Author Archives: Red Power Media, Staff

Trans Mountain ordered to delay pipeline construction in B.C. bird nesting area

Bird nests delay part of TMX pipeline construction

Workers survey around pipe to start of right-of-way construction for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, in Acheson, Alta., Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

VANCOUVER – Environment and Climate Change Canada has ordered a halt to construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline through a forest in Burnaby, B.C., until the end of bird nesting season.

The department said the order was issued following an enforcement officer’s visit to the site prompted by complaints that nests of the Anna’s hummingbird and other migratory birds were being damaged.

“Given that it is nesting season, migratory birds are particularly vulnerable at this time,” it said in an emailed statement.

“Cutting vegetation and trees or carrying out other disruptive activities such as bulldozing or using chainsaws and heavy machinery in the vicinity of active nests will likely result in disturbance or destruction of those nests.”

It said construction is paused until Aug. 20.

The $12.6-billion expansion project is designed to triple the capacity of the existing pipeline between Edmonton and the shipping terminal in Burnaby to about 890,000 barrels per day of products, including diluted bitumen, lighter crudes and refined fuel.

Sarah Ross of the Community Nest Finding Network said the group began noticing hummingbirds in the Burnaby area in February. Anna’s hummingbirds are some of the first birds to nest and arrive as early as January, she noted.

“In the small area that we’re monitoring, I’d say there’s probably a dozen nests,” Ross said in an interview. Her group is watching a third of the area pipeline builders have been told to avoid.

“We’ve been really surprised at the density of hummingbird nests in this area. It’s a really rich habitat for them. It has all the things that they need — close to clean water and has all the blossoms of the salmonberry.”

Hummingbirds arrive to feed in Leonor Pardo’s Enchanted Garden in San Francisco de Sales, near Bogota, Colombia, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Fernando Vergara.

The group reported the presence of nests in the area to Trans Mountain and federal and provincial environmental authorities, she said.

Environment and Climate Change Canada said it issued orders following two on-site inspections.

It gave a verbal order on April 12, which asked the company to “immediately refrain from disturbing, destroying or taking a nest or an egg of a migratory bird” in the 1,000-metre area along Highway 1.

Trans Mountain was also ordered to immediately stop or shut down any activity, including tree trimming and cutting that may require the use of heavy machinery including bulldozers and chainsaws that could disturb and destroy nests.

About 10 days later, the department ordered the company to put up signs in the area that say no activity is allowed during the nesting period.

Trans Mountain confirmed that the order applied to a 900-metre area along the Brunette River for the duration of the nesting period.

“While Trans Mountain endeavours to conduct tree clearing activities outside of the migratory bird nesting periods, this is not always feasible,” it said in a statement.

The company didn’t respond to questions about possible added costs or how the order might set back the timing of the pipeline’s completion.

Anna’s hummingbirds and other bird species found in the area such as song sparrows, pine siskins, robins and black-capped chickadees are protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

The company said it is in talks with Environment and Climate Change Canada to determine how it can mitigate the disturbance to migratory birds during the nesting period.

“Trans Mountain’s policies and procedures for the protection of migratory birds and their habitat were developed in consultation with stakeholders and communities and have been extensively reviewed by federal and provincial regulatory authorities,” it said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 26, 2021.


Supreme Court affirms American Indigenous man’s right to hunt in Canada

Supreme Court affirms American Indigenous man’s right to hunt in Canada

OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada says an American Indigenous man has a constitutionally protected right to hunt in British Columbia given his people’s historic ties to the region.

The decision today comes in the case of Richard Lee Desautel, a U.S. citizen who was charged with hunting without a licence after shooting an elk near Castlegar, B.C.

Desautel defended his actions on the basis he had an Aboriginal right to hunt protected by section 35(1) of Canada’s Constitution Act.

Desautel is a member of the Lakes Tribe of the Colville Confederated Tribes of Washington state, a successor of the Sinixt people, whose ancestral territory extended into B.C.

The trial judge found the sections of B.C.’s Wildlife Act under which Desautel was charged had infringed his constitutional right to hunt in the province.

The decision was upheld by the B.C. Supreme Court and the province’s Court of Appeal, prompting the Crown to take its case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2021.


Feds pressed to define ‘free, prior and informed consent’ in UNDRIP bill

Protesters block a rail line in Edmonton in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, on Feb. 19, 2020. PHOTO BY DAVID BLOOM/POSTMEDIA NEWS

OTTAWA — Federal officials are facing calls for greater clarity on how a bill to harmonize Canada’s laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples could affect future development projects and government decisions.

Opposition MPs studying Bill C-15 are asking why the Liberals have not included a definition of a key article from the UN declaration that would compel Ottawa to obtain “free, prior and informed consent” from Indigenous Peoples on any decisions that affect their lands or rights.

Conservatives have raised concerns that this provision would give First Nations a “veto” over development projects, but Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett says there is “complete consensus” from legal and Indigenous experts that this is not the case.

Pressed today on whether she would personally support a more definitive interpretation of “free, prior and informed consent” in the bill, Bennett says she would “worry” about this move.

Bennett says a consensus would be needed among Indigenous partners co-developing the bill with the government on how to define this consent provision — something that has not been reached to date.

She adds her government is listening to calls from a number of national Indigenous organizations looking for changes to strengthen the bill and ensure their existing land and treaty rights are not frozen or eroded by this new law.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2021.


Officers accused of mistreating woman in distress on bridge

WARNING: This story may contain elements some many find to be disturbing. 
By: Malak Abas · Winnipeg Free Press · 

Two community workers have filed a complaint with the Winnipeg Police Service, saying they witnessed officers berating and swearing at a woman who was attempting to hang herself on the Redwood Bridge.

Jasmine Smith and Angela Desrosiers were driving together on the Redwood Avenue crossing around 2 p.m. Monday, when they saw a female pedestrian slip something around her neck that appeared to be tied to the structure.

Smith and Desrosiers, who both work in Indigenous community support groups, said Friday they stopped their car on the bridge and approached the woman.

“We work in the community, so we’re trained to respond with trauma-informed care,” Smith said. “So we immediately just introduced ourselves, asked if we could help and what was going on.”

The pair said a length of material was tied to an A-frame beam and the woman was standing on the crash barrier between the roadway and sidewalk along the edge of the structure. The woman was responsive and, while in distress, was willing to speak; she lit a cigarette while talking to the duo.

Smith called 911, as Desrosiers attempted to calm the woman.

Within minutes, they said, a Winnipeg Police Service cruiser arrived.

Both women told the Free Press rather than attempt to talk her down, two officers yelled at her to get off the bridge as they sat in their vehicle.

“Not once did we hear them asking her, ‘Are you OK?’ when they pulled up. There was no concern for her well-being… they were annoyed,” Desrosiers said.

Smith said the officers eventually got out of their car and “charged” at the woman, and she became afraid and stepped off the barrier.

Both women say the WPS officers continued to swear at the women after they had pulled her up and cut the length of material attached to the bridge. They slapped the cigarette out of her hand and continued to handle her roughly, even as the woman cried and asked them to be gentle, the pair said.

“She was in pain, and they kept being rough with her and handcuffing her… they wouldn’t stop,” Smith said.

A spokesperson for the police service said Friday the woman in question “eventually went limp” while the officers were on the bridge.

The spokesperson added the matter had been handled appropriately.

“It is standard practice for the WPS to immediately handcuff someone once a high-risk incident has been resolved to ensure that they are unable to harm themselves or others in the immediate moments that follow,” the spokesperson said in an email.

“Based on the preceding steps this individual had taken, it appeared that she was focused on harming herself and needed to quickly be secured.”

The 32-year-old woman was taken to a nearby parking lot in the cruiser, and then transferred to an ambulance and taken to hospital in stable condition.

A family member, who asked not to be named, confirmed she remained in hospital Friday, as her family seeks a support system. The family member said the woman, who is transient, needs a safe place to go to before she is released from hospital.

A Facebook post published by Smith on Monday, which detailed the incident, had received nearly 4,000 shares and hundreds of comments, both supportive and critical of the officers’ alleged conduct.

The WPS said it was aware of the social media attention, and there was “more than one social media post that contradicts (that) version.”

Smith was firm in her stance on the events that day.

“She could have come down on the bridge on her own had she been given a conversation, had been given common decency, been treated with dignity… If they would’ve approached the situation like that, she could’ve come down on her own and gone to get the help she needed,” she said. “It did not have to go the way it went down.”

The situation has been “traumatic” for everyone involved, Smith said, noting she herself has had “terrible” experiences with police.

“I believe the police should have better training and interpersonal skills than that in dealing with somebody who’s in crisis,” Smith said. “It’s unbelievable to me.”

Twitter: malakabas_


Manitoba introduces bill proposing tougher fines for protesters

FILE: Members of the Urban Warrior Alliance set up a blockade along a CN and Via rail line west of Winnipeg.

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government has introduced a bill that proposes tougher fines and possible imprisonment for people interfering with critical infrastructure.

Justice Minister Cameron Friesen said the Progressive Conservative government was looking for a balance between the rights of people to protest and the needs to maintain infrastructure.

“The intent there would be to allow for people to gather, allow for their voices to be heard but to keep them and everyone safe while ensuring the unfettered operation, construction or use of that infrastructure,” Friesen said Monday.

The bill allows for the owner or operator of the infrastructure to be able to apply for a court order to create a temporary protection zone.

Included would be oil or natural gas pipelines and provincial highways. It also includes courthouses, hospitals and animal processing facilities.

If a person were to go into the area, he or she could be fined $5,000 or jailed for up to 30 days. A corporation could be fined up to $25,000.

Each day a person doesn’t follow the court order, the fine can be imposed again.

A court would be able to designate an area where people could protest.

“There would be no desire to see the voices of Manitobans diminished in any way,” Friesen said.

A controversial bill targeting protestors became law in Alberta last year following cross-Canada demonstrations in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in B.C. who were opposed to pipeline construction in their territory.

That legislation forbids anyone from willfully damaging or interfering with essential infrastructure and also brings in fines and jail time.

It is facing a constitutional challenge from an Alberta labour union.

Friesen said Manitoba’s proposed legislation is different. The minister said the Tory bill doesn’t just target those protesting the oil industry and is clearer about what constitutes critical infrastructure.

Nahanni Fontaine, justice critic for Manitoba’s Opposition New Democrats, said the large fines can be devastating for people who are standing up for their rights. She accused the Tories of using the bill to silence anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

“It’s important for Manitobans and Canadians to have that opportunity to express their displeasure at whatever the issue may be,” she said.

By: The Canadian Press, published March 15, 2021.