Protesters attempting to prevent Kinder Morgan from conducting survey work related to proposed Trans Mountain expansion
BURNABY, B.C.—As the deadline for an injunction passed directing protesters to clear the way for Kinder Morgan pipeline survey crews, many vowed to defy the court’s order.
A few hundred people gathered along the road and on a hillside in the Burnaby Mountain Conservation area as the court-imposed deadline loomed Nov. 17, waving banners, chanting and vowing not to let survey crews access the conservation area.
A handful of uniformed RCMP officers stood nearby, watching the demonstration.
Protesters have been attempting to prevent the energy giant from conducting survey work on Burnaby Mountain related to the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Kinder Morgan wants to triple the capacity of the pipeline, which starts near Edmonton and stretches about 1,000 kilometres to Burnaby, B.C., outside Vancouver.
Its preferred route would tunnel a section of pipeline through Burnaby Mountain, which is the home of Simon Fraser University (SFU) and the conservation area.
The company sued several activists and sought an injunction, which it received Nov. 14, when a judge ordered protesters to clear their encampment and keep out of the way of the pipeline work.
On deadline day, a Coast Salish First Nation member, wearing a traditional headdress and who identified herself as a guardian named Sut-Lut, vowed to defy the court order.
“To you my humankind family, all the beautiful colour I see here, I’m willing to go to jail for you because I love this Canada, I love this land and I love my human family. We’ve got nowhere else to go. Stand beside me and protect this Mother Earth and the water, the source of all life,” she said.
Marija Brzev, 22, and a 25-year-old man who identified himself only as Xenoa said they were among the campers and would follow the lead of local First Nations.
“This is their land,” said Brzev.
“Squamish land; Squamish law,” added Xenoa.
When asked if she feared being arrested, Brzev said, “I don’t believe that’s going to happen.”
Mounties said they wouldn’t enforce the court order immediately.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Major John Buis said police had discretionary powers that allow them to assess the situation.
“The assessment will take time and I am (unable) to give a specific timeline of when this will be completed,” he said.
SFU biochemistry professor Lynne Quarmby, who is among the defendants in Kinder Morgan’s lawsuit, said the protesters are diverse and don’t all belong to a single group, so she couldn’t say whether everyone would abide by the injunction.
“As to whether or not anyone is going to violate the injunction, I have no idea,” she said. “I think we just have to wait and see.”
A British Columbia Supreme Court judge concluded that allowing the protesters to continue blocking work crews would cause Kinder Morgan irreparable financial harm.
The judge cited the “misuse” of bullhorns, aggressive language and other actions designed to thwart the company’s work.
Kinder Morgan said it did not plan to resume work Nov. 17, but it otherwise declined to comment.
The company issued a news release Nov. 14 that said the survey work is a necessary part of the federal application process.
It plans to bore two small holes and then drill 250 metres into the mountain.
Quarmby said there is a long list of problems with the pipeline, including the impact of Alberta oil on climate change, as well as the failure to respect the rights of First Nations and properly consult them.
She said recent changes in federal environmental laws have limited the ability of critics such as herself to be involved in the regulatory process, and she noted that the National Energy Board (NEB) does not plan to look at the potential impact on climate change during its review of the proposed expansion.
“There is a rapid push on LNG projects, on exporting coal, on developing the tar sands, on new pipelines, and in none of these projects do we get to talk about the impact on climate change; to me that’s immoral, that’s unethical,” she said.
“There are just so many reasons why this is such a wrong project.”
The pipeline is facing opposition on many fronts, including lawsuits from First Nations, which are seeking to block the project altogether; the City of Vancouver, which wants climate change to be part of the energy board review; and the City of Burnaby, which accuses the company of violating municipal bylaws by cutting down trees.
The mayors of Vancouver and Burnaby, who were each returned to office in municipal elections this month, have publicly opposed the pipeline expansion.
—With files from James Keller