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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.”
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.
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.
“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 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]