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Court of Appeal to hear out Eagleridge protesters

The battle between protesters and construction workers building the Sea to Sky Highway improvement at Eagleridge Bluffs continues this week with a return to the courts.

The battle between protesters and construction workers building the Sea to Sky Highway improvement at Eagleridge Bluffs continues this week with a return to the courts.

Last Thursday (May 25) after a month of protests, West Vancouver police arrested 23 Eagleridge Bluffs protestors including Coalition to Save Eagleridge Bluffs spokesperson Dennis Perry and high profile environmental champion Betty Krawczyk. Police enforced a Supreme Court injunction ordering protestors at Eagleridge Bluffs to vacate the construction site slated for a Highway 99 expansion.

Protestors say they want to save the sensitive wetlands of the Bluffs from a proposed overland route, demanding instead that the Ministry of Transportation build a tunnel, which the province said will cost an extra $70 million.

Protestors have been camped out for more than a month. The contractor, Peter Kiewit and Sons, went to BC Supreme Court in early May seeking and obtaining an injunction ordering the protestors to move away from the construction area. The protestors unsuccessfully appealed the decision, and remained. The contractor then obtained an enforcement order, which was carried out by West Vancouver police Thursday (May 25). There were approximately 70 people at the site, according to reports, but most moved across the highway when police moved in.

The elderly Krawczyk, well known in Squamish for spending a year in jail for protests in the Elaho Valley in 1999, was carried away while a Squamish Nation member read portions of the Proclamation Act of 1763 saying demonstrators were "claiming sovereign immunity."

Squamish Nation members have said in the media they're planning to stake aboriginal land claims on the bluffs in support of protestors. Squamish Nation Chief Bill Williams quickly issued a statement denying the claim, however, and reiterating the Squamish Nation's support of the Olympics and the highway work.

Two groups of protesters now appear near the site, one group complying with orders to stay away remained on one side of an off-ramp while those who were not arrested remain at the gate to the construction site. Meanwhile, Peter Kiewit security and police have joined forces to guard the perimeter and ward off protestors coming disturbing construction.

On Tuesday (May 30), however, the tide changed for protesters when a B.C. Court of Appeal judge granted the Coalition leave to make their case to a B.C. Court of Appeal tribunal of three judges on June 12.

Perry was widely quoted as claiming the decision a victory once outside the court. "We finally won a battle," he said. "Even if the war is not won yet."

The protesting group may well have new information to provide decision makers on June 12. Recent claims of migratory bird nest sightings have given protestors fodder since excavating a site containing such a nest would contravene federal and provincial legislation.

Members of the Eagleridge Environmental Stewardship Alliance (EESA) invited media and the public to join them on a tour of the area where another member said he saw and photographed a Cassin's vireo nest, a songbird protected under the Migratory Songbird Treaty Act.

"Let's set the record straight," said EESA member and biologist Jim Cuthbert. He issued the statement in response to Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon's statement that the nest is not located within the path of the highway, according to an EESA news release.

The EESA claims professional biologists have witnessed and photographed the active nest, which is attached to an Arbutus tree.

"The nest tree is well within the flagged limits of land clearing and grubbing," said Cuthbert.

Peter Kiewit workers are already clearing trees and a Ministry of Transportation spokesperson was quoted by CBC News as saying the logging will proceed despite the Appeal Court judge's decision to listen to arguments.

Perry said he's concerned that by the time the Court of Appeal hears his arguments, the clearing will be complete.

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