Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May was arrested at Kinder Morgan’s terminals in Burnaby on March 23. (File)

Judge says anti-pipeline protesters, including Elizabeth May, should face criminal contempt charges

Green Party of Canada leader and others appear in B.C. Supreme Court after arrests three weeks ago

Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May and Burnaby-South NDP MP Kennedy Stewart may be facing criminal contempt of court charges following an appearance at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Monday.

The pair were arrested with nearly two dozen others on March 23 for violating a court injunction that required them to stay five metres from Kinder Morgan’s two terminal sites on Burnaby Mountain where crews were working on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Anti-pipeline protestors host a drum circle in front of the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Monday. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

Work was suspended on Sunday, when Kinder Morgan officials said they were halting all “non-essential” construction, citing the B.C. government’s opposition to the project.

“As a matter of law, the conduct alleged is criminal contempt,” Justice Kenneth Affleck told lawyer Trevor Shaw, who was representing the attorney general of B.C., in regards to the 25 people awaiting charges on Monday.

“These are matters of public importance in which the attorney general ought to intervene and take over. They ought not to be left in the hands of Trans Mountain.”

Kinder Morgan’s legal counsel Maureen Killoran told Affleck the company had filed civil charges in an attempt to bring the case to the court’s attention, but was happy to have them converted to criminal ones.

“This is not a dispute between the respondents and Trans Mountain, it is a dispute between the court and the respondents,” Killoran said.

Addressing the gallery, Affleck made it clear that his forthcoming judgment was not a “moral” judgment on Trans Mountain.

“These trials are limited to the issue if there has been criminal contempt of court; has there been public defiance of an order of this court?” Affleck said.

“This trial is not about whether the work done by Trans Mountain or Kinder Morgan is lawful or environmentally wise.”

Errol Povah had some choice words for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley in front of B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Monday. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

The judge recommended a one-week break, with a response from the attorney general expended next Monday morning.

All 25 accused were free to go but are to be taken into custody if they contravene the conditions of their release, including any illegal activity or future protests.

If it were to go ahead, the twinned pipeline would transport oilsands crude from central Alberta to the terminals in Burnaby and triple the pipeline’s capacity to 890,000 barrels a day.

Protest continue outside of court

Speaking after her court date, May said Kinder Morgan’s decision to halt work was simply “political maneuvering.”

She said that the “artificial deadline” of May 31 was intended to increase pressure on the B.C. government.

“We have a strong case that this project is not in the national interest,” May said.

“The Kinder Morgan project is one… to ship a product for which there isn’t a market.”

May spoke in favour of building more refineries in Alberta in order to refine their bitumen instead of shipping raw product out west.

Asked if May had spoken to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley about her proposal, May said that they had one short talk but that she’d been unable to secure a full meeting.

Errol Povah was one of the 25 people arrested on March 23. He stayed outside the courtroom, he said, because his order to appear is only for June 6.

“I am just out here today supporting those arrestees who are inside,” the Surrey resident said.

Povah believes the pipeline expansion is bad for B.C. because of “the climate change issue, the risk to B.C. of a pipeline leak or a tanker collision or grounding.

“I’m concerned about the marine environment, most notably the orcas,” Povah said.

“We’ve got 76 resident orcas remaining, and they should not be put at risk.”

Anti-pipeline protestors host a drum circle in front of the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Monday. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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