Kinder Morgan seeks criminal contempt charges against land and water defenders

NDP MP Kennedy Stewart and Green Party leader Elizabeth May on Burnaby Mountain to #StopKM and #ProtectTheInlet.

Texas-based Kinder Morgan, the transnational corporation behind the 890,000 barrel per day Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline, is seeking criminal contempt charges against land and water defenders arrested for taking bold action on Burnaby Mountain to defend Indigenous rights, protect the Burard Inlet and stop climate change.

The transnational is even taking aim at two elected Members of Parliament - Green Party leader Elizabeth May and the NDP MP for Burnaby South, Kennedy Stewart.

A court appearance was held on Monday April 9 for about 25 people arrested on Burnaby Mountain, including May and Stewart.

Another hearing for another group of those arrested is reportedly set for June 6. Between March 17 to 24, more than 170 people were arrested by the RCMP for trying to stop Kinder Morgan from proceeding with tree cutting at the terminal.

Yesterday, Kinder Morgan asserted in court, "The respondents’ conduct satisfies not only the test for civil contempt, but also the test for criminal contempt in that they each engaged in a deliberate, public and flagrant violation of the injunction order. May and Stewart’s contempt is exacerbated by the fact they are elected officials (and in May’s case a lawyer) and ought to serve as role models that uphold the rule of law.”

Maureen Killoran, counsel for Trans Mountain, adds, "The injunction order from the perspective of Trans Mountain is meaningless. It is a circus on site, and the court must take steps to protect the rule of law."

The judge who issued the injunction order against protests within 5 metres of the terminal - who is also presiding over this decision - appears to agree.

The Vancouver Sun reports, "Last month, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Affleck issued the injunction restricting protests at Kinder Morgan’s controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project in Burnaby. On Monday [April 9], the judge told the protesters and their lawyers that he believes the accused are facing the more serious criminal rather than civil-contempt-of-court proceedings and should be dealt with by the B.C. Prosecution Service rather than by the company."

That article adds, "A lawyer for the B.C. Prosecution Service told the judge that he understood the position the court was articulating, but added that there was some overlap between civil- and criminal-contempt proceedings, and that it was possible to prosecute civilly for contempt of an injunction. The judge repeated that in his view the alleged conduct was criminal, not civil contempt."

The Canadian Press reports, "Trevor Shaw, a lawyer for the B.C. Prosecution Service, told the judge it would carefully consider a referral of the case from the court and report back 'on what we see as the next steps that are viable and appropriate'." Burnaby Now adds, "The judge recommended a one-week break, with a response from the B.C. Prosecution Service on whether it will proceed with criminal charges expected at that time."

That report-back is expected to happen on Monday April 16.

The Council of Canadians celebrates the actions of the land and water defenders and rejects the notion that they should be charged with a criminal offence.