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

SFU professor handed month-long jail sentence for anti-TMX tree-sit protest

Dr Tim Takaro participated in a tree-sit at a TMX worksite in the area of Lougheed Hwy and Gaglardi Way last November.

By Srushti Gangdev | June 15, 2022 |1:22 pm

An SFU public health professor and physician has been sentenced to 30 days in jail for camping out in a tree at a TMX worksite in Burnaby, says activist group Protect the Planet.

Dr Tim Takaro participated in a tree-sit in the area of Lougheed Hwy and Gaglardi Way last November. He later pleaded guilty to criminal contempt for breaching a BC Supreme Court injunction that prevents anyone from blocking access to worksites on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project.

Takaro had taken part in regular tree-sits in the area in the year and a half preceding his arrest.

Protect the Planet volunteer Bill Winder told the Beacon that the group is disappointed with Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick’s decision to give Takaro the highest end of the sentence that Crown prosecutors had been seeking.

“When we have 600 deaths in British Columbia, here’s someone who’s actually trying to get the government to actually take action about climate change. A health official, a quite well-known and quite effective public health official,” Winder said.

“And here, now, the court has decided to sentence him to what is a fairly stiff sentence in jail time. So it’s not a good day.”

Winder said that the climate emergency has wrought several natural disasters on BC in just the last year, including the deadly heat dome, raging wildfires that burned the town of Lytton to the ground, and catastrophic flooding in the Fraser Valley.

“But the machine, the kind of ‘business as usual’ machine, just continues without any kind of recognition of the dire situation that we’re in. … I understand the problem of the government and the courts and the RCMP—they have a practice that they are implementing,” Winder said.

“And they’re constantly talking about the rule of law. But it seems like somewhere in there, there should be the ultimate interests of the public, and it’s not in the interest of the public to put a public health official 30 days in jail.”

Takaro was taken away in handcuffs immediately after his sentencing, Protect the Planet said. Winder noted that Takaro had sought house arrest and community service rather than a jail sentence, in light of his “significant health issues”—but that the court appears to be handing people who breach the 2018 TMX injunction higher sentences as a deterrence to others.

He referred to that strategy as a “tunnel vision” on the part of the courts—saying that the justice system is considering only how to stop protests and obstructions to the pipeline expansion, but is “oblivious to the climate emergency.”

Takaro’s sentence comes weeks after another anti-pipeline protestor, William George, was handed 28 days in jail for breach of the same injunction granted to TMX. George was released on bail shortly after his sentencing, however, due to a pending appeal.

“I also consider that specific deterrence is a relevant objective here. Mr. George must receive, process and understand the message that he cannot just ignore orders of this court and expect that little or no consequences will ensue. I accept that rehabilitation for Mr. George remains relevant, but it does not overwhelm the other sentencing objectives,” Fitzpatrick wrote when she sentenced George in May.

Protect the Planet said all the other members of the “Brunette River Six,” arrested for breaching the 2018 injunction in the same area as Takaro, have received sentences of between 14-21 days in jail.

In a statement, Trans Mountain said it respects the right to peacefully protest and added “there are many ways to express opinions in a safe and lawful manner.”

Winder said that, while no members of Protect the Planet want to go to jail, he’s not sure how much impact these sentences will have on the group’s activities.

“We definitely will not stop our actions against TMX. It’s both economically and, as far as the code red climate emergency, a failure. So we have to oppose it,” he said.

“And I do believe that the public has a role through nonviolent civil disobedience and to redirect, when the government is going in the wrong direction, to find a way to push back and to reorient the government’s policies.”

Srushti Gangdev

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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