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

Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hills using a homemade trip camera. Vancouver Island is home to approximately 800 cougars, which makes up about a quarter of the total population in B.C. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hill using a homemade trip camera. Schroyen presents Animal Signs: The Essence of Animal Communication on Nov. 30. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Declining Vancouver Island cougar populations linked to wolves

Large carnivore specialist says human development still plays biggest role on cougar numbers

Victoria police are looking for 45-year-old Charlene Woods. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Missing woman last seen in Victoria on New Year’s Day

Police working to locate Charlene Woods, 45

Camosun Cares hampers will be delivered weekly to students for a period of nine weeks. (Photo courtesy of Camosun College)
Weekly care hampers offered to Camosun College students in need

The Camosun Cares hamper delivers fresh produce, prepared meals, hygiene products and even recipes

A cat died in this house fire in Sidney afternoon. The fire started on the house’s deck and spread from that point. Sidney Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brett Mikkelsen said the permanent presence of crews at the Community Safety Building prevented worse damage. (Photo courtesy of Clayton Firth)
Sidney house fire kills cat, causes extensive damage

Official says fire started on deck and damage to the house could have been worse

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

The humanoid sensing robot has a 3D printed finger cap that measures oxygen levels. (Dr. Woo Soo Kim)
Medical care robots being made with 3D origami in B.C. lab

Would you let a robot take your temperature?

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)
Indigenous consent must come first and last for B.C. industrial projects

UN declaration seen as end to a history of horror stories

FILE  - In this Friday, Jan 1, 2021 file photo, a lorry driver's documents are scanned on a phone as he passes a checkpoint for the train through the Eurotunnel link with Europe in Folkestone, England. One month after Britain made a New Year split from the European Union's economic embrace, businesses that once traded freely are getting used to frustrating checks, delays and red tape. Meat exporters say shipments have rotted in trucks awaiting European health checks. Scottish fishermen have protested at Parliament over the catch they can no longer sell to the continent because of byzantine new paperwork. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)
FINLAYSON: Government should focus on strengthening B.C.’s leading export industries

To revive the economy, this piece in the strategy is integral, writes Jock Finlayson

A cross-country skier glides along the banks of the Ottawa River in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Canadians across the country can look forward to a mild spring peppered with the odd winter flashback throughout the first part of the season, according to predictions from one prominent national forecaster. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Mild spring with some wintry blasts predicted for most of Canada: Weather Network

Weather Network is forecasting a slower than average start to spring in British Columbia

AstraZeneca’s vaccines are ready for use at the vaccination center in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb.28, 2021. (Michael Reichel/dpa via AP)
Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery

The first of those doses could start to arrive in Canada as early as Wednesday

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Most Read