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Victories over Ontario and BC Highways

Fights Continue in Montreal and Vancouver

by Eric Doherty

June 2011 Retro Demo in Montreal - Photo courtesy Mobilisation Turcot
June 2011 Retro Demo in Montreal - Photo courtesy Mobilisation Turcot
Protest against Niagra to Toronto freeway - Photo courtesy
Protest against Niagra to Toronto freeway - Photo courtesy
Montreal's Mobilisation Turcot Logo features transit, cycling and walking
Montreal's Mobilisation Turcot Logo features transit, cycling and walking
Earth Day in Metro Vancouver - Day one of SFPR occupation Photo by Eric Doherty
Earth Day in Metro Vancouver - Day one of SFPR occupation Photo by Eric Doherty

Also posted by edoherty:

This week the government of Ontario cancelled the controversial $6 billion Niagara to Toronto freeway. A broad coalition of groups vigorously opposed the highway across the Niagara escarpment, and pushed for investment in transit and freight rail instead.

“We need to fully fund Metrolinx, the regional transit program.  We need to use realistic population growth and oil price estimates,” said Geoff Brock, of the Stop the Escarpment Highway CoalitionWe need to consider rail alternatives for freight that are being overlooked by the MTO, because rail is a federal responsibility and the two governments are not co-ordinated.”

It is hard to say when a freeway or road building project is dead. They have a bad habit of emerging from the grave. But it seems that the tide is turning against road building. In BC, Transport Minister Blair Lekstrom recently confirmed that the North Fraser Perimeter Road project in Metro Vancouver is dead and buried. TransLink, the regional transportation authority largely controlled by Lekstrom, also recently cancelled a smaller roadway widening, the Murray-Clark Connector.

In Montreal, residents have been pushing hard to ensure that the Turcot Interchange, a rebuild of a 1960s freeway project, does not suck up billions from the public purse and bulldoze hundreds of units of rental housing. In June, a 1950s themed demonstration featuring classic cars and retro costumes made the point that times have changed and what was fashionable in the middle of the last century looks kind of silly given peak oil and climate change. Mobilisation Turcot calls for “a 21st century solution, which takes into account our planet, our future and our health.”

In British Columbia, opposition to the South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR) freeway continues, inspired by the recent victories over the North Fraser Perimeter Road and Murray-Clark Connector. The SFPR is a controversial $1.5 billion proposal for a freeway crossing some of Canada’s most productive farm land along the banks of the Fraser River, one of Canada’s most important salmon rivers.

Starting on Mother Earth Day activists from around Metro Vancouver camped out in an action organized by and the Council of Canadians and blocked a SFPR construction site for two weeks, posting a large banner on the fence reading “Freeways = Climate Crime”.  But much of the opposition in recent weeks relates to the governments proposal to pave over a 9000 year old indigenous village and grave site, a heritage site thousands of years older than the pyramids of Egypt.

“This is the destruction of our past and future, and has to be stopped,” said William Burnstick, of the Cree Sioux First nations who is participating in a lawsuit to protect the archaeological site. “A society that paves over its history and pollutes the planet has no future.”

The historical moment is right to put an end to 1950s style freeways, and shift investments to low-carbon transportation such as electric public transit and trains. The price of oil is high despite the global economic woes that have constrained consumption. And climate change has become a present crisis rather than a problem for future generations. In recent weeks, extreme heat, part of a trend of increasingly dangerous heat waves due to global warming, has been blamed for 10 deaths in Montreal alone. But the current drought and famine in East Africa is also likely linked to global warming.

So far only two national organizations seem to be actively working to shift spending from blacktop to green transportation. (But please let me know if there are more!). So far the Wilderness Committee has focused their efforts in BC, including co-publishing the recent Transportation Transformation report which I co-authored. The Council of Canadians is however making transportation a key element of their System Change, Not Climate Change campaign which will launch in September.

Local battles against each freeway proposal are largely still that, isolated struggles without a larger network of support or a vision of what could be achieved by shifting billions from blacktop to public transit, cycling infrastructure, passenger trains and low-carbon freight movement.

As a first step towards building a network of freeway fighters, will be hosting a page linking local groups across the country. If you know of a group working to shift spending from blacktop to low-carbon transport please let us know at

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Stopping stupid freeways!

Great article Mr.Doherty!

So all progressive people lets inform ourselves and join together to stop the proposed SFPR here in the lower mainland, before its too late!


spectacular actions?

These actions are ridiculous. There are far better ways to disrupt or even stop an highway project.

Stay weak and unefficient... the State loves it! (sighs)


Thanks for the support!!

@Anabraxas - Great way to divide and inhibit any action at all. That IS your objective isn't it?

If that is not your objective, make a constructive suggestion - link to an action against freeways you like. The effective revolutionary is not motivated by a need to sneer.

Seriously ...

Why would you even bother typing that except for some masturbatory sense of superiority?

I mean ... StopthePave turned in to the South Fraser Protection Camp which held the barricades for 2 weeks until a lawsuit was brought against the developer ... which actually DID stop the highway project cold. (admittedly only one small segment of the project)

Thats my understanding anyway, please correct me if I'm wrong.

So congrats Anabraxas, you're not just a sarcastic asshole, you're also denying reality.

The SFPR legal action

Thanks Sid,

To clarify, the legal action has not stopped the SFPR freeway construction, or a least not yet. My understanding is that the injunction application will be heard in court next week.

In my experience legal action is usually only effective if it is combined with other tactics, it is just one flank to attack on if you find a vulnerable spot.

Hi there Sid, I missed the

Hi there Sid,

I missed the others rant, thankfully! You are partially right, at the Protection Camp we started the court injunction against the SFPR, but it is only going to Court this coming Tuesday, so hopefully we will get the Injunction and all work will finally stop!

The NFPR was actually cancelled because the good people of New Westminster rose up collectively and said No to the Freeway in their back yards. If this was a project to move goods then that missing part of the freeway should have stopped the whole, but it did not, so I imagine that its more about land destruction and land speculation, making Christy and Kevin's friends richer... The Great news is that we just beat the HST and the B.C. government is collapsing, so perhaps we will continue to celebrate many progressive accomplishments soon! Yah hoo!


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