Arrests of pipeline protesters in Burnaby signal start of long battle

Kinder Morgan began preparing for oil pipeline survey work this morning on Burnaby Mountain after police arrested and removed 26 protesters on Thursday who had refused to take down camps in the path of work crews.

But activists vowed to continue to disrupt project work and blocked an access road Friday morning until Burnaby RCMP once again moved in.

“We’re turning away work trucks,” said Kaleb Morrison, one protester who has been on site for four months. “It’s outside the injunction area and the police tape.”

Morrison had been arrested Thursday and held overnight but was back at Burnaby Mountain this morning after a bail hearing in B.C. Supreme Court.

A court injunction granted last week has barred protesters from the work zone since 4 p.m. Monday.

At least eight more protesters were arrested Friday, including SFU science professor Lynne Quarmby and climate change activist Kevin Washbrook.

“There are no other options left,” Washbrook said after being charged with civil contempt of court for pushing through a line of police officers.

“This is what politics in B.C. could become among people who care about our future,” he said. “We may be in for a Clayoquot-type situation where people who feel they have to make a stand show up each day and make an effort to cross the line.”

The company intends to drill two 250-metre test holes into the mountain over the next 10 to 12 days to determine whether a tunneling route for the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline could avoid existing Burnaby neighbourhoods.

“Trans Mountain supports the right to peacefully protest and believes individuals can express their views in the lawful assembly area, which is near one of the work sites, while allowing our workers to continue working safely,” the company said in a statement.

It said protesters’ belongings were respectfully removed and relocated overnight.

The geotechnical work is expected to run 24 hours a day.

Burnaby has been the flashpoint for opposition to the pipeline project because Kinder Morgan is under growing time pressure to finalize its route in north Burnaby to its tanker terminal ahead of National Energy Board hearings on the project in the new year.

Besides the on-the-ground protests, the City of Burnaby and its council are engaged in court battles aimed at thwarting the project by refusing access.

“I don’t think this is going to be over quickly,” Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said. “We’re going to see ongoing legal battles that will probably take place over the next several years.”

Pipeline opponents argue the huge jump in oil tanker traffic out of Burrard Inlet that will result will greatly increase the risk of a catastrophic oil spill in B.C. waters.

Corrigan said he understands protesters’ frustration, but said they should leave the city and other municipalities to fight the legal battle rather than risk arrest.

Burnaby is in federal court challenging Trans Mountain’s authority granted by the NEB to override city bylaws and it also wants the B.C. Court of Appeal to grant Burnaby an injunction barring the Kinder Morgan crews from Burnaby parkland after a lower court judge refused.

Corrigan said the federally granted authority to supersede local cities could result in all sorts of federally regulated bodies – not just pipeline companies but also port terminals, airports, railways and telecommunications firms – gaining the ability to trump local land-use decisions.

“We are extremely concerned,” he said. “The issues are so much bigger than this incursion in a park on Burnaby Mountain.”

Langley Township, Abbotsford, Vancouver and Metro Vancouver are among the local governments that have filed as intervenors.

Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May urged protesters to continue non-violent resistance, calling Kinder Morgan’s work illegal.

“This entire NEB process has been tainted by fraud through the misrepresentation of Kinder Morgan’s evidence and shoddy research,” May said.

May said civil disobedience is a Charter protected right and praised the “courageous actions” of those arrested Thursday.

“The people protesting on Burnaby Mountain are local, law-abiding residents who have been pushed to their limit,” added Burnaby MP Kennedy Stewart, who criticized Kinder Morgan for pushing ahead with the work.

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