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Court ruling seeks to quash resistance to pipeline on Burnaby Mountain

Simon Fraser University professor Lynne Quarmby vowed on Burnaby Mountain to continue the fight after the court ruling today. Photo by Vancouver Observer.

Simon Fraser University professor Lynne Quarmby vowed on Burnaby Mountain to continue the fight after the court ruling today. Photo by Vancouver Observer.

British Columbia Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen has granted Texas-based Kinder Morgan an injunction to stop local residents from blocking survey work for the 890,000 barrels per day Trans Mountain pipeline in the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area. Those maintaining the blockade now have until Monday November 17 at 4 pm to dismantle their campsite and barricades and to allow Kinder Morgan’s survey work – which has included cutting down trees in the public park – to proceed.

Cullen ruled, “There is no doubt that the plaintiff [Kinder Morgan] has the express lawful authority to access those parts of the land from which its representatives have been impeded and to conduct activities in respect of which its representatives have been prevented.” This despite the elected municipal council of the City of Burnaby opposes the pipeline expansion and has sought to keep Kinder Morgan out of the city-owned conservation area. City staff have even ticketed the pipeline survey crews for cutting down trees in the public park.

Cullen also ruled, “A court could conclude that the torts of assault and intimidation are made out, given the misuse of the bullhorns, when coupled with the aggressive and threatening language, and the general and specific efforts to physically block the plaintiff’s representatives from accessing their work sites.” In response to this statement, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association says, “Protestors have a legal right to be boisterous, insulting and loud. They have a right to make all kinds of different faces, even unfriendly and scary faces. While the court recognized that caution needs to be taken in characterizing expression, we are concerned that the decision could have the effect of limiting freedom of speech. Restrictions on speech must be as minimal as possible and they must be crystal clear in order to minimize chilling effects.”

And, as CBC reports, “Cullen said the question of irreparable harm caused by granting or not granting the injunction came down in favour of Kinder Morgan, which stands to lose money through delays to its survey work.” The judge appears to be implying with this statement that the loss of money is an “irreparable harm” over the loss of trees cut down for the survey work or the harm to the land, water and climate that comes with a pipeline that could produce about 22 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year.

In terms of next steps, the Vancouver Observer notes, “The police will have power to arrest protesters on Burnaby Mountain as of Monday.” And the Vancouver Sun reports, “Some of the anti-pipeline protesters camped out on a frosty Burnaby Mountain Friday were moved to tears, while others vowed to stay and risk arrest after Kinder Morgan won an injunction to remove their encampment. …[Simon Fraser University professor Stephen] Collis said he believes on Monday many of the protesters will engage in civil disobedience and ignore the injunction.”

Beyond this injunction, Kinder Morgan has also filed a $5.6 million civil suit against Collis, Adam Gold, Mia Nissen, Lynne Quarmby, Alan Dutton, Burnaby Residents Opposed to Kinder Morgan Expansion, as well as unnamed protesters seeking damages for lost revenue due to the delays. Collis says, “It’s really a SLAPP suit—a suit that’s not a serious suit at all, but it’s intended to shut up activists and stop them from participating in the process by gumming them up in courts and making them accrue excessive court costs and lawyer fees.” Likely confirming the assertion by Collis, Burnaby News Leader notes, “Earlier this week, Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson said the company may not pursue the civil suit if it can do the work it needs to do.”

Today, Vancouver-based Council of Canadians organizer Brigette DePape was at the Support Gathering on Burnaby Mountain to be in solidarity with those opposing Kinder Morgan and to await the ruling. The Peak reports, “Brigitte DePape, activist and Council of Canadians representative, asked the crowd how everyone was feeling, to which one man replied, ‘Committed’. DePape referred to the Keystone XL Pipeline project that was just approved today by the US House of Representatives: ‘It’s really frustrating to hear the Keystone Pipeline being approved, but I think that just shows us that it’s not our political leaders that are going to make these changes. It’s going to be us, standing in front of these pipelines.'”

On November 5, the Council of Canadians signed an open letter along with numerous community, environmental and labour groups that says, “These caretakers and residents should not be facing an injunction or a multimillion-dollar lawsuit by a corporate energy giant. Given the federal government’s failure to respond to residents, to Indigenous communities at the source of Tar Sands destruction and along the proposed pipeline route, and to municipal concerns, we laud these protectors for their bravery in taking a stand against Kinder Morgan.”

That same day, DePape, Delta-Richmond chapter activists Cathy Wilander and Bob Ages and Surrey-Langley-White Rock chapter activist Penny Oyama were at the Supreme Court building with more than 150 others for the start of the court proceedings, to express their opposition to Kinder Morgan and to show their solidarity with Collis who is also a Council of Canadians chapter activist.

Prior to today’s court ruling, DePape stated, “How we react to this is critical for setting a precedent for how we react to Harper’s dirty energy and pipeline agenda across the country. We can show oil and gas companies that whether it be on the ground with our bodies, or in the courthouse with our right to protest, we refuse to let these pipelines pass.”

Further reading

Residents block Kinder Morgan from Burnaby conservation area! (October 30 blog)

Kinder Morgan strikes back against defenders of Burnaby conservation area (October 31 blog)

Council signs letter in support of Burnaby resistance against Trans Mountain pipeline (November 5 blog)

Strong courthouse solidarity for defenders of Burnaby Mountain (November 6 blog)