Grand Chief Stewart Phillip

Judge tosses contempt charges against oil pipeline protesters due to GPS errors

Burnaby Mountain protesters celebrate as charges wiped out against more than 100 arrested so far

A B.C Supreme Court judge has thrown out all charges of civil contempt of court laid over the past week against more than 100 anti-pipeline protesters who crossed police lines on Burnaby Mountain.

Thursday’s ruling came after Kinder Morgan confirmed it used inaccurate GPS coordinates to define the no-go zone covered by a Nov. 17 court injunction to allow survey work for the proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline.

Protesters were jubilant after the decision.

“It’s a shame we have to be fighting this battle on this level,” said Lynne Quarmby, an SFU professor who was among the first to be arrested.

Burnaby RCMP had previously cautioned protesters who had already crossed the line once might instead face criminal contempt charges if they did it again.

Most protesters arrested had been charged with civil contempt of court for entering the injunction area but a few face criminal charges of assault.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association had questioned the legality of the injunction, arguing the police line didn’t match the defined area.

Kinder Morgan also sought but failed to get its injunction extended from Dec. 1 to Dec. 12 to allow more time to complete the drilling of a second bore hole.

Company officials said they were disappointed but respect the court’s decision.

Trans Mountain spokesperson Ali Hounsell said remaining crews and equipment will be removed from Burnaby Mountain by Dec. 1 and possibly sooner if it’s decided there’s little point in drilling further.

The test drilling is to determine whether a tunneling route through Burnaby Mountain could be used for the proposed oil pipeline to avoid existing Burnaby neighbourhoods.

The company completed drilling on one bore hole but won’t be able to finish a planned second one before Dec. 1.

Hounsell said Trans Mountain thinks the geotechnical information gathered so far is sufficient to demonstrate the tunnel is feasible, but added the National Energy Board will have to decide.

“It looks viable,” she said. “But we will have to continue to do further work.”

As for the civil contempt charges, Hounsell said it was never Kinder Morgan’s goal to punish protesters if it was able to carry out the needed work.

“We respect the court’s decision to throw those out,” she said. “It was unfortunate it even came to any arrests. That is not what we wanted it to come to.”

The injunction was revised as of 1:30 p.m. Thursday for exclusion zones around the remaining bore hole.

Among the protesters arrested Thursday was Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Philip.

“We do not support the Harper and Clark governments when it comes to resources,” Philip said prior to his arrest, calling it a point of principle to make a stand with other protesters.

The City of Burnaby, meanwhile, had a legal setback Thursday when the B.C. Court of Appeal refused to hear an appeal of its request for an injunction to bar Kinder Morgan from the Burnaby Mountain conservation area.

The municipality continues to fight the planned pipeline in court on other grounds.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip is joined by family members and other representatives of the First Nations community as they walk to the trail to Kinder Morgan’s second borehole project on Burnaby Mountain Thursday morning. The president of the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs was among 23 people arrested for defying a court order, bringing the total number of people arrested for civil contempt since Burnaby RCMP began enforcing the injunction last Thursday to 125. Photo – Mario Bartel / Burnaby News Leader

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