BURNABY, B.C. – The RCMP arrested protesters Thursday as officers enforced a court injunction to dismantle a protest camp and snuff a sacred fire at a site where the Trans Mountain pipeline ends in Burnaby, B.C.
Cpl. Daniela Panesar said police began enforcing an order obtained by the City of Burnaby last week from the B.C. Supreme Court.
An update posted on social media by the detachment said 11 people were removed from the site known as Camp Cloud.
“Five were subsequently arrested and have since been released from custody,” the post said.
Environmental activist Tzeporah Berman, who works with the Watch House group that has an Indigenous protest site near Camp Cloud, said she understood the arrested demonstrators promised to stay away.
“The folks agreed to sign the terms and they were released,” she said in a phone interview.
Officers moved in after continuing to talk with camp residents in the hope that they would obey the injunction and leave within a 48-hour deadline set by the court, the RCMP said in a news release.
That deadline passed Sunday and protesters at the camp said Monday they were prepared to protect a sacred fire, which has been burning since the camp was set up late last year. They also said they were prepared to tie themselves to structures rather than obey the injunction.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Gomery was specific in the injunction that the fire was to be put out because it was burning in dry conditions near an aviation fuel tank farm.
Camp residents had refused requests to extinguish the fire despite the increasing risk of wildfires.
RCMP placed a large exclusion zone around Camp Cloud on Thursday as the dismantling began. They said they would arrest anyone, including media, who violated the zone.
“Our paramount concern is safety,” said Panesar.
“We ensure that everybody is out of the exclusion zone and then the City of Burnaby can come in and start cleaning up the protest site.”
Dipak Dattani, Burnaby’s acting city manager, said crews were doing an inventory of any personal property, as well as of the structures on the site.
“Once that is done, we will then start looking at dismantling. To give you a date or time, it’s hard for me to say right now because we just got on the site.”
Hazardous materials, needles or other dangerous items were among the things crews were checking for before dismantling could begin, Dattani said.
Peaceful protests are still permitted, but when public safety is threatened, the City of Burnaby has to act, he said.
The nearby Indigenous protest site wasn’t included in the injunction application.
The City of Burnaby allowed the Watch House to stay because it had already agreed to several key conditions, including removal of its sacred fire.
“The city asked it to be removed so there was a proper ceremony with Indigenous elders and (the sacred fire) was removed until after the fire ban,” Berman said.
Camp Cloud has grown since last November when opponents of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion parked a single trailer at the gates of the Kinder Morgan tank farm on Burnaby Mountain.
The camp grew to include two-storey structures, several vehicles and a make-shift shower.
It has also become a rallying point for demonstrators opposed to the pipeline’s expansion, which would more than triple the amount of bitumen and other oil products moving from Edmonton to Burnaby for shipping overseas by tanker.
As opposition built against the expansion, the federal government offered $4.5 billion to purchase the project. Kinder Morgan is presenting that offer to its shareholders and expects the sale will be approved later this month or in September.
The purchase price, which includes the existing pipeline, pumping stations, rights of way and the Westridge marine terminal in Burnaby, does not cover the construction costs of building the new pipeline, previously estimated at about $7.4 billion.