On Monday night around 7:00 pm two Suits and Boots volunteers from Vancouver drove up to the Camp Cloud site in a residential area of Burnaby, BC, near Shellmont Street and Underhill Ave.
They were going up to visit the site for the first time and plan logistics around a media event our group was organizing for Wednesday morning.
We had planned to bring in a bulldozer on the back of a flatbed truck and park it for an hour out of the way of traffic near the Camp Cloud site, speak to media, and then leave, without the bulldozer ever leaving the flatbed.
The bulldozer is a symbol of our support for the workers who we would like to see swing into action if and when Trans Mountain finally goes ahead. It also symbolizes our support for law enforcement officials who will be tasked with cleaning up the site once the occupants finally obey a court order to evacuate the site.
On Monday night, our two volunteers drove up in their vehicle, parked on the side of the road, and began taking pictures of Camp Cloud and streets around.
Immediately they were confronted by a group of about ten residents from Camp Cloud. Our volunteers were told to leave. They were told they were “white trash” and had no right to take pictures. They were bumped and pushed and physically manhandled. They were told they had no right to be on the street without their “status cards”. One of the protestors threatened to follow our volunteers’ car home. When our volunteers went back to their car, the car was assaulted, and their license plate torn off and thrown in the bush.
Our young Suits and Boots volunteers called 911 and two officers from the Burnaby RCMP arrived. They were soon joined by two more RCMP officers – all four of them were amazingly helpful, protected our volunteers, and helped look for the license plate, which wasn’t found. The RCMP is investigating the incident and will let us know if charges will be laid. Our young volunteers passed along to the RCMP an 8-minute video they have of the event as evidence. We’ve extracted 20 seconds of it attached here for you to see.
What the hell is going on?
We are very grateful for the RCMP support of our volunteers last night. But the real question is this: why did two law-abiding, peaceful people have to call 911 for simply stopping on a public street in Burnaby and taking pictures of Camp Cloud? That’s not right. What the hell is going on?
Before leaving the scene last night, our young volunteers were told by the RCMP officers that “nobody” should think of going up to Camp Cloud. Based on that advice, and the incident last night, we cancelled our planned media event for Wednesday morning. Safety of our volunteers is an absolute top priority. We don’t think it’s a safe place for them – or for anyone – and neither did the officers who helped us last night.
I put a call into the Burnaby RCMP detachment this morning and was told that there has been no formal public safety warning about visiting the area around Camp Cloud.
Something is wrong here. We acknowledge the protestors have a right to demonstrate – that’s the rule of law, and a key tenant of Canadian culture. We also acknowledge our right to stage an event in support of Trans Mountain – we have as much right to peaceful protest and free speech as they do. But for some reason, anyone who drives by the Camp and stops to take pictures does so in danger of being assaulted – and the RCMP haven’t formally warned us of that.
Every single tourist, guest, resident and person interested in this issue should know this: you are in danger of physical harm if you step out of your car on this Burnaby Street. The City of Burnaby won’t tell you that. The RCMP won’t tell you that. The government of British Columbia won’t tell you that.
But we will. Stay away. That area is a no-man’s land ruled by a violent sub-culture. Plain and simple.
That has to change. We are grateful our young volunteers are safe. We are grateful for the RCMP officers who stepped in to stop what could have been an ugly confrontation. Thank you so very much.
But we are concerned, angry, puzzled and upset. We will keep pushing for answers and raising the flag for the majority of Canadians who respect the rule of law. We can’t let this continue.
The eyes of the world are on us. Investors who could be looking at purchasing the Trans Mountain pipeline or investing in other projects are watching.
What they are seeing is not a pretty picture.
Rick Peterson is the founder of Suits and Boots.