Stephen Collis. Photo from CBC News video.
Stephen Collis is an English literature professor at Simon Fraser University. He’s also a Council of Canadians Delta-Richmond chapter activist.
He’s part of a broader effort to stop Kinder Morgan from cutting trees in a Burnaby conservation area to do survey work for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The Texas-based company wants to twin an existing pipeline to boost its capacity to 890,000 barrels per day. Initially the City of Burnaby had ticketed the survey workers for cutting down trees in this public park, but a National Energy Board prohibited the city from continuing with that action. While the city fights that in the courts, area residents have stepped in to protect their public space.
Last Saturday, Alan Dutton, a member of Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE), said, “We have been mobilizing and training people for the last three weeks or so, and we are ready. People will be present on the mountain, occupying the conservation area, as they have a right, and they will be having picnics instead of pipelines.”
On Wednesday, CBC News reported, “Stephen Collis, a spokesperson for the protesters who call themselves the Caretakers, said they plan to hunker down. ‘We’re currently occupying the space that they have identified that they need to work in. Since we’re on public land, we have every right to be here’, he said. ‘They can’t really work in a space that’s filled with dozens of people. That’s the intention.'”
On that day the activists were able to stop Kinder Morgan from proceeding with any work. In a media release, the activists commented, “Concerned citizens acted bravely, resolutely, and peacefully. They did so in opposition to both the anti-democratic actions of this transnational corporation, and the questionable authority of the National Energy Board of Canada, which is making the unprecedented move of exerting unelected authority over municipal, and thus provincial, authority.”
But late yesterday, Collis, BROKE, SFU biochemistry professor Lynne Quarmby and several area residents were served with a $5.6 million lawsuit for obstructing the survey work for Kinder Morgan’s pipeline.
Collis says, “I feel outraged politically that this could happen in a democracy – that a massive foreign company can accuse you of trespassing on a park. That they can use the courts and their money and influence from barring you from your constitutional right to free speech.”
There will be a first hearing in this case today at 2 pm PT at the BC Supreme Court in Vancouver.
The Council of Canadians expresses its solidarity with all activists seeking to protect the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area by stopping the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.