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

Ron Sivorot, business director at Kennametal’s Langford site, the Greater Victoria facility that made a component being used on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (Jake Romphf, Black Press Media)
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover using piece made at Kennametal’s Langford site

The Greater Victoria plant’s tooth blank is helping the rover’s drill collect rock cores

A provincially appointed consultant has recommended a change to the funding formula for the VicPD that will save Esquimalt a significant amount of money. (Black Press Media file photo)
Esquimalt to save a bundle on policing costs under new formula

Provincial consultant studied funding model, resource deployment for VicPD

A rockfall closed Finlayson Arm Road and West Shore Parkway on Friday (March 5) afternoon. (Twitter/BC Transportation)
UPDATED: Malahat reopens following rockfall

Section of Trans-Canada Highway was scheduled for intermittent closures today for rock scaling work

A Victoria resident was scammed out of $1,700 after a fraudster impersonated a police officer and convinced the victim to pay a non-existent fine in Bitcoin. (Unsplash)
Fraudster impersonates Victoria police officer, steals $1,700 in Bitcoin

Phone call showed up as VicPD’s non-emergency line

The Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
Tsartlip First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA revealed COVID-19 outbreak

Chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA Adam Olsen apologizes

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

Most Read