South Fraser Perimeter Road opponents stage camp-out
About 25 protesters camped out over the Easter weekend on a section of the planned South Fraser Perimeter Road and some were vowing to stay longer to disrupt construction of the contentious truck freeway they condemn as climate crime.
The makeshift camp – with tents, tarps, a teepee, fire and a kitchen – went up on Earth Day (Friday), as protesters planted seedlings in the path of road-building crews in North Delta's Annieville neighbourhood.
"We're being put at risk of asthma, cancer – if you're pregnant your baby will have a lower IQ – because of the diesel particulate fallout," said North Delta resident Richelle Giberson, one of the protesters.
"We're being put at risk to get stuff to Wal-Mart."
Giberson said the perimeter road goal is to help triple cargo flow through the port, which she said will lead to more local air pollution – in part because the freeway won't be free-flowing but will be initially built with some intersections and stop lights.
"We're going to have triple the amount of trucks sitting idling at intersections."
The protest encampment is being coordinated by activists from multiple groups under the banner of stopthepave.org.
"I have no plans to leave," said Surrey resident Tom Jaugelis, one of the organizers camped there. "At this time, I'm staying here indefinitely."
Organizer Eric Doherty said an extended occupation is possible and protesters will decide among themselves each day whether it makes sense to continue.
Doherty said he believes direct action coupled with a court challenge launched by the Burns Bog Conservation Society can still stop construction of the $1.2-billion perimeter road, which will run 40 kilometres from Deltaport to the Golden Ears Bridge and Highway 1.
The project is 27 per cent built and slated to finish in two stages by late 2012 and late 2013.
More than 560 properties have been acquired, including 93 homes that have or are being demolished, a dozen of which were expropriated.
Construction is underway throughout the route.
A transportation ministry spokesperson said peaceful protests are part of the democratic process and didn't anticipate any work would be held up.
The province maintains the project will dramatically reduce congestion, particularly on Delta's River Road, often jammed with trucks, as well as some arterial routes in Surrey.
But critics contend the project is coming at the expense of large swathes of farmland, some of the best First Nations archaelogical sites in the region and considerable amounts of wildlife and riparian zones.
Richelle Giberson of North Delta was supporting the protest against the South Fraser Perimeter Road in Annieville Saturday. Photos – Boaz Joseph / The Leader