Sober second thought needed in Kinder Morgan situation

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As we write this editorial, RCMP officers are arresting protesters on Burnaby Mountain. The protesters have been involved in a standoff with Kinder Morgan and the company’s workers for the past several weeks.

Kinder Morgan wants to take soil samples and do some engineering tests to see if their planned twinning of its oil pipeline could be built through the mountain. The protesters are trying to stop – or at least stall – the company.

The city is still fighting the company in Canada’s courts. The land Kinder Morgan wants to build on has been designated a conservation and park area. It is not a vacant industrial lot. It is Burnaby city land, and one might think that Burnaby would have some say in the matter. But that’s not what the law allows, according to the National Energy Board. The law apparently allows for oil companies to pretty much do anything they want.

Well, as Charles Dickens wrote in Oliver Twist, “The law is an arse.”

Burnaby residents, and Canadians in general, are a polite group. Civil disobedience is not the first thing they plan when faced with government actions they don’t agree with. First they try the law, then they try online petitions, then they get their pup tents and hold sing-along protests with big signs. It is certainly only as a last resort that folks chain themselves to trees and get thrown behind bars.

So the government and the NEB should take a much-needed sober second look at this situation.

This is not a protest that is happening in the 1960s deep in the woods. This is a protest that is driven by legitimate concerns about oil tanker traffic in a narrow inlet. It is a protest with legitimate concerns about what would happen when (not if) an earthquake hits. It is a protest framed by legitimate concerns about land rights. It is a protest supported by many “average” citizens who were very reluctant to step out of their comfort zones and risk jail. It is a protest that is founded on principles that cannot be ignored. The law may indeed be an arse, but we still believe in basic principles of justice.

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