Two young women were charged with trespassing Monday when they climbed trees in the path of highway construction west of Charlottetown.

The provincial government is realigning the Trans-Canada Highway between Bonshaw and New Haven. It says the change is necessary for safety reasons.

The protesters maintain the work is unnecessary and harmful to the environment. They are particularly concerned about the fate of some hemlocks in the path that are estimated to be 200 years old.

The two young women climbed into some trees in the area west of Peters Road on Monday morning, some distance from where the hemlocks are standing.

"We did get a call this morning about 8 o'clock from the contractors stating there were some individuals in trees, as well as on the construction site, and they were refusing to leave," RCMP Sgt. Andrew Blackadar said.

RCMP moved in and the women were both charged with trespassing and fined $275.

"We made our own decision to get down and come out to where it was safe, if no one else was going to make sure we were safe," Elizabeth MacAusland said.

Government accused of 'arrogance'

The province's chief engineer, Stephen Yeo, said the protesters slowed down the tree harvesting for a short time, but they were not in danger.

"They had a male person come out and tell us they were in the trees, so the tree harvester didn't start. We identified where they were and we had the machine go around them at a safe distance," he said.

Roy Johnstone, one of the leaders of the protest, was also charged with trespassing. He said the government is not listening.

"They've just refused to discuss it with us, and that kind of arrogance is endemic to this government."

The numbers of protesters are dwindling. The Mi'kmaq warrior chief from Cape Breton, Peter Bernard, has left and Yeo said the road construction is continuing in three locations.

While the outline of the new highway is becoming clearer as the construction continues, protesters say they are not giving up on stopping the construction.


  • This is Roy Johnstone's first charge for trespassing on the site. An earlier version of this story said it was his second.
    Oct 23, 2012 8:23 AM AT