Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and a New Democrat MP were arrested Friday at a protest against Kinder Morgan’s expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline in British Columbia.
May and New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart acknowledged they risked arrest by joining activists at a Trans Mountain pipeline terminal in Burnaby after the B.C. Supreme Court placed limits on where demonstrators could protest.
As she was led away by police, May said the permits issued for the project to proceed did not respect the rights of Indigenous people on their territory.
“The commitment to build a pipeline in 2018 when we are in climate crisis is a crime against future generations and I will not be part of it,” she said.
After her release, May said she was charged with civil contempt for blocking a road, which is not a criminal charge. She said she must appear in court on June 14 and was released on condition that she not return to violate the injunction.
May said she respects the country’s courts.
“I’m a lawyer, I have deep respect for our courts, I have deep respect for the rule of the law,” she said in an interview. “Frankly, the fact (is) that the federal government and Kinder Morgan are not waiting to see if their permits are legal before cutting down trees within parks in Burnaby, B.C., ignoring the wishes of mayor and council in Burnaby and trampling on the rights of First Nations.”
She said non-violent civil disobedience is the moral obligation of a responsible citizen on the issue of climate change.
“I think embedded in my actions today is deep respect for the law. And I’m prepared to face the consequences for my actions.”
Protest organizers say around 100 people have been taken into custody since demonstrations in Burnaby began.
The injunction prohibits activists from getting within five metres of Kinder Morgan’s two terminal sites on Burnaby Mountain where work related to the pipeline expansion is underway.
The expansion project will triple the capacity of the pipeline to nearly 900,000 barrels from 300,000.
Before his arrest, Stewart said he was supporting his constituents in Burnaby South knowing the legal risk he faced.
“I feel I have no choice at this point but to do this to amplify the deep, deep opposition to this project that is felt by my constituents,” he said.
“It’s a combination of the disastrous potential of this project, but also betrayal around how it was approved that is moving many of my constituents to take the actions that they are.”
A lawyer for Trans Mountain, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan Canada, told a judge at hearings on the injunction application that the protesters’ goal was to cause so much financial harm through delays that the company would be forced to abandon the $7.4-billion project, which has been approved by the National Energy Board and the federal government.
Pipeline opponents designated Friday as a National Day of Action as they planned to gather at the offices of 44 MPs and deliver water samples taken from the B.C. coast.
They said the demonstrations would be a reminder of the British Columbia waterways threatened by the pipeline expansion, which would increase the number of oil-carrying vessels in the Georgia Strait from eight per month to as many as 37.