Yvon Raoul is modest about his actions – “my little action is just a minor thing, really,” he said of his and Earle Peach’s decision to lock themselves to a tree in the path of pipeline work in Burnaby.
The same isn’t true of the 72-year-old’s motivations.
“In my family, this is not a minor thing. This is an example that I’m giving my grandkids. I want them to understand that you need … power struggle in life. Power struggle is part of living. And one of the parts of struggle is to break laws when these laws are not working for us,” Raoul said after he and Peach were handed $150 fines for trespassing on CN Railway property.
“Any society that has progress has progress because laws were broken.”
The two seniors – who know each other through the Solidarity Notes and Labour Choir – aren’t new to civil disobedience, particularly when it comes to the Trans Mountain pipeline. A demonstration in 2014, for instance, saw the arrest of several choir members.
“Including this one,” Peach said, hugging his wife.
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has seen increasing opposition in recent months as construction work gets underway in the Lower Mainland.
That includes a camp and a treehouse – the former of which was recently cleared out by police – peacefully blocking tree-clearing work for the pipeline expansion route near Brunette River in Burnaby.
That tree-clearing work, taking place between the CN railroad and Highway 1 just west of North Road, has become the front lines between Trans Mountain and anti-pipeline activists, and Thursday morning was no different.
Peach, the choir’s conductor, and Raoul, a singer in the choir, locked onto trees in the area at 7 a.m., apparently willing to risk arrest for their action. As they did so, a couple dozen supporters stood on the sidelines, sometimes singing, and applauded and cheered on the two as they were led off the property by CN Police Service officers at around 9:30 a.m.
The demonstration was in response to the beginning of construction work in that area the day prior, when police cleared out the protest camp on ground level. Still remaining on site are a treehouse and tent strung up between trees.
Still unclear is whether the two will face criminal charges for violating a court injunction, which orders protesters to clear the path for the construction work at the CN Rail property. For now, the two have fines for trespassing.
As they spoke to supporters following their protest, Raoul said he hopes his actions will not only ensure a better environment for his three children and seven grandchildren, who range from two to 17 years old, but to make them proud. Asked if he feels like he’s accomplishing that, Raoul immediately answers: “Oh, yes, of course.”
“We’ve got a very tightly knit family, and I’m so proud of that. And this is part of their education. It’s giving them a sense of value of being human beings and living in a society where cooperation, solidarity and gentleness is part of life,” Raoul said.
“I taught my kids to live like that, and they are applying it not with words but in reality and practice. They are walking the talk. And I am walking the talk and doing what I’m supposed to do.”