Now that a judge has ruled the City of Burnaby can evict Camp Cloud from Burnaby Mountain, the big question everyone is asking is when will it happen?
A frequent comment on the Burnaby NOW’s social media feeds is that it will happen in “48 hours” because that’s what they heard the judge say.
But there’s more to what the judge said than the 48-hour timeline.
In the ruling Friday from Justice Geoffrey Gomery in B.C. Supreme Court, the people of Camp Cloud must leave “within 48 hours” of having been served an order by the City of Burnaby. All the structures at Camp Cloud must also be removed. (In several interviews with representatives of Camp Cloud, they have said repeatedly that they will not be leaving, no matter what the court says. To them, being on unceded aboriginal land means it’s their land and that supercedes any court.)
So the timing depends on when exactly Camp Cloud has been served notice. But the city has made it clear that Camp Cloud won’t necessarily be evicted as soon as that 48 hours has ended – which if the camp was served Friday night would mean they would have to be gone by Sunday night. That seems highly unlikely to happen for several reasons.
The main issue is the logistics of evicting the camp if all the people haven’t left willingly and the structures are still standing. The city will likely want the structures taken down immediately after the people have moved out or have been moved out because of the risk of vandalism, or perhaps people coming back to the buildings after having been forcibly removed – if it comes to that.
The city issued a news release Friday night that strongly hinted the eviction likely won’t happen as soon as the 48 hours are up – which would most likely be Sunday night.
This is mainly due to the complexity of evicting this many people who clearly don’t want to leave.
The city and the RCMP are right now putting together a plan on how to do this without turning it into an international incident.
Kyle Friesen, a lawyer representing the RCMP, said police will need time to develop a plan in conjunction with the city on how the eviction will take place. There will be an “exclusion zone” created for police enforcement, Friesen said, which would take time, maybe a number of days. Police can create a “safe bubble” around whatever they’re doing to ensure officer safety, public safety, he said.
THE POLITICS OF BEHIND THE EVICTION
The city has long been opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline, but now will have a lot of eyes on it and likely fears the image of people screaming as they are carried away by police over a pipeline project the city is against.
“Based on the Order, the City will now develop a plan for the dismantling of Camp Cloud,” the city’s news release said. “The timeline for dismantling the camp will be determined, in consultation with the RCMP. All City actions will focus on safety and respect for Camp Cloud residents. It is the City’s hope that Camp Cloud will comply with the Order, including extinguishing the sacred fire in a way that appropriately respects the fire. Out of a concern for safety, other sacred fires on Burnaby Mountain, at the Watch House, have been voluntarily removed from the Mountain in a ceremony led by local First Nations. We ask that the Camp Cloud occupants do the same immediately and begin moving their personal belongings. The Watch House, which has consistently worked with the City to address safety concerns, is not impacted by this Order … We ask the occupants of Camp Cloud and everyone concerned to help to ensure the safe, respectful and peaceful dismantling of the camp. The City will offer assistance to Camp Cloud occupants who require it, to facilitate their safe departure.”
It’s unclear at this point how exactly the city will offer assistance to Camp Cloud occupants.
I found it distasteful that the city dragged the Watch House into all of this. For those who don’t know, the Watch House is a cedar longhouse that was set up near the Kinder Morgan Burnaby Mountain tank farm to protest the Trans Mountain project.
It was set up under the leadership of Will George under the guidance of Tslei-Waututh elders.
When asked previously about possible differences between the two camps, George wouldn’t comment, telling the NOW: “In no way will I show divide.”
The city obviously hasn’t been paying attention to this because trying to drive a wedge between the two camps will only upset people from the Watch House, as well as other Indigenous groups and pipeline opponents.
This is colossal strategic blunder by the city, which should just focus on its issues with Camp Cloud. Using a divide-and-conquer tactic smacks of classic colonizing behaviour that has rightly led Indigenous people to be so suspicious of government. Yeah, sure, maybe there are differences between the Watch House and Camp Cloud, but bringing this up repeatedly (Mayor Derek Corrigan recently discussed the differences) is just plain ugly. It sounds like a parent telling one child “why can’t you be like your brother?”
CAN THE POLICE KEEP THEIR COOL?
In representing the RCMP, Friesen did his best tough guy act before judge Gomery in court Friday.
“No one is above the law,” he said. “There are no law-free zones in this country anywhere, let alone at Camp Cloud.”
I wasn’t there so I’m not sure if he was flexing his muscles in front of the judge while he was saying all of this. What he says sounds fine, in theory, but these are people protesting what they see as an unjust project that threatens our environment. They are not drug dealers. They are not gang members. Acting all tough about how the law needs to be defended is not the right tone that should be taken with what is a political protest.
The police need to be cooling down the temperature of the situation – not inflaming it.
I hope that the officers on the ground will be able to show more restraint when faces with a powderkeg. Based on my conversations recently with Burnaby RCMP operations officer, Supt. Chuck McDonald, I feel the police will develop a solid plan that will take every precaution to ensure the eviction doesn't get out of hand.
WHO WILL BE WATCHING?
I found one of Friesen’s comments a little curious in regards to the media.
“The media will be entitled to be at the perimeter, wherever that perimeter is,” he said in court.
So, where will this perimeter actually be? Will be it half-a-kilometre away, where nobody can see anything?
This comment brings up an issue about what happens when the eviction actually takes place. As I mentioned above, this could be politically devastating for the City of Burnaby and Mayor Derek Corrigan, especially if we see elderly people being dragged away by police.
Where the media are allowed to witness all of this will be telling if efforts are made to shield the city from embarrassment.
Kris Hermes with the Terminal City Legal Collective was in court on Friday to watch the proceedings.
“I just hope the state does not come down harshly on people at the camp, and I hope as many eyes as possible bear witness to how the police treat this situation,” he said.
He’s right – eyes need to witness what happens. Members of the press are those eyes.
I’m issuing this suggestion right now to the City of Burnaby: If you attempt to shield this from the media, it will not end well. The public has a right to see what happens there and the media represent the public. It will be tempting for the perimeter to be moved far away and then shrug your shoulders and say, “Oh well, it’s up to the police.”
People will see through that and they will hold it against local politicians on election day, Oct. 20.
I bring this up because I covered a similar, albeit smaller, situation decades ago in Maple Ridge. The city had engaged in a long battle to oust a squatter named Dave who had been living for years on land along Lougheed Highway. When the city finally got permission to evict Dave and tear down his “museum,” the city tried to be sneaky about it and raid the place in the middle of the night – hoping the media wouldn’t find out.
We did and we were all there to document what happened. The city and the mayor ended up looking like cowards for trying to pull a midnight runner.
I hope Burnaby doesn’t try and do the same.
Follow Chris Campbell @shinebox44