Burnaby RCMP poised to remove Camp Cloud protesters

A court-imposed order to dismantle Camp Cloud has set the stage for police to get involved. But one expert says officers will be careful to avoid a public confrontation.

Police say they have discretion in how and when to enforce an injunction order that protesters have ignored

A man known as Blackwolf secures an American Indian Movement flag at Camp Cloud near the entrance of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline facility in Burnaby, B.C. (Ben Nelms/Canadian Press)

It's still unknown how or when police will forcibly remove protesters from Camp Cloud. But given the protesters' recent actions and statements, it's a likely scenario.

Members of the camp ignored a B.C. Supreme Court injunction issued Friday that ordered them to dismantle the site within 48 hours, setting the stage for police to get involved.

An RCMP statement on Monday suggested police will attempt to peacefully clear the camp, which has grown into a mishmash of structures that the City of Burnaby has deemed unsafe. 

"Burnaby RCMP are hopeful that those residing at the camp will abide by the court order and voluntarily leave without police involvement," it said. "Should enforcement take place, Burnaby RCMP will be prepared to ensure the safety of everyone involved."

But the injunction has also pushed the RCMP into a delicate realm: enacting a court-imposed order, while avoiding a public confrontation with the protesters.

"They're very, very conscious of the importance of not coming across as a bunch of thugs when they're dealing with these cases," said Rob Gordon, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University.

"On the other hand, the demonstrators know there's a great deal of mileage to be gained by trying to provoke the police into doing something that will show well for them on TV."

Camp Cloud has evolved into a shantytown of structures since it was first established in November of 2017. (Ben Nelms/Canadian Press)

8-year-old boy living in the camp

The dozen or so protesters maintain the court does not have jurisdiction over the encampment, which was erected in November near a Kinder Morgan terminal in Burnaby.

Raising the stakes for police is the presence of an eight-year-old boy whose family is among the dozen or so protesters living at the camp.

Athena Pranteau, the boy's mother, said the family has been homeless since February.

"Being here, at least we get to stay together as a family," she said, as opposed to a shelter. 

An eight-year-old boy has been living at the camp with his family. (CBC)

Burnaby RCMP did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment. But Gordon said the child's involvement will complicate matters for police. 

"They wouldn't want an eight-year-old to be harmed by anything," he said.

"On the other hand, it is ultimately the parents' responsibility to keep that child out of the way of any conflict that occurs."

217 arrests so far

In its statment, Burnaby RCMP said it will take into account prior dealings with the anti-pipeline protesters when planning how to enforce the injunction. 

It said it will ensure that enough officers are on site in case of incidents that threaten public or police safety. 

Since March 2018, RCMP have arrested 217 people under a separate court-ordered injunction at the two Trans Mountain terminals in Burnaby.

Most arrests have been peaceful, police said.

Burnaby RCMP officers arrested seven protesters on Saturday, April 28, 2018, for being in violation of a court-ordered injunction at a Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain worksite in Burnaby (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Gordon said it's likely that police will arrive in the early daylight hours of the morning and start to remove people from Camp Cloud.

This will give Burnaby city workers the chance to dismantle the camp, he said, which includes a two-storey wooden structure and more than a dozen tents.

"They've had ample notice," Gordon said of the protesters. "What follows will be a charade of sorts." 

With files from Rafferty Baker and Briar Stewart