SFU professor marks one year of civil disobedience against TMX pipeline expansion

Tim Takaro and Protect the Planet live in Burnaby treetop structures in protest

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A treehouse high up with poster on right hand side. Red words on poster:

By: Yelin Gemma Lee, News Writer

On August 3, 2020, SFU health sciences professor Tim Takaro and the Protect the Planet Stop TMX (PPST) coalition occupied the forest canopy of Lost Creek, in the Brunette River Conservation Area. They plan to delay the pipeline expansion project. Over a year later, Takaro is among the protestors building multiple treehouse camps for protestors to occupy. 

“We will be up there as long as needed. We’ve built several other houses [ . . . ] and tied together a hundred trees. We’re not going anywhere. We have thousands of people that will come out if they try to take us out,” Takaro said in an interview with The Peak.

For the past year, Takaro has been living in these treetop structures alongside other members of PPST aiming to delay the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX). They hope to eventually see the cancellation of the project. It was originally set to be completed in 2019, with the most updated “in-service” date set for mid-2022.

The project has faced public opposition, environmental activism, and “unresolved Indigenous consent.” In August 2018, the Federal Court of Appeal ruling cancelled the 2016 federal approval of the pipeline, requiring the federal government to revise and resubmit parts of the proposal. 

On their website, Trans Mountain stated they “will have ongoing conversations to further understand and address the concerns of Aboriginal communities, and ensure their members are able to share in the success of the Project.” So far, Trans Mountain has signed a total of 59 Agreements with Indigenous communities across Alberta and BC

Prime Minister Trudeau defended the government’s decision to invest in the pipeline expansion in 2019, “We need to create wealth today so we can invest in the future. We need resources to invest in Canadians so they can take advantage of the opportunities generated by a rapidly changing economy, here at home and around the world.”

“The Prime Minister said it’s in the national interest, and it absolutely is not,” said Takaro, “[It’s] not in planetary interest, and it’s not even in the interest of Canadians since there are no jobs on a dead planet.” 

PPST is working with the support of Chief Rhonda Larrabee of the Qayqayt Nation and Chief Leah George-Wilson of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation to protect the Brunette River conservation area. 

Takaro initiated a parliamentary petition on July 7, which was set to be presented to the House of Commons. Takaro and PPST gained over 5,500 signatures within a month. The presentation of the petition was cancelled when Prime Minister Trudeau called the election. 

“He pulled the petition to avoid any embarrassment,” Takaro said. He and PPST will resubmit the petition when there is a new government sitting.

“Civil disobedience is required,” said Takaro, “We’re in a climate crisis. Our leaders are sleepwalking through the crisis and pretending like they’re doing something when they’re not doing anything. So that’s a time when you have to take to the streets — civil disobedience works [ . . . ] It’s sometimes required, and we’re in that time.”