B.C. physician sentenced to jail for fighting to protect public health from Trans Mountain’s impacts

Wednesday June 15, 2022

Dr. Tim Takaro risked arrest to draw attention to the pipeline’s climate and health impacts

Unceded Coast Salish Territories (VANCOUVER, BC) — A Vancouver-area physician was sentenced to jail today for 30 days for his efforts to draw attention to the health and climate risks posed by the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project.

Dr. Tim Takaro, 65, a physician, public health expert, and Simon Fraser University professor, was arrested in November 2021 while engaged in a tree-sit along the Brunette River in Burnaby, protesting construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX) and the clear-cutting of trees in the area.

“This is yet another scandalous example of the federal government putting the profits of big oil ahead of public interest, while jailing climate activists who are striving to raise the alarm about the threat new pipelines pose to the health and livelihoods of our communities,” said Sven Biggs, Canadian Oil and Gas Program Director for Stand.earth. “As we’ve seen in the past with Dr. Henry Morgentaler, Canada has a history of imprisoning doctors who are committed to issues of fundamental justice in spite of their legal ramifications. This moment will go down in the history books, and when the time comes, Prime Minister Trudeau will have to reckon with the legacy of jailing climate activists rather than acting on their warnings.”  

The $12-15 billion pipeline project was purchased by the federal government in 2018, despite the lack of Indigenous consent for the project and despite it being in direct conflict with Canada's commitment under the Paris Climate Agreement to keep global temperatures from rising above the 1.5 deg Celsius threshold. 

Dr. Takaro, who was active in the review process of this pipeline project, submitted expert evidence on the human health impacts of the project. However, he deemed the National Energy Board (NEB) review “rigged from the start,” noting that the NEB specifically said it would not accept health assessments that discussed global warming impacts from the project.

The pipeline project is currently less than halfway built, years behind schedule, and now needs to find at least $8 billion in funding from private investors to cover growing construction costs that now top $21 billion. Analysis by the Parliamentary Budget Office and Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) have previously called into question whether the pipeline is viable at this construction price, and predicted that taxpayers will have to continue to pour money into the project if it is to be completed.

“Expanding fossil fuel infrastructure like Trans Mountain is harmful to people’s health, and it’s harmful to the climate,” continued Biggs. “In a world that is already reeling from forest fires, floods and the other very real impacts of climate change, the Freeland/Trudeau government continuing with this project is neither ethical nor scientifically defensible.”  

The existing Trans Mountain pipeline is already a major environmental and public health hazard with a long history of disastrous spills. In June 2020, 50,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from a pump station located above an aquifer that supplies the Sumas First Nation with drinking water. The Trans Mountain Expansion Project would multiply these risks tremendously, while a growing number of insurers have pulled out of the pipeline project and will continue to do so.

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Media contacts: 

Ziona Eyob, Media Director - Canada, canadamedia@stand.earth, +1 604 757 7279 (Pacific Time)