Contempt charges thrown out at pipeline protest
Published Thursday, November 27, 2014 8:45AM PST Last Updated Thursday, November 27, 2014 7:39PM PST
VANCOUVER -- A B.C. Supreme Court judge has dropped civil contempt charges against dozens of protesters who were arrested at an anti-pipeline protest near Vancouver.
The order came Thursday after Kinder Morgan acknowledged it had used incorrect GPS co-ordinates when it sought an injunction related to its Trans Mountain pipeline.
More than 100 people have been arrested on Burnaby Mountain, including Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, who crossed a police line around a Kinder Morgan work site earlier Thursday.
Nearly all of the arrested protesters were charged with civil contempt for violating the injunction, but the judge handling the case suggested during Thursday's hearing that the errors in the initial court order put those charges in doubt.
"What's happened thus far is that apparently people have been arrested on the basis of an order that refers to some other piece of property," Judge Austin Cullen said, prompting laughs and jeers from the courtroom's crowded public gallery.
"The concern is that people have been arrested and subjected to restraints on their liberty," he continued later.
Later, Cullen invited a lawyer for Kinder Morgan to file an application to vacate the charges. Company lawyer William Kaplan made such an application, which Cullen granted, effectively throwing out all of the civil contempt charges.
The order doesn't apply to a small handful of protesters who faced criminal charges for assault or obstruction of justice.
Cullen also revised the injunction to correct the GPS co-ordinates for the one work site that is still active, so protesters arrested under that revised injunction could still face civil contempt charges.
Kinder Morgan is conducting drilling at two sites on Burnaby Mountain, which is home to a conservation area and Simon Fraser University, as it prepares for the federal approval process. The company's preferred route for the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline would tunnel through the mountain.
The energy giant has completed work at one drilling site, which is located along a roadway and where the majority of the demonstrations have been focused.
However, it says crews likely won't be finished at a second drilling site, which is located deep into the forest, until after the current injunction deadline of Dec. 1.
It was at that second site that Phillip, the grand chief, was arrested on Thursday morning. Like many pipeline opponents before him, Phillip announced his intention to be arrested before walking past a police line that surrounded the work site.
Phillip and his supporters trekked through dense brush to the work site. He was arrested to the beat of a native drum and singing.
"I said that if push came to shove and there were arrests, that I would stand with the courageous people that were willing to be arrested as a matter of principle," he said before his arrest.
"We need to reclaim this country ... and return it back to the voices of the people that have invested a lifetime of hard work to build this province."