Clockwise from top left: SFU professor Tim Takaro, his treehouse protest site along the TMX route in Burnaby and a sign put up warning of an injunction order in effect. (Twitter / Facebook / Protect the Planet Stop TMX)

Clockwise from top left: SFU professor Tim Takaro, his treehouse protest site along the TMX route in Burnaby and a sign put up warning of an injunction order in effect. (Twitter / Facebook / Protect the Planet Stop TMX)

Physician challenges Trans Mountain pipeline in court after protest site demolished

Tim Takaro, 63, is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to set aside an injunction order

By Carl Meyer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer

A Vancouver-area public health physician is challenging the Trans Mountain pipeline in court after his protest site along the expansion route was demolished so trees could be cut down.

Tim Takaro, a 63-year-old health sciences professor at Simon Fraser University, is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to set aside an injunction order it handed Trans Mountain and its oil pipeline expansion project in 2018. The order has allowed police to arrest or detain anyone obstructing the project’s progress, from Edmonton to Metro Vancouver.

READ MORE: B.C. scientist, 63, protests in trees set to be removed for Trans Mountain pipeline

Takaro and a group of supporters have been camping out in forested areas along the pipeline’s route in and around Burnaby, blocking where the company will cut down trees to clear the way for construction of the pipeline, set to nearly triple Trans Mountain’s capacity up to 890,000 barrels per day of petroleum products flowing from Alberta.

He says he is choosing civil disobedience because his professional code of conduct requires that he protect the health of Canadians. Any short-term economic gains from the pipeline, he argues, will be overshadowed by the health risks caused by the climate crisis that is being propelled by pollution from the burning of fossil fuels.

In an affidavit sworn Dec. 9, 2020, Takaro said his camping and other equipment in a treehouse-style “peaceful, lawful and safe protest” site at a location on Holmes Creek in Burnaby — near a rail line and the Trans Canada highway — had been “demolished” that day before he arrived.

After he got there, Takaro stated in the affidavit, officials working for Trans Mountain, as well as Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway, arrived. He said he was given a copy of the injunction order that would prohibit him from continuing his protest, and he complied.

“We were just about to go up into the treehouse to stay for an extended period,” Takaro said in an interview Feb. 9. Those who dismantled the site, he said, “unceremoniously dumped our stuff outside the gate.” Thousands of dollars worth of equipment, including a solar power system, batteries and climbing gear, were also taken at one point, said Takaro.

Photos posted on the Facebook page Protect The Planet Stop TMX show the treehouse surrounded with caution tape and blue scaffolding being put up. Another photo showed a sign reading “Trans Mountain property: any person who obstructs access to this site is in breach of an injunction order and may be subject to immediate arrest and prosecution.”

In the days following the Dec. 9 incident, Takaro and a group of about eight supporters moved to a spot near Lost Creek, he said, the next stream along the pipeline route, and have now built another treehouse camp there.

“We’re not going to get caught with our pants down again,” said Takaro. “We’re not coming down.”

Representatives from Trans Mountain, CN Rail and CP Rail could not immediately be reached for comment.

Trans Mountain said Feb. 8 it was resuming work on the expansion project after a worker was killed at one of its construction sites near Edmonton and another seriously injured at a Burnaby site.

The “voluntary safety stand down” of its workforce of 7,000 people was ordered mid-December, and Trans Mountain said it undertook a review of all its workplace safety rules.

The ability of Trans Mountain — which is owned and operated by the Canada Development Investment Corporation, a federal Crown corporation that reports to Parliament through the finance minister — to cut down trees to clear the way for its expansion project was also made easier this month after a favourable ruling from a federal regulator.

The City of Burnaby requires a municipal permit under most circumstances before anyone is allowed to “carry out any activity that may kill or injure a tree” that is 20.3 centimetres in diameter or greater.

But the Canada Energy Regulator issued an order Feb. 3 that says Trans Mountain would not be required to obtain the permits to cut down trees. The energy company had asked the regulator’s commission if it could ignore the permits “on the basis that the bylaw is impairing and frustrating its ability to build the expansion project.”

Takaro, who is also a clinical professor at the University of Washington and visiting associate professor at the University of British Columbia, has studied the health impacts of climate change for decades.

He said he is challenging the injunction on the basis there was insufficient consideration of the pipeline’s impact on the climate and to Canada’s international obligations when it comes to the Paris Agreement.

“Anybody who really looks at this project in 2021, in the world we’re living in, and hoping for a post-COVID world, this project makes no sense whatsoever,” he said.

“Even economically, it’s no longer viable. But it’s become a political must-have for (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau. And I think that’s a really bad miscalculation, especially for somebody who is trying to make himself into a climate leader.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder Chemainus teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

Pamela Anderson was given a Ladysmith Heritage Award for the restoration work on the Arcady Auto Court property that she purchased from her grandparents. (Pamela Anderson photo)
PHOTOS: Star-studded Ladysmith Heritage Awards honour local commitments to heritage

Barrie McDonald, Pamela Anderson, John & Luke Marston, and the Ladysmith Maritime Society recognized

Kim McGregor died in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run accident in Chemainus. (Photo submitted)
Victim identified in Valentine’s Day Chemainus hit-and-run

Kim McGregor grew up in Chemainus and had recently returned to be close to his parents

Ella Donovan with mom Tina outside Fuller Lake Arena before heading onto the ice for practice. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Young Ladysmith skater watches and waits in battle against cancer

Ella Donovan’s tumour began a tumultuous time, but community support eased the burden

The Ladysmith Museum has two new exhibits open to the public. (Cole Schisler photo)
Ladysmith museum opens up with two new exhibits

The museum is featuring Prime Predators of Vancouver Island and ‘Red Flag, Red Flag’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Police in Nanaimo found multiple graffiti tags they allege were made by three men arrested for mischief in Maffeo Sutton Park on Feb. 15. (Photo submitted)
Graffiti taggers caught in Nanaimo with paint on their hands

Three suspects arrested at Maffeo Sutton Park last week

An official investigation will be launched after VPD officers were recorded posing near a dead body at Third Beach on Wednesday morning, Feb. 24. (Screen grab/Zachary Ratcliff)
VIDEO: Vancouver officers under review for allegedly laughing, taking pictures next to dead body

Two officers were caught on video by a local beachgoer Wednesday morning in Stanley Park

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
‘Stay local’: Dr. Henry shoots down spring break travel for British Columbians

B.C. is reportedly working with other provincial governments to determine March break policies

“Our biggest challenge has been the amount of vaccine,” said FNHA acting chief medical officer Dr. Shannon McDonald. (First Nations Health Authority Facebook photo)
All First Nations on reserve to be vaccinated by end of March: First Nations Health Authority

Vaccinations continuing for B.C. First Nations amid shortages

(Delta Police Department photo)
B.C. youth calls 911 after accruing $7K in online gaming charges

‘Police spoke with the student about appropriate times to call 911’

Site C will go ahead, one year later and $5.3 billion more, the NDP announced Feb 26. (BC Hydro image)
B.C. NDP announces Site C will go ahead with new $16B budget

Reviews recommend more oversight, beefed up foundation stability work

Shannon Davis, manager at Sidney’s Star Cinema, holds up the largest available bag of popcorn available for sale at the theatre. It also also sells four smaller sizes in generating revenue following its closure last fall because of COVID-19. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Vancouver Island theatre can’t give you movies, but it can serve popcorn

Sidney’s Star Cinema using popcorn sales to prop up COVID-plagued bottom line

The BC Prosecution Service announced last year that it was appointing lawyer Marilyn Sandford as a special prosecutor to review the case, following media inquiries about disclosure issues linked to a pathologist involved in the matter. (Black Press Media files)
Possible miscarriage of justice in B.C. woman’s conviction in toddler drowning: prosecutor

Tammy Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty in 2013 to the lesser charge

Most Read