About 100 defendants were in B.C. Supreme Court today, facing charges for protesting an oil pipeline within a court-imposed exclusion zone. All were arrested at the Kinder Morgan pipeline construction site in Burnaby over the last few weeks. Most saw their actions as a form of civil disobedience. Opposition to Kinder Morgan has intensified in recent weeks, with nearly 200 people arrested for trying to stop construction at the Burnaby site. The company has threatened to abandon the pipeline project by May 31 if stakeholders cannot resolve the concerns in B.C.

About three dozen supporters of the defendants, and at least three members of the media, were not allowed in because the courtroom was so packed. BC Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Affleck presided. Nancy McLean was one of the defendants, arrested on March 19 on Burnaby Mountain. The mother of four children has lived in Vancouver for 20 years and is opposed to the pipeline expansion project.

“Growing up with a father who spent his working life in the resource industry, in communities like Sparwood – coal mining, Elkford – coal mining, Yellowknife, Burns Lake — I understand the importance of these places and these jobs,” McLean said in a statement. “However, bitumen (and all of its toxic ingredients) presents an alarming concern for a catastrophic environmental event.”

Nancy McLean, a longtime Vancouver resident and mother of four, was among the 100 people ordered to court after protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Photo provided.

Once inside, defendants were registered with the court. A procedural process followed which was focused on scheduling future court dates. Some must return April 23 for a case conference and another appearance on April 30 may hear guilty pleas.

Those charged were protesting the $7.4-billion Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion which is expected to triple the flow of heavy oil from Alberta to the west coast at a rate of up to 890,000 barrels per day.

“I respect the law and the power of its enforcement, which is why I’m bringing attention to this ‘injunction’ as it’s being imposed on behalf of a foreign company,” McLean said. “This injunction is a moral wrong in its interpretation and therefore in its application."

She was invited onto Burnaby Mountain by Tsleil-Waututh members, and will self-represent herself in court.

"I don't think I'm guilty," McLean told National Observer. "Kinder Morgan hasn't prosecuted everyone who violated the injunction."

McLean said she was not properly served and that she still doesn't know the exact charge she is facing, or the evidence presented against her.

“I respect the law and the power of its enforcement, which is why I’m bringing attention to this ‘injunction’ as it’s being imposed on behalf of a foreign company,” Nancy McLean said. #KinderMorgan #cdnpoli #bcpoli

The first trial is scheduled for May 7, and Judge Affleck said the matter must be dealt with "expeditiously."

"The judge wants the trials to happen quickly, but he wouldn't say why," Rose said.

The protesters, including Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and NDP Burnaby South MP Kennedy Stewart, were told earlier this week by Affleck that they face criminal charges.

Kris Hermes of the Terminal City Legal Collective which has been providing protesters with legal information to support them in fighting the charges, said the proceedings are 'quasi-criminal' as the protesters are being charged with criminal contempt of court, rather than for civil disobedience.

"The injunction that was sought by Kinder Morgan was an attempt to stifle public dissent," Hermes told National Observer. He said the charges seemed to be aimed at undermining criticism of the pipeline expansion project.

Tracy Sherlock writes about B.C. politics for the National Observer. Send story tips to [email protected].

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It's a circular pattern. Canadian companies go off to foreign lands to build toxic mines, and ignore the complaints of the locals. Now a foreign company is doing the same to us. What goes around, comes around, eh?
Maybe it's time to break the cycle and take responsibility for the damage caused by our overseas projects, and then we can have more compassion for our own people caught in this pipeline fiasco.

An excellent point. Seeing the big picture means acknowledging that extractivist industries extract more than the gold, or copper, or bitumen they are mining for. They also extract quality of life from the locals....in damaged ecospheres, polluted water, and toxic leavings.........and they extract silence. What is happening in Burnaby and Vancouver is a good object lesson.

Now if we can activate our empathy to imagine what that process must be like in the third world facing a mega project that wants to rip through your neighbourhood....we might be waking up.

I am hoping some smart lawyers will use the defence of necessity - to protect humanity from the ravages of climate change.

Building further fossil-fuel infrastructure is a crime against humanity and a moral failure on our part.

Kinder Morgan's property line extends more than 20 metres from the main gate to the street. I was told this by the RCMP Liaison Division officer at the site.

The outer edge of 5-metre Injunction zone is 15 +metres within KML land, which means that the B.C. Supreme Court Injunction Order isn't necessary, because KML can lay charges for trespassing, mischief, and obstruction of operations. These are heavy enough charges -- criminal, a lawyer tells me, within the Criminal Code.

Why would the court agree to adding common-law contempt of court charges for transgression onto private property, when existing laws are adequate? Is this how justice works? Apparently, yes, if you're a big, foreign company who can rope B.C. taxpayers into prosecuting its own citizens acting on civil and moral grounds and paying entirely for the large and growing court costs.

The B.C. Supreme Court should review its Injunction Order, remove it where it's not needed on KML's private property, and let the company charge and prosecute on the much more fitting charges of trespassing, mischief, and obstruction of operations.

Any chance of this developing into the size and intensity of the 1993 Clayquot Sound struggle ? This Ontarian's family found that the battle was still simmering the following summer and the commercial loggers had run out of excuses.