A Vancouver-area doctor has occupied several trees in the area around the Brunette River, which straddles the border between New Westminster and Burnaby.
The move, by Dr. Tim Takaro, a public health doctor, is in protest against the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX), which is set to run along the Brunette River conservation area.
“I didn’t expect to find myself living in a tree at 63 years of age,” said Takaro, who has studied the impacts of climate change for three decades. “This threat has compelled me to put my body on the line to prevent construction of this climate killing project.”
The pipeline has proven controversial in Canada – depending on whom you ask, the pipeline is either a necessary addition for the Canadian and Albertan economies, or it’s another nail in the climate-change coffin.
Takaro has taken an active role in the project’s federal approval review process, which he has called “rigged from the start.” It’s a common refrain from anti-pipeline activists and one that, in some form, was briefly validated after the Federal Court of Appeal found the government failed to adequately consult Indigenous groups along the pipeline route.
The same court later ruled, however, that follow-up consultations were adequate, effectively clearing the way for the pipeline’s construction.
“In choosing civil disobedience to block construction of TMX, I am choosing a far lesser crime than that perpetrated by Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau, who continues to back this project,” said Takaro in a news release.
“In addition to the direct health risks of the project, I am considering the future of my children, their children and future generations around the world. No short-term economic benefit can outweigh this risk.”
In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change determined the world has until 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, or else face potentially irreversible climate change with dire consequences.
Activists say the pipeline will make it next to impossible to achieve those goals, but the federal government has insisted it can balance the economic benefits of the project with its climate goals.
Extinction Rebellion will also be holding a march in support of Takaro at Hume Park in New Westminster on Wednesday at noon.
Takaro isn't the first one to occupy a tree in opposition to the Trans Mountain project. Self-styled "protesting grandpa" Terry Christensen was released from jail earlier this year after he was arrested for occupying a tree by the Burnaby Mountain terminal. He had received a sentence of several months in jail and has since returned to Ontario.