Stoney Creek. (Dustin Godfrey / Burnaby Beacon)

‘An existential threat’: Anti-TMX rally held at site of Stoney Creek pipeline trenching

Environmental activist groups held a rally at Stoney Creek to protest Trans Mountain construction work over the small but vital salmon stream.

By Srushti Gangdev | September 20, 2022 |5:00 am

Members of several environmental activist groups held a rally at Stoney Creek over the weekend to protest Trans Mountain construction work over the small but vital salmon stream.

As part of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project, the company is currently conducting work across the creek in the area of Government Street.

“It’s a restored salmon stream—one of those that go along the Brunette River; there were several that basically were destroyed during the heavy industrial period in the early 20th century. And then it was brought back by people who love salmon,” said activist and SFU health sciences professor Tim Takaro.

“And it’s had a run now for about 10 years, or maybe a little more, of chum. And there probably are some other runs, but the chum run in the fall is the main one.”

These days, the gently coursing brook along the foot of Burnaby Mountain and north of the Brunette serves as an important route for salmon returning from the Pacific Ocean. It remains one of the only urban areas in the region where you can witness a salmon run for yourself.

And activists are concerned that Trans Mountain’s work in the area poses a deadly threat to that rare and fragile ecosystem.

“What Trans Mountain is doing at Stoney Creek is just trenching right across it. And that is an abomination for a treasure like Stoney Creek,” Takaro said.

A chum salmon swims in Stoney Creek in October 2021. (Dustin Godfrey / Burnaby Beacon)
A chum salmon swims in Stoney Creek in October 2021. (Dustin Godfrey / Burnaby Beacon)

For its part, Trans Mountain says its work in the area is being done carefully to minimize the risk of sedimentation in the creek and with the utmost regard for the ecosystem—and those who have sworn to protect it.

It said that while it is conducting trenching across the stream, it’s not digging through the stream and disrupting the flow of the water.

“We recognize the importance of these streams within an urban setting and have a long-standing positive working relationship with local streamkeeper groups who successfully nurture the streams and the fish species they support,” the company said in an emailed statement to the Beacon.

“Trans Mountain is using a unique crossing method for the crossing of Stoney Creek in Burnaby as a result of construction space constraints and specific environmental considerations at the crossing location. The pipeline, which is typically buried underground, will still be buried within a trench, but will be installed within the road bed and over existing culverts. As a result, there will be no instream works at this crossing location and disturbance of riparian habitat will be minimized.”

The corporation pointed to its “environmental protection plan” (EPP) and its “reclamation management plan,” which it says provide instructions to workers for carrying out their work in a way that avoids or reduces environmental impacts.

Its website, however, acknowledges that there will, in some cases, be adverse impacts to the environment as a result of Trans Mountain construction—but in those cases, it promises to return land to its “pre-construction function.”

A summary of Trans Mountain's environmental action plan submitted to the Canada Energy Regulator regarding waterway crossings in the course of construction. Canada Energy Regulator
A summary of Trans Mountain’s environmental action plan submitted to the Canada Energy Regulator regarding waterway crossings in the course of construction. Canada Energy Regulator

Nevertheless, Takaro and his fellow activists are outraged by the encroachment of what he calls a truly “magical” waterway in the heart of Burnaby and are determined to show their displeasure–even at the risk of arrest.

A 2018 BC Supreme Court injunction prohibits anyone from blocking access to worksites on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project.

Takaro himself was handed a 30-day jail sentence earlier this year for breaching that injunction at a 2021 “tree-sit” in the area of Lougheed Highway and Gaglardi Way. Takaro was arrested after he spent a few days camped out in a tree at a Trans Mountain construction site there, after conducting several similar actions in the year and a half preceding.

The 30-day sentence handed down by Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick was at the highest end of what Crown prosecutors sought after Takaro pleaded guilty to breaching the injunction—and all the other members of the Brunette River Six, as activist group Protect the Planet referred to them at the time, received similar sentences.

Takaro said Friday before the rally that risking arrest is a very personal decision for an activist. But he said the relatively heavy sentences handed down recently to environmentalists in BC have actually “fir[ed] people up.”

He feels also that Trans Mountain is not held to the same standard of rule-following—often allowed by the Canada Energy Regulator to violate its own rules or local bylaws.

And he said in the face of undeniable evidence on the health impacts of climate change (around which he’s centred much of his career in health sciences), he felt he needed to take action.

“Once we realized that evidence was not going to carry the day for this project, that’s when nonviolent civil disobedience is required. This is an existential threat to my children and their children’s children. And the government not only is not really doing anything, but they’re doing just the opposite of what is required by building new fossil energy infrastructure,” he said.

“So in the face of that existential threat, and the destructive action by the government, there’s really nothing left for citizens to do except stand up. So I’m prepared to do that—[and] if necessary, go to jail again. But this is the right fight in the right place, and at the right time for me.”

Dr Tim Takaro has been sentenced to 30 days in jail for criminal contempt of court for breaching a 2018 injunction preventing anyone from blocking access to TMX worksites. Protect the Planet
Dr Tim Takaro after he was sentenced to 30 days in jail for criminal contempt of court for breaching a 2018 injunction preventing anyone from blocking access to TMX worksites. Protect the Planet

Takaro said among the activist groups present at the rally were Climate Convergence, Mountain Protectors, Protect the Planet Stop TMX, and BROKE (Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder-Morgan Expansion).

Embattled NDP leadership candidate Anjali Appadurai also spoke at the rally—although her campaign did not return requests for comment from the Beacon.

“[Stoney Creek] is a beautiful greenway, and a place where you can actually see salmon running. My father passed away a few years ago, but I would take him down there every fall to watch the chum run. And it’s magical. The creek is shallow enough that you can really see them,” Takaro told the Beacon.

“Just to have that assurity every season that you’re gonna see fish run is quite miraculous, especially in an urban setting. So it’s a real gem. It drains off of Burnaby Mountain and the mountain has been very good to me. And it’s one of those things that we should protect.”

Srushti Gangdev

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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