Anti-oilpatch activist Wiebo Ludwig dies of cancer
Published Monday, April 9, 2012 11:05PM EDT
Anti-oilpatch activist Wiebo Ludwig, who spent nearly two years behind bars for his clashes with the Alberta oil and gas industry, has died of esophageal cancer at the age of 70.
In a news release, Ludwig's son Josh said his father died at home, surrounded by his loved ones.
"We will miss him as one who steadfastly and selflessly upheld the hope of the Gospel of Christ, as a loving husband, father and grandfather," said the release.
Late last year, Ludwig said he was seeking alternative medicine to fight cancer because he considered conventional treatment -- surgery and radiation -- too invasive.
In 2000, Ludwig was convicted of charges relating to the bombings and vandalism of gas wells in Alberta near his family compound Trickle Creek, located close to the community of Hythe. He was sentenced to 28 months in prison but served 19 months behind bars.
He had claimed that oil and gas developments harmed the health of his family and the animals on his farm. He blamed industry for his daughter's miscarriage and the deaths of his livestock.
While many derided Ludwig as an eco-terrorist, others believed he was simply trying to protect his land.
Ludwig moved to northwestern Alberta in the 1980s after working in Thunder Bay and Goderich, Ont., as a pastor at a Christian Reformed Church.
He had reportedly clashed with his congregation in Goderich when he demanded women be barefoot and submissive to their husbands.
"Half the congregation felt he was out of line and was becoming way too aggressive," said Andrew Nikiforuk, a journalist and author of the 2002 book "Saboteurs: Wiebo Ludwig's War Against Big Oil."
"His personality split the congregation."
Ludwig lived in the Trickle Creek compound with his wife, Mamie Lou, their 11 children and 23 grandchildren. The property was powered by a windmill and the family raised livestock and grew their own vegetables. The kids were homeschooled.
But when some of Ludwig's animals died and his family members started getting sick, he blamed the sour gas wells that were dug around his property by the early 1990s.
Between 1996 and 1998, there were at least 160 incidents at oil and gas facilities in northwestern Alberta, ranging from nails strewn along lease roads to shootings and bombings.
In April 2000, Ludwig was convicted of charges linked to the bombing of a Suncor well site near his home. He was also found guilty of encasing a Norcen Energy well in concrete.
Many suspected that Ludwig was also behind a string of pipeline bombings in British Columbia that started in 2008. The RCMP raided Ludwig's property but, ultimately, no charges were laid.
Despite his criminal convictions, Ludwig had a band of supporters. A year ago, he was joined by 60 people in a protest near a sour gas well site two kilometres from his home.
With files from The Canadian Press