By Clare Ogilvie
Despite being handed severe fines and even jail time by a B.C. Supreme Court judge, Eagleridge Bluff protesters are planning to continue their fight.
Now, however, the Coalition to Save Eagleridge Bluffs says it is focusing on creating some sort of legacy out of what has happened.
“What is important to us is that there be a legacy from this heartbreak that thousands of people have felt across Canada and beyond because of the fact that the Bluffs have been obliterated,” said protest leader Dennis Perry of West Vancouver.
“We want there to be a legacy. The shame is on this government.”
The protesters were sentenced for their part in blocking highway construction after a court injunction prohibiting them from the site.
Squamish elder Harriet Nahanee, who stood in the way of construction at the bluffs was sentenced to 14 days behind bars by Justice Brenda Brown last Friday.
Brown said she handed down the jail time to the 70-year-old woman because she showed no remorse, did not attend most of her own hearing, and was a high profile protester.
Five other protesters, including Perry, Sue Rowan, Kevin Austin and John Bannister, were fined $5,000 each in addition to the $1,000 they had already agreed to pay highway contractor Peter Kiewit and Sons.
Perry and the others can also do 500 hours of community service instead of paying the fine if they want.
The rest of the 15 protesters were each fined $250 or 25 hours of community work.
Justice Brown said those who received the $5,000 fines were hit harder because they exhibited continuous and brazen disregard for the court injunction.
Perry said he is disappointed in the judicial process and feels that by dealing with the issue in a civil setting the issues involved in the Eagleridge Bluffs and Larson Creek Wetlands never had fair hearing.
“Unfortunately this is the process the government has employed to handle situations like this and the unfortunate thing for society is that the reasons for the civil disobedience in the first place are never even considered,” said Perry.
The sentences stem from a May 25, 2006 incident when protesters failed to leave the construction site at the bluffs after losing a court fight for their own injunction to stop the Highway 99 upgrade.
The realignment of the highway above Horseshoe Bay is part of a $600-million upgrade between West Vancouver and Whistler, which will be completed by the 2010 Games.
The Coalition to Save Eagleridge Bluffs was formed to fight the government’s plan to upgrade a section of the highway with an overland route. It wanted a tunnel built instead, though the Ministry of Transportation rejected that option.
The government has said that the overland upgrade costs $130 million while the tunnel was projected to cost $200 million.
Despite the fines Perry said the Coalition will be heard from again.
“It’s our mandate to make sure that the public and the government never forgets what we have lost at the bluffs and in the (Larson Creek) wetlands.”
Asked how the group plans to do this Perry would only say, “That will unfold as time goes by. I can’t give you an answer on that right now but I can tell you that there is a lot of talk and there is a lot of meetings going on.”
It’s likely, he said, that the plan would be unfolding when the International Olympic Committee Coordination Commission visits Vancouver and Whistler in March.
“I’d like to think that we would be more active than we have been at that point,” said Perry.