’t it?
A: That’s the one they wanted, and they left it here. That kind of puzzles me.

Q: When I went to your farm in November, I was shocked how self-sufficient your community was. You had solar power, wind-generated power, greenhouses, a metal shop, a woodworking shop, cattle, chickens and sheep.
A: We’re happy with what we’ve achieved so far—we’re about 80 per cent fossil fuel free—and self-sufficient food-wise and in other ways, home education.

Q: You’re perceived as, some people say, an eco-terrorist. You have a criminal conviction, and now people see you as a suspect in the bombings. Does it bother you?
A: Well, I don’t like it, of course. One prefers to have a good reputation as much as possible, but I think that stuff is necessary for a while until there’s greater understanding as to what we are really all about.

Q: How do people react to you?
A: I was in town this afternoon and a young man came in—he was a university student or something—and wanted to shake my hand. He said, “I want you to know that whatever you did, even if you did it, I’m 100 per cent behind you. I think it’s terrible what’s going on.” That’s the typical thing that happens. People are concerned about what’s going on in the world, with pollution particularly.

Q: Do you have any theory as to who is behind the bombings at Tomslake? Do you think that they will eventually be caught?
A: I don’t think so. I think that’s probably going to die down. I don’t want to say too much on that.

Q: Do you ever google yourself to find out what people say about you?
A: I don’t use the computer much but Josh prints some of those out. Lately, it’s about 90 per cent thumbs up on a lot of issues.

Q: One of the things said about you is that you’re a bit of an Old Testament kind of guy. Is that fair?
A: I don’t think so. But I can see today where anybody who speaks somewhat deeply spiritually, scripturally, is going to be relegated to that. There’s not much room for those kinds of discussions, unfortunately. The church itself has made it impossible to keep that discussion somewhat alive in society. It has compromised and made itself a laughingstock of the intellectual world.

Q: You’ve been through a lot. Did you ever feel that God has deserted you?
A: Quite the opposite, actually.

Q: In retrospect, do you think the open letter that you wrote to the bomber last fall [in it, Ludwig appealed for the bombing to stop, but was sympathetic to the cause] drew some negative attention to you?
A: A certain amount. They even used it in the interview to show that I was giving indications that I was probably involved in the bombing, that I might even be orchestrating it. They showed me the quotes they were using to come to that conclusion, and I didn’t see at all how you could come to that conclusion.

Q: Did you ever think that one of your sons or a family member would have been involved in the bombings in Tomslake? Did you ever have a talk with them to say, “Hey guys, anyone involved in that?”
A: That’s a bit sensitive for me to talk about but, you know, there has been a lot of pain in some of the young men here, in the loss of the children [the miscarriages], and I could well see that they

Q: No one’s been charged or anything.
A: No, no. But I’m saying there is motive, I suppose, the police can go after, but then that’s not necessarily a reason to suspect anybody.


 

Maclean’s Interview: Wiebo Ludwig

  1. Great interview, very well spoken, believable and sympathetic portrait of Mr. Ludwig with interesting comments on police techniques.

    • The follow to the plant that is the RCMP Detachment in Grande Prairie has no record of an arrest and no record anyone assaulting a police officer.

  2. Another example of a great interview by Byron Christopher. Very impartial and to the point. Makes one wonder about RCMP interrogation methods.

    • I agree with you and congratulate Byron on doing a wonderful job as usual… how nice to see someone from our High School doing such a great job…

  3. Great interview and good questions. Nice to see some unbiased reporting for once. I wonder how the people who plagerize and censor the news back in Edmonton feel when they see how you conduct yourself as a journalist. Good job M.R. Christopher

  4. A character with a past that gives me no motive whatsoever to have any sympathy for him. And yet, the Crown was, I guess, underwhelmed by what the RCMP dug up.

    This was a superb interview. Thank you for it.

  5. Another great interview by Byron Christopher.

    Many desk editors and journalists shape a story with an outcome in mind, Byron does not. Instead, he asks the questions that should be asked. He asks them in a direct and straight-forward way. That is the reputation Byron has earned. That is who he is.

    North Americans are finding out who Byron is. They are learning that he has stood up to big interests, to manipulative police forces, to abusive authority, and to corrupted news broadcasting.

    Most importantly, people are willing to talk to Byron because he is an upright man in a news-world that of recent has lost much of its credibility. The newsworld once protected the public by being its eyes and ears for wrongdoing. Now most have sold-out to mega-media like Orascom or curry the favour of corporate Canada and deliver naught to the public but pablum and prepaid propaganda.

    Is it any wonder, people feel safe putting their story in Byron Christopher's hands.

    "BRAVO" to Macleans.

    Ed Poley

  6. Yes it is nice when someone takes an ethical approach to journalism. It's also nice to see somebody dig up a story and run with it, good investigative journalism is becoming a rarity. Good job Byron,and Macleans, we need more of this.

    Ian Affleck.

  7. Being in the middle of this gas field and being as involved as you can get in trying to get more safety in the development of the gas field, this helps to confirm my feeling that, although Mr. Ludwig may know who is responsible for the bombings in the area, he is not responsible. Except for the “plant” (and I will concur that I feel it was a plant) in his cell, the interrogation techniques and questions and examples are all the same for the “uncooperative citizens of the area” who were “persons of interest.” It’s almost like they have a script to read from. Will they ever catch the person? Not until they change their tactics and the methods they use to try to extract information. Including the “DNA” and the “list” they have created.

  8. The RCMP Nelson Mandela presentation probably had to do with the time a few years ago when Weibo Ludwig was calling for a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" for issues related to his past involvement with EnCana, modeled on the South African one after apartheid was defeated, and Mandela was President. Ludwig's calls went unanswered.

  9. Indeed an interesting interview if this is only about his fight against big oil.
    The real tough questions could have been "why" his entire life has been in turmoil. Why he was run out of Ontario? Why he was defrocked by his peers? With all his grumbling about society and weak morals, by withdrawing from society he offers no solutuions. He rules with an iron fist over a commune, sending parents away from their children for months at a time. He has now drawn his children and grandchildren into his tormented life. Oil is just an easy target and his rage against that deflects Ludwigs need to deal with relationship issues.

  10. I don't fall into the trap of thinking we all have to be the same and sing from the same sheet of music. I live far away from the Peace River area, but celebrate diversity in a world where we are brutally taught to conform, and celebrate self-sufficiency in a nation nursed along with surrogate dependancy.

    Whenever I think about this disturbing Tomslake mystery though, I still ask the fundamental question "qui bono?" and I come back to the motivational answer being the pipeline company itself. Is that so shocking?

    But how else can you create a widespread sense of fear and distrust in a farming community you'd rather wasn't living on top of "your" resources? How else could you garner the publicly-subsidized support of all the security you'd ever need to further your goals? How else can you distract the public from realizing the've sold the resource too cheaply, and certainly hadn't expected to be rewarded with so much injustice, illness, death and disease that seems to be part and parcel of this kind of foul-smelling frontier economy?

  11. Why don't the RCMP arrest the real criminals from Encana that are doing thier utmost to protect people's safety? Teh real real criminals running these gas wells with no concern for the safety of the humans in the area should be locked up. The bomber hasn't hurt anyone, he has proven to be more humane, than the leaders of these corporations.

  12. why does someone opposing oil and gas drive and flaunt a LOUD DIRTY CUMMINS DIESEL TRUCK??????? thats what gets me, that goes to all you wanna talk the talk then walk the walk too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The world wont stop drilling and digging until nobody drives and FARMS anymore!!!! So Wiebo shutdown your operations and your engines!!!!!!!

    •  Trickle Creeks’ Cummins diesel, is operating on Bio diesel and cummins makes North Americas cleanest diesel engine. His trucks are used for farming and hauling trailers and equipment, not taking his kids to the mall or soccer practice. Can you use a volkswagen Jetta or some other poor quality overpriced weak German vehicle to do the work a cummins powered pickup can? I think you will find the answer is no! Also please bear in mind the British made way more sensible extremely fuel efficient cars 50 years ago that would give any smart car a good run for their money. If north Americans would not have turned their backs on British engineers and good honest fuel efficient cars for throw away rubbish we would not be in the same mess we are in today.

  13. This guy is pretty positive of what he is fighting for. Very interesting interview. Thanks for sharing this.