An SFU professor is wondering why police are investigating him for taking pictures near the Burnaby Mountain tank farm.
Tim Takaro, a New Westminster resident and health sciences professor at SFU, was having lunch with his family yesterday, when his daughter's cell phone rang, and the man on the other end was looking for Takaro.
"He identifies himself as the Burnaby RCMP and he asked me if I was involved in any incidents," he said. "I didn't know anything he was talking about."
The officer told Takaro there would be no criminal charges, but Takaro had no idea he was under investigation in the first place.
"He said, there's no criminal charges, kind of out of the blue," Takaro said.
On March 6, Takaro was visiting Global TV to give an interview on the Port Metro Vancouver fire. He then drove up the hill to Kinder Morgan's tank farm and walked along a nearby trail.
"I took a picture of my phone with the trail signs, and behind it is the guard station (for the Kinder Morgan tank farm)," he said. "I didn't think anything of it, except the guy came out of the guard booth and said, 'You can't take pictures here.' I said, 'OK, fine,' and walked down the trail."
Takaro suspects the guard took down his licence plate number.
"The worst part is they called my daughter," Takaro said. "I find it really weird, kind of spooky and intimidating."
Takaro said his daughter does not pay for her cell phone, but he's unsure if it's registered in his name or his wife's.
Takaro also said he sees a connection to Bill-C51, the Conservative government's latest attempt to fight terrorism.
"I do think there's intimidation going on on the part of access to Kinder Morgan, and I think the new bill, C-51, that the Harper government is trying to ram through, this so called anti-terrorist bill, is very intimidating for people who are protesting these new large infrastructure projects that are destroying the planet."
Takaro's experience echoes that of New Westminster resident Lesslie Askin, a retired systems analyst who received a visit from the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, which includes CSIS, the Canadian Border Services Agency and the RCMP. Police came knocking on Askin's door after she was taking pictures close to the Burnaby Mountain tank farm. Askin is also a participant in Kinder Morgan's NEB hearing.
Burnaby RCMP spokesperson Staff Sgt. Major John Buis said he couldn't comment on any ongoing investigation and offered no details on Takaro's case. However, in general, if the RCMP receive a call about someone taking pictures of "critical infrastructure," police are required to do something, he explained.
"Let's say, for instance, this was a terrorist group on a reconnaissance, and we didn't do anything," Buis said. "When we get complaints from people who own critical infrastructure, or even Joe Public, and we don't act on it, then we are liable."
Stephen Hansen, Kinder Morgan's acting director for the Western Region, said the company has a security protocol to follow, when asked about Takaro.
"The reason we have a protocol is it's one of our top priorities, security and safety of our operations to our staff and to the community," Hansen said. "Certainly, if this person had talked to us and let us know who they were, and what they wanted, we would be more than happy to help them out with their concerns or their photographs."
It is not illegal to take photos on public property. Kinder Morgan does not have signs around the tank farm that prohibit photos, but there are signs that say the property is monitored 24 hours.
When the NOW explained Takaro's side of the story, Hansen suggested the company should talk with security staff.
"I understand his concerns," Hansen said. "It would have been much better if this individual had talked, and we need to make some changes there. We hope that our neighbours take comfort that we are trying to be diligent here and monitor the activities around our facility. If people are curious about our operations, come in and talk to us. We'd be more than happy to sit down and talk to them and show them what's going on here."