Crown counsel announced Monday it will pursue criminal charges against Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May, Burnaby-South MP Kennedy Stewart and dozens of other anti-pipeline protesters.
This follows their arrests on March 23 for violating a court order to stay away from Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline work sites in Burnaby.
We’re here at BC Supreme Court this morning as @ElizabethMay, @kennedystewart and dozens of other anti-pipeline protestors are to learn if their @Kinder_Morgan civil contempt charges will turn criminal. @BlackPressMedia #bcpoli pic.twitter.com/18gWWePVmR
— Kat Slepian (@katslepian) April 16, 2018
Work was eventually suspended, on April 8, when Kinder Morgan officials said they were halting all “non-essential” construction largely because of the B.C. government’s opposition to the project.
Last Monday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Affleck told Crown lawyer Trevor Shaw that violating the court injunction was a criminal, and not civil, matter.
Two special prosecutors have been appointed to handle two higher-profile cases.
Vancouver lawyer Greg DelBigio will handle May’s case and Vancouver lawyer Michael Klein will take over Kennedy Stewart’s case. The pair were appointed to avoid any bias, real or perceived, in the case.
Neither May nor Kennedy were in court Moday and their matters will be handled separately. They will make their next court appearance on April 30.
Court process ‘too fast to be fair’
Multiple defence lawyers for the other arrestees cautioned the judge that the schedule presented – with trials to start on May 7 – might be too rapid to be fair.
“We’re pushing back a bit on the sense of urgency,” said one. “I’m not sure this sense of urgency exists.”
Affleck told defence counsel that although he understood that the sheer number of people charged “imposed layers of complexity” on the trials, he was prepared to move as quickly as possible.
Shaw said that his team would work on a process for handling additional arrests as protests at the Trans Mountain site continue.
So far, Kinder Morgan has begun legal proceedings against 167 people and the company’s legal counsel Maureen Killoran said that 124 have been served either personally or have contacted the company after receiving a notice at their residence.
Speaking after court, Crown spokesperson Dan McLaughlin said that all 167 would be served with notice of pending criminal charges.
However, multiple accused protested the notion that they had been properly served.
One woman told the judge that her notice to appear was dropped off on her Victoria doorstep the night before her court date.
“What kind of operation is this?” she asked, sparking applause in court.
Affleck acknowledged that showing up for what has turned into a weeks-long process was difficult for the accused.
“But there’s something very important going on… and that is whether orders of this court can be disobeyed with impunity. And the answer is that they can’t.”
More to come.