The RCMP removed and arrested anti-pipeline activists near Vancouver on Thursday to allow city workers to begin dismantling a protest camp outside Kinder Morgan’s facility, but a nearby encampment remains in place and more rallies and protests are expected next week.
The site being taken down – known as Camp Cloud and located on the side of a Burnaby street – is close to where the Trans Mountain pipeline ends on the B.C. coast. It has become a flashpoint for debate over the expansion project, which would more than triple the amount of bitumen and other oil products moving from near Edmonton to Burnaby for shipping overseas by tanker.
The RCMP moved onto the site early Thursday morning, removing 11 people, five of whom were arrested and released. The police and city action followed a court order obtained by the City of Burnaby from the B.C. Supreme Court on Aug. 10.
The RCMP restricted public and media access to the camp on Thursday, citing public-4safety concerns.
In place since last November, the camp had expanded from a single trailer to include a two-storey wooden structure, a cabin, an outdoor shower and several tents and trailers.
Dipak Dattani, Burnaby’s director of corporate services, told reporters at the site that the city had tried to resolve its concerns outside of court and only turned to that process when it felt it had no other option.
"We have been trying for months, since the early part of this year, to seek compliance [with city bylaws] by occupants in a very open way. We were not successful. We were then forced to take a formal approach.”
The court order provided 48 hours notice to people on the site, he said, adding that the city would be taking an inventory of items before dismantling any structures.
Tzeporah Berman, an environmental activist who works with the Watch House group – which has its own anti-expansion encampment nearby – said she was surprised by the extensive police presence, including several different types of vehicles and clusters of armed personnel, when she arrived at the site early Thursday.
“The police presence this morning was nerve-racking,” Ms. Berman said. “I find that concerning – I think it was potentially a little window into what we will see if construction goes forward on this project.”
Facing significant resistance to the pipeline plan, the federal Liberal government in May announced it would buy the project for $4.5-billion from proponent Kinder Morgan. The company is expected to present that offer to its shareholders this month, with the sale potentially approved in August or September.
Elan Gibson, a Burnaby resident who lives near the protest site, watched as city workers began to dismantle the camp.
She said she had donated food and supplies to the camp and was sorry to see it dismantled. “We are all on the same path – to stop Kinder Morgan,” she said.
Another Burnaby resident, Tavin Kemp, was also watching the process, saying she supported Camp Cloud protesters because “they keep an eye on what Kinder Morgan is doing.”
Ms. Kemp says she is against the pipeline expansion because of potential safety risks to nearby residents and marine environmental impacts.
Others, however, have pressed the city to crack down on Camp Cloud, citing fire and safety concerns, including allegedly aggressive behaviour by some protesters at the site.
Mr. Dittani on Thursday acknowledged such problems, but said there was a “different dynamic” at the nearby Watch House protest site.
“The Watch House has largely listened to the concerns of the city as well as the neighbours,” Mr. Dittani said.
One of the key issues was fire, he added. The Watch House group complied with a request to put out a fire, while the protesters at Camp Cloud did not, he said.
With files from The Canadian Press