BURNABY, B.C. — A 71-year-old grandfather says he is perched 30 metres up a tree overlooking Metro Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet as he begins a mid-air demonstration against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Speaking from a hammock strung from the branches, Terry Christenson said he selected the tree because it is inside the boundary of the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, B.C., the facility where oilsands crude arrives by pipeline and is shipped overseas.
Christenson, who describes himself as a professional climber, staged a similar protest and was arrested last year at the height of rallies against plans to triple the capacity of the pipeline and dramatically increase the amount of bitumen being shipped through British Columbia waters.
“I’m compounding the criminal contempt, if you will,” said Christenson of his latest demonstration.
“As of April 15, I was supposed to pay the $2,000 fine and, of course, I haven’t and instead I am doing this. I think that I am much more afraid of climate change than I am of spending any time in jail at this point.”
Security staff with Trans Mountain Corp. visited the site early Monday, Christenson said, adding he expected RCMP to arrive sometime in the afternoon.
Environmental group Stand.earth said in an emailed statement late Monday that police showed up and announced Christenson was under arrest, but didn’t return. The group said it didn’t expect police to attempt a high-risk arrest after dark.
The corporation said in a statement it respects the right to peacefully protest and there are many ways to express opinions in a safe and lawful manner.
“As always, the safety of the community, workers and our pipeline system is Trans Mountain’s top priority and expressions of opinions about our project must respect the terms of the injunction that is currently in place to allow our employees and workers to safely go about their business,” it said.
About 230 people were arrested, and some served prison terms, for violating an injunction last year against protests at the marine terminal and other nearby infrastructure linked to the Trans Mountain pipeline, said Stand.earth.
Sven Biggs, spokesman for Stand.earth, said Christenson had enough supplies to remain in his perch for a week.
The protest could be the start of many more, Biggs predicted.
“It’s a message to (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau and his cabinet who are right now considering whether or not to re-approve the pipeline. If they do that, I think they are going to see a lot more actions like this,” he said.
The federal government purchased the pipeline from Kinder Morgan Canada for $4.5-billion last year in order to ensure the expansion would proceed.
Work was suspended last August when the Federal Court of Appeal found the National Energy Board failed to consider marine shipping impacts and the federal government didn’t adequately consult affected First Nations.
“We need to change,” said Christenson of the Canadian emphasis on petroleum products at the expense of wind, solar or other types of energy.
But he also said he did not want to put anyone at risk if RCMP determine he must descend.
“I could resist arrest, it all depends on whether or not they are in harms way,” he said.
“I will have a decision to make at some point. I don’t want to endanger them, but I would like to stay for at least a couple of nights.”
— By Beth Leighton in Vancouver