Laurie Embree of 108 Mile Ranch was arrested in June and is the first of nine to face jail time as activists vow increased resistance on Burnaby Mountain
31 July 2018, Unceded Coast Salish Territories (Vancouver, BC):This morning in BC Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Affleck sentenced 70-year-old grandmother and Water Protector Laurie Embree of 108 Mile Ranch to 7 days in jail for blocking the gates at Kinder Morgan’s Westridge Marine Terminal in June.
Embree addressed the court before sentencing, saying in her statement, “I truly believe that when we have laws that support injustices, it is the duty of all good men and women to stand up and challenge those laws.”
“This law sir, that you have created, and that I, and many others are peacefully challenging, is unjust.”
During the hearing, the Crown accused Protect the Inlet Protectors of “widespread organized lawlessness” and argued that stronger sentencing is needed for deterrence, up to 14 days in custody. Protectors questioned government’s drive to punish those standing for climate justice and Indigenous rights, while refusing to punish Kinder Morgan after $920 fine for 4 counts of breaching of the Water Sustainability Act last year that took 11 months to come down.
(Embree’s full statement to the court is included below.)
Eight other arrestees appeared today for their first hearing, including Order of Canada recipient and City Council candidate Jean Swanson and former President of the BC Teachers Federation Susan Lambert. They also face a maximum of seven days in custody and $5,000 in fines and will be sentenced on August 15 in BC Supreme Court.
Construction at Kinder Morgan’s oil tanker terminal is expected to ramp up in August, and protectors are planning escalation, starting with an action at the tanker terminal tomorrow, Wednesday August 1 at 8:00 am.
More than 210 people have been arrested in 2018 for demonstrating against Kinder Morgan Canada’s pipeline and tanker project, with most arrests occurring during blockades outside the Burnaby Mountain tank farm and Westridge Marine Terminal.
Ongoing opposition by water protectors and land defenders forced Kinder Morgan to threaten to walk away from the project in May, with the Canadian government ultimately purchasing the project for $4.5 billion. Kinder Morgan estimated construction of the pipeline and tanker project would cost $7.2 billion in their last update before walking away from the project.
Laurie Embree’s statement to the court:
“Your Honour, I have lived my 70 years abiding by the law. But, if we look back into our history, there have been many times when our laws have supported injustices.
In the 18th century there were laws that supported child labour to the benefit of the Industrialists of the times.
In the 19th century, laws were created to support the ownership of black people to the benefit of Plantation Owners.
In the 20th century, we made laws that allowed us to take native children away from their parents and to place the rest of the family on reserves, to the benefit of Europeans that wanted their land.
And again, laws that suppressed women’s rights, to the benefit of their husbands.
All of those laws were created through the judicial system- that you are a part of, sir – but they were actually designed by influential people behind the scenes that would profit from them.
As much as we think we have come a long way, the mentality behind the Industrialists, the Plantation owners, the European lust for Indigenous land, and the men that wanted their wives to do their bidding, is still very present in our society.
Our judicial system is still being manipulated by rich and powerful people that have the influence to make our legal system work for them.
I truly believe that when we have laws that support injustices, it is the duty of all good men and women to stand up and challenge those laws.
A prominent and recent case in point would be when Director Chatenay of the Canadian Wheat Board was jailed for protesting the Canada Customs Act and its restrictions on grain exports. In his own defence, Mr. Chatenay stated that, “The greatest respect for the law is to change an unjust one.”
Subsequently, on August 10th of 2012, Mr. Chatenay, and others jailed for that protest, were pardoned by then – Prime Minister Harper who, in doing so said, and I quote,
“These people are not criminals. They are our fellow citizens who protested injustice by submitting themselves peacefully to the consequences of challenging injustice.”
I believe the man I just quoted is the person who appointed you to the position you hold today.
This law sir, that you have created, and that I, and many others are peacefully challenging, is unjust.
It supports an industry that is not just harming children, or black people, or women, or Indigenous peoples. Your law, in fact, is supporting an industry that has been scientifically proven to be harming the whole world and every living thing on it.
Today I feel privileged and proud to be standing on my side of the bench before me.”