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Police clear out Burnaby protest camp as TMX construction starts

Contractors for Trans Mountain showed up Wednesday morning to begin work near the Brunette River

Only a treehouse and a tent hanging from the trees remains at the front lines of a conflict between Trans Mountain and anti-pipeline demonstrators after police cleared out a camp at ground level.

The police action came as contractors for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion began work nearby.

In an email statement to the NOW, Trans Mountain, a federal Crown corporation, said it “respects the right to peaceful, lawful expressions of opinions.”

“Construction of the Trans Mountain expansion project is underway across B.C. and Alberta including in the Lower Mainland. To ensure safe construction, Trans Mountain needed to move into the area to start site preparation,” reads the statement.

“It is important to remember there is a BC Supreme Court injunction in place that prevents the blocking or obstructing of access to Trans Mountain’s work sites and work areas throughout British Columbia that would apply if Trans Mountain cannot access our work area.”

Several environmental activism groups set up a camp in the Brunette River area near the borders of New Westminster, Burnaby and Coquitlam in late summer. The camp began with the tent, strung up several metres above the ground between three trees, and later grew with a ground camp.

The pipeline expansion, in a break from the original pipeline, is set to run for 900 metres in the wooded area between the CN railway and Highway 1.

In recent weeks, demonstrators have built a treehouse in one of the trees, intended to house protesters through the winter. The tree is just southwest of the Highway 1 overpass at North Road and is one of the trees expected to be taken down to allow construction work on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

A path to the tree was closed by crews Wednesday morning, with a CN Police Service vehicle parked at that path. More police cars were staged on the other side of the CN Railway tracks.

Crews were seen working down at the edge of the tracks near the camp Wednesday morning, and more work was being done up the hill, a few metres from the camp.

According to an XR news release, supporters were preparing nearby to rush the area and attempt to reach the tree in which the treehouse sits.

“There are people willing to stand in the way of this ecocidal pipeline all across this province,” said Christine Thuring, an educator on urban ecological design, who is one of the organizers at the protest camp. “Canada cannot stand by its commitments to Indigenous land rights and climate action while ramming this through – it doesn’t make sense. We are here today because this is what grassroots, citizen-led resistance can look like.”

Opponents of the pipeline say Canada can’t build the pipeline and meet its climate targets – a line Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tried to walk since he took office in 2015. Not meeting climate targets, scientists warn, will result in more frequent and more severe droughts, famine, storms, wildfires and more.

Proponents of the pipeline say it’s vital to Alberta’s economy, which has struggled to recover since oil prices plunged in 2015 and again this year – even reaching into the negatives in the spring before rebounding.

Indigenous communities have also been fighting the pipeline expansion, saying it violates their land rights on unceded territories in B.C.

“We at Protect the Inlet will support anyone willing to do direct action, as our window gets smaller and smaller to stop the construction of the pipeline that, if completed, will increase tanker traffic through our waters by 700%,” said Will George, a member of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Protect the Inlet.

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