On Friday, there was another blockade of a Burnaby rail line to protest the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
Today (Saturday) a new treehouse has been unveiled in Burnaby to stand “in the path” of TMX.
This shows a significant change in strategy that we’ve seen during the past few years in which people have blocked the path of trucks in Burnaby at the tank farm and the Westridge Marine Terminal. Those protests saw plenty of people being arrested, charged, convicted and jailed – a sad state of affairs in a democracy.
But today, a 25-metre-high treehouse has been unveiled up a giant cottonwood tree at the Holmes Creek Protection Camp, in the path of the TMX pipeline in Burnaby. It’s located in a forested area southeast of where Highway 1 crosses North Road on the Burnaby/New Westminster border. For more common context, it’s across from Lower Hume Park at 660 E. Columbia Street.
“The treehouse will allow for pipeline opponents to endure a lengthy siege on the part of police and construction crews if necessary,” said a news release. “The tree-canopy dwelling, and support camp below are primed for occupation as Trans Mountain begins pipeline construction in the Lower Mainland including vertical drilling immediately adjacent on North Road.”
It’s a smart strategy. Build something you can occupy and then continue to raise awareness about opposition to the project. It’s not entirely new, of course, as Camp Cloud was erected across from the Burnaby Mountain tank farm for many months. But this is a much-smaller protest camp that likely won’t raise the ire of the city or its residents. Camp Cloud neighbours put a lot of pressure on the city to get rid of it, which they eventually did.
“I built this treehouse for the love of nature, for the love of humanity, and both coming together in standing for what matters,” said Timothée Govare, who led the construction of the tree house over several months. “Treehouses are an analogy for humanity’s interdependence with nature: tree falls, human falls. I wanted to do my part to fight for all of us in a beautiful way.”
The tree house and camp are located within a section of the pipeline route along the Brunette River. Five climbers occupied a small platform suspended between two trees during the last anticipated construction period in August and September, but construction was delayed. The new treehouse offers “roomier accommodation,” said a news release. “Since the camp began, campers and volunteers have cleaned up and removed invasive species from the heavily littered Holmes Creek and Lost Creek ravines as well as the banks of Brunette River East of North Road.”
On Friday, Extinction Rebellion took action to protest Trans Mountain by blocking a railway in a more public space and drawing a handful more people out.
Roughly 40 demonstrators showed up to the demonstration Friday afternoon, blocking a railroad at the intersection of Government Street and Cariboo Road. Protesters did not block the road during their protest, however, police briefly blocked traffic turning from Government Street onto Cariboo Road to allow an officer to broadcast a reading of the court injunction against the protesters.
Zain Haq, a volunteer spokesperson for the local Extinction Rebellion group, said nobody intended to get arrested for their civil disobedience on Friday, and police gave demonstrators until 5 p.m. to clear the railway before any action would be taken.
Haq said protesters had intended to stay around that long anyway.
He added the intention of protesters was to break the mould of NGO-style environmentalism, saying all legal avenues to challenging the pipeline had failed, and carbon emissions have continued to increase, despite pressure from non-profit groups.
- With files from Dustin Godfrey