Dogwood Initiative, British Columbia’s largest non-partisan citizen group, today reacted to the B.C. Supreme Court decision to grant an injunction to Kinder Morgan to continue survey work on Burnaby Mountain.
“This ruling grapples with an unresolved question that is central to all of our work,” said Will Horter, Dogwood’s Executive Director. “What’s more important? The financial interests of a $100-billion Texas pipeline company, or the rights of the people who live in the way?”
In the ruling delivered by Justice Austin Cullen, the economic harm to the company caused by ongoing work delays was found to be greater than the harm to citizens resisting the project if surveys go ahead.
“Remember, nobody has approved this pipeline,” said Horter. “Kinder Morgan’s claim that they’re losing millions of dollars every month they wait is based on the assumption that the process is rigged in their favour. They might be right, but their expected profits shouldn’t trump the larger public interest.”
Justice Cullen’s ruling does not offer an opinion on the overall merits of the pipeline and oil tanker project, nor does it answer the question of whether the National Energy Board can override the jurisdiction of the city of Burnaby – a matter that remains before a federal court.
Justice Cullen found the damage done to the mountain through the boring of rock samples and cutting of trees was acceptable given the routing information requested by the National Energy Board, while the behaviour of protestors toward work crews leaned strongly toward intimidation.
“We notice the judge chose not to address the argument advanced by Kinder Morgan that facial expressions constitute assault,” said Kai Nagata, Dogwood’s Energy & Democracy Director and one of the originators of the viral #KMface campaign launched on social media in response.
Justice Cullen wrote: “The courts must be careful not to act in ways that dissuade concerned and engaged citizens from expressing their opposition to activities which they view as destructive of the social or political good.”
“It’s encouraging to see the judge land firmly on the side of freedom of expression,” said Nagata. “But he says you can’t use that as a defence to intimidate, threaten or hurt someone who’s just going to work. And that’s something I think the large majority of British Columbians agree with.”
Dogwood Initiative expects some people will choose to respect the injunction, while others will not.
“If you feel the law is being unjustly applied, you have a solemn choice as a citizen whether to obey that law. In this case the short-term consequence is likely arrest and a charge of contempt of court. Some people may decide that’s worth it to protect their view of the larger public interest. Civil disobedience is a legitimate component of democracy,” said Horter.
“Whatever happens, this is just one step along the road,” said Nagata. “The final decision over this project, ultimately, lies with First Nations and the citizens of British Columbia.”
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