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Putting the Barricades Back in Earth Day

Activists take over site of highway expansion

by Dawn Paley Photos by Murray Bush

The barricades
The barricades
Onsite construction
Onsite construction
The road to hell in Delta
The road to hell in Delta
Truck you Kevin Falcon
Truck you Kevin Falcon
Bird nesting area
Bird nesting area
Bringing the necessities
Bringing the necessities

Also posted by flux:

More than 120 people gathered in North Delta today to reclaim a contentious section of land.  The site along the Fraser River is where the provincial and federal governments plan to build the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

From their perch above the Fraser, demonstrators set up barricades, planted trees and pitched tents in an effort to hold the space and keep the highway contractors out. "I guess I would call it a liberated zone," said Cathy Wilnder, an organizer with Stop the Pave, the group that called today's action. "People are going against the government and corporate agenda of turning our community into an industrial zone," she said.

The action was the third such targeted against the SFPR, a project some local residents say will increase pollution and traffic. "People here don't know they plan to triple the amount of trucks," said Richelle Giberson, a North Delta resident who lives three houses down from the proposed highway expansion. 

But it's not only increased traffic and pollution that's cause for concern, says Giberson, there's also the fact that if it's built, the new highway will destroy an Indigenous burial ground. "Archeologists say it is one of the most important archeology sites along the Fraser River," said Giberson. "Its older than Stonehedge, older than the Egyptian pyramids."

The area where the camp is set up was clearcut and bulldozed during bird nesting season, but has yet to be paved. People young and old took turns setting up wooden skids, filling buckets with rocks, building makeshift toilets in the exposed sandy earth, and preparing to defend the site. Police circled overhead in a helicopter, but as this story went to press there were no uniformed police in the area. 

"We're not just going to sit on the side of the road, we're going to be disruptive," said one man who was carrying sticks to block the front line of the barricade. "I feel like I'm camping, except there's no kegs," he said, capturing the jovial mood among those setting up camp.

For Harold Steves, a long time activist who helped set up the Agricultural Land Reserve, today's actions brought him back to his generation's successful efforts to prevent a second crossing from Stanley Park in the 1950s. 

"The floodgates are open, the dike at Delta has been breached," said Steves, looking over at the barricades with approval. "The industrial port activities threaten 2,600 acres of farmland," he said. "The writing is on the wall, a highway like this will have a limited life span."

As the afternoon turned to evening, some folks began to drift away from the site, and new faces continue to show up. Campers plan to stay the night, and say everyone -except cops and political candidates- are welcome to join the fun.

Enter between 10749 and 10739, River Road, Delta.

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  Good job guys.  Think you


Good job guys.  Think you captured the energy of the moment very well and Media Co-op I love you guys and with conditions on site, given I just live a short 10 minutes by car down the road, am extending an invitation to any Co-op reporters to recharge batteries, whatever is needed for tech support to continue your coverage of the Freeway reclamation project, especially since you are at a huge disadvantage given the mainstream media and their expensive all equipped vans.  Still feel compelled to comment to give a more accurate and complete picture of the history of this Freeway Revolt. 

Cathy Wilander is with Council of Canadians working with StopthePave and this is far from the third action against the Freeway.  There is a long, history of strong freeway resistance leading up to this Mother Earth Day,  which is the third in a series of targeted mass direct actions under the collaborative cooperation of Council of Canadians and StopthePave aka GatewaySucks in a former life. So the back story is that these more recent Freeway Freedom Fighting ventures are the culmination in a series of petitions, letter writing, rallies, campaigns, legal challenges, etc all of which demonstrate that the people of Delta, Surrey and all over the Lower Mainland, the province even are united in their support of  seeing this project stopped

They are too many to mention all here, but there are a few I remember off the top of my head such as, some of which are more or less well publisized:

- Carfree Days in East Vancouver was originally a Gateway (SouthFraser Freeway is a component of this) protest action

- Birdland Rally

- SFPR Cancelled December 2008

- Snowmen against Climate Change January 2009

- Last House standing - Bridgeview Blockade March 2009 which was a week long, round the clock vigil at the last home demolished in the Bridgeview North Surrey Community

- Guerilla Gardening May /June 2009

- South Fraser Witness trail Fall 2009 to present

- Gateway Highway 1 action December 2009

- Sand For Shirley Campaign June 2010 - present 

So just as the history of Canada didn't start with the arrival of the white settlers the history of this particular struggle goes way back before 10.10.10 and these mass direct actions are only building on all that previous spirit of resistance to this pavement politics destruction by numerous organizations and individuls including many of our well respected, outspoken, most passionate and profoundly wise politicians and candidates, who are seriously committed to turning this environmental disaster around. 

So please be careful when it comes to knock the politicians and candidates as well.  Sure there are the elected Liberal and Conservative governments who support the destructive industrialization of the South Fraser waterfront / watershed and have funded this ill advised, poorly concieved venture - Falcon's Folly  but there is a whole roster of politicians wearing white hats who have spoken out against this project and the related Delta Port Expansion and done whatever they can to stop it as well as showing their support for these types of actions, speaking out at rallys and regular Delta citizens have appreciated them and elected them over and over. 

- John Cummins Conservative MP for Delta East Richmond

- Guy Gentner NDP MLA for North Delta - attended Mother Earth Day April 22

- Vicki Huntingdon Independent MLA for South Delta

- Harold Steves Richmond City Councillor and former NDP MLA -attended Mother Earth Day April 22

- Bernadette Keenan Green Party Candidate Surrey North - attended Mother Earth Day April 22 as first aid medic and Bridgeview Community Action Group representative

- Nic Slater NDP candidate for Delta East Richmond - attended Mother Earth Day April 22

I believe, there is also political momentum and growing public awareness building in North Surrey against the South Fraser Freeway thanks I hope in part to my persistant efforts at running in every  darn election (four so far) they hold, so that there is voice at the all candidates forums, in the papers and on the streets informing voters about the health, environmental, economic, first nations archeological, transporation etc issues and just what an all round bad idea this project is.  This time out I was able to speak out at the Muslim Community Forum and tell them about Iqra Islamic school being just across the street from the proposed freeway path and health concerns for the Children.

This is not an election pitch, if they weren't building this freeway I wouldn't even be a candidate - but sadly due to family and other circumstances we cannot all put ourselves on the frontline to be arrested, no matter how much we are committed to the mass direct action.  Myself I am running at considerable personal expense and effort because I am passionately committed to stopping this Freeway and it is going to take cooperation from all sort of folks including politicians / candidates who spread the word - plus give regular voters who might not get another opportunity, a chance to cast a ballot against the freeway sending a political message.

Heck we have to try and reach out and get support whereever we can,  maybe even from some policeman - at the Bridgeview Blockade one of the cops that came out told us his family had property expropriated due to the Hope Peace Dam so what we were doing resonated with him.  

So thanks very much for coming out and all the continued coverage and support of our Freeway Freedom Revolt.   It is fantastic but keep it real and honest and remember we have to have lots of tools in our box - "death by 1000 cuts"  I believe is  the phrase Eliza Olsen another well known and respected opponent to this Freeway uses.  Would love to  sit down - perhaps after the election and get into detailed look at this Freeway Freedom Fighting Saga. 





thanks bernadette, points well taken. see you soon!

Please add my name to the

Please add my name to the politicians involved !!
I have been involved with this since its inception and believe this paints an incomplete picture with us in an election

you have more choices





You're welome Dawn - hope

You're welome Dawn - hope so. 


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