Today, Mother Earth Day, there will be a mass direct action against the South Fraser Perimeter Road in British Columbia. It is being organized by three chapters of the Council of Canadians (Delta-Richmond, Surrey-White Rock-Langley, and Vancouver-Burnaby), StopthePave.org, and the Critical Criminology Group. The action – planting trees on the site where trees have been cut down for the construction of the highway and occupying that ground for at least two days.
The $2 billion, 40-kilometre four-lane highway project from Deltaport Way to the Golden Ears Bridge will pollute the environment, pave farmland, increase greenhouse gas emissions, scar the banks of the Fraser River, and damage Indigenous heritage sites. Surrey Now reported in late-March, “Great swaths of tall trees have been cut down to make way for the South Fraser Perimeter Road, transforming the once lush hillside to a scene reminiscent of the cratered war fields of 1917 Belgium. Locals knew it was going to happen, but to actually see the extensive clear-cutting, and the mud and wreckage the machinery has left behind, is hard to take in.”
This is the third direct action against the South Fraser Perimeter Road. Last October, hundreds of people dug up the freeway construction site in Bridgeview with shovels and wheelbarrows. In December, bags of sand were used to build a dike blocking provincial cabinet offices.
We wish Council of Canadians Lower Mainland chapter activists Cathy Wilander, Eric Doherty, Bob Ages, Council of Canadians BC-Yukon regional organizer Harjap Grewal, and all others taking part in this action today to defend Mother Earth our solidarity and support.
Update 1: The Vancouver Province reports, “Bob Ages lives in East Ladner about half a kilometre from the road and said it’s ‘not needed, not wanted’. While he’s unhappy about what happening so close to his backyard, Ages is also a national board member of the Council of Canadians that was one of the Friday rally organizers… Ages said new trees are going to be planted at the site where trees have been clear-cut for the project. A release on the rally indicated the site would be occupied ‘for at least two days to protect the trees and block the freeway constructions’. ‘We’ve heard rumours there’s a plan for a permanent protest camp,’ said Ages. While the project is well under way, Ages doesn’t think it’s too late to stop what he calls the ‘South Fraser Freeway’. ‘It may start small but we believe it will be the focal point for a growing movement of opposition,’ he said. Ages characterized the project as ‘1950s technology’ that was contributing greenhouse gases while destroying farmland and neighbourhoods. ‘We’re not going to solve the problems of the 21st century if we’re looking at that type of time warp,’ he said.”
Update 2: The Tyee reports this hour (Friday, 10 pm ET), “Earth Day was celebrated in Delta today by the creation of a protest camp and the replanting of some of the forest that has been clear cut on the right of way of the South Fraser Freeway. ‘We are trying to build a movement to turn up the heat on politicians so we can turn down the heat in the planet’s climate,’ Eric Doherty told The Tyee this afternoon, as he and a group of over 200 demonstrators prepared to execute what was promoted as a day of ‘mass direct action against climate crime’. …The day’s activity, Doherty told The Tyee, would include digging up the right of way of the disputed freeway and planting over 200 fir and cedar seedlings and 25 larger trees where the highway pavement is supposed to be poured. …Some of the demonstrators are prepared to risk arrest to plant the trees, Doherty said. …Another protest organizer, Carmen Mills, told The Tyee that some of the protesters were pitching tents as a police helicopter hovered overhead.”
Update 3: The Vancouver Media Coop reports, “From their perch above the Fraser, demonstrators set up barricades, planted trees and pitched tents in an effort to hold the space and keep the highway contractors out. ‘I guess I would call it a liberated zone,’ said Cathy Wilander, who is an organizer with Stop the Pave (and a Council of Canadians chapter activist)… ‘People are going against the government and corporate agenda of turning our community into an industrial zone,’ she said. …People young and old took turns setting up wooden skids, filling buckets with rocks, building makeshift toilets in the exposed sandy earth, and preparing to defend the site. Police circled overhead in a helicopter, but as this story went to press there were no uniformed officers in the area.”
NEWS 1130 adds, “(Bob Ages) is calling it a permanent camp and admits arrests are possible. ‘I mean, whoever is holding this land would have to say that we are trespassing, and then they would have to go through whatever legal mechanisms to warn people… we’re not even sure who that would be.’ Sergeant Sharlene Brooks with Delta Police says they’re monitoring the situation ‘to make sure that there is public safety, no mischief or damage, those kinds of things.. but allowing people to state their position within their democratic right to protest, as long as everything remains peaceful.’ The Ministry of Transportation says no work is planned on that stretch of the 40 kilometre road this weekend.”
And to see a bit of what’s happening, check out this 3-minute video of the ‘freeway replacement camp’ posted late on Friday night, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUBAE6MJUcY.
Update 4: Go to http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/, scroll down in the right-hand column under ‘Top News Videos’, and click on the ninth item ‘Michele Brunoro on the protest’ for a 3-minute news-video, including Bob Ages of the Council of Canadians.
Update 5: In an interview with Council of Canadians climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue on Saturday, Vancouver Burnaby chapter activist Eric Doherty says, “In Canada, transportation emissions are about a third of overall emissions, but when you consider the full carbon footprint it is more like half of emissions. Building freeways is taking money away from public transit and is encouraging people to drive more and increasingly transport fuels are coming from the tar sands, an example of climate injustice. This highway will literally drive up emissions. Stopping this freeway will reduce the emissions it would have incurred and is a step in the right direction. Globally people who are most vulnerable to climate change have done the least to cause it. Countries like Canada in the Global North have a responsibility to achieve deep emission reductions – more highways is the wrong direction. There are also local justice dimensions. This highway is slated to be right next to a public school in a low middle income community as well as a Muslim elementary school. It is right beside people’s home. It is an example of local health, economic and environmental justice issues crossing over.” The full interview can be read at http://canadians.org/energyblog/?p=538.
Update 6: The Vancouver Media Coop reports, “‘One of the things we’re planning to do is an easter egg hunt at 2pm (on Sunday),’ said Eric Doherty. ‘The main thing that we’re doing here is setting up a hospitable site so people who are just interested can come down, and find out about the issue, and also find out about us, the diverse group that is here, standing up for a variety of different reasons, opposing this freeway.'”
A bulletin from Stop the Pave says, “There has been minimal police presence, however, work crews are expected to return to the site on Monday or Tuesday and we MUST have a strong onsite presence. If you can join our camp for any length of time, your support would make a difference. There will be music and a fire circle discussion tonight (Sunday) and Monday evenings. We’ll host a tour of the camp at about 2 pm PT Monday, and a press conference at 3pm PT.”
This evening, the Vancouver Province reports, “Eric Doherty admitted, there’s not much to stop construction crews from rolling over the group’s newly planted trees. Their spirits, however, may not be as vulnerable. ‘No matter what happens with the camp and this action, I think we’ve done a lot to build the movement against freeway expansion,’ he said.”
CBC reports, “The ‘Stop the Pave’ group has said they plan to stay on the waterfront site in the 10700 block of River Road in order to halt construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Road when it resumes after the Easter long weekend.” And the Vancouver Sun reports, “Demonstrators opposed to a $1 billion highway project in Delta who set up a protest camp at the site on the weekend plan to stay until crews show up this week to begin work. …They intend to block workers when they show up to resume clearing the area for construction after the Easter long weekend. …The groups that organized the protest, StopThePave.org, the Critical Criminology Working Group at Kwantlen University and the Ottawa-based Council of Canadians, argue it will destroy more than 90 acres of farmland, pollute the air with increased traffic and damage native heritage sites.”
To read past blogs on the campaign against the South Fraser Perimeter Road, please go to http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?s=%22south+fraser%22.