19 October 2018, Unceded Coast Salish Territories (Vancouver, BC): Protectors were in court today facing jail sentences for their opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project, where lawyers raised issues of civil liberties and delayed sentencing until October 30th.
Despite the recent Federal Court of Appeal ruling that quashed construction on federal pipeline project, Protectors who blocked Trans Mountain construction sites in late August could soon be sentenced to 2-4 weeks in jail.
Kathryn Cass (66), Deb Wood (64), Kira McLean (24), and Brenda Morrice (57), entered guilty pleas in court today, facing charges of violating a court-ordered injunction meant to protect construction on the pipeline and tanker project. They could join 16 Protectors who have already served jail time for their opposition to the pipeline, including Order of Canada recipient Jean Swanson who supported defendants outside the BC Supreme Court this morning.
“On August 24th, I defied an injunction granted by the Canadian court while I was on unceded land belonging to Coast Salish Nations,” said Kathryn Cass outside the BC Supreme Court this morning. “In my heart, I was following laws that have been in place long before my European ancestors occupied this land. It is my understanding that those laws include taking care of the health of our land and water.”
From April until June, penalties for blackading Kinder Morgan’s gates consisted of increasing fines and community service, until the Crown Prosecution Service petitioned the court for sentences of jail time to deter Protectors from taking action. The Crown Prosecutor Monte Rattan argued in June that senior citizens willing to be arrested for civil disobedience constituted a “sinister challenge to the authority of the court.”
After the Federal Court of Appeal ruling on August 30 that quashed construction on the pipeline and tanker project, Protectors argued in court that the Crown’s jail deterrent should no longer stand, as there is no longer any basis to re-offend. The court has rejected that argument, and continues to send Protectors to jail.
“Where we’re at in terms of the Federal Court of Appeal decision and that fundamental rights and liberties are at stake here, we would certainly ask that the Crown reconsider its sentencing position at this time,” said Dylan Mazur, a lawyer from the BC Civil Liberties Association. “We think it’s important that the Crown look at whether or not jail time at this point in the process is in the public interest.”
Today, Crown Prosecutors argued for a 2-week jail sentence, but the judge reserved sentencing until October 30th after a request from defense counsel for a written ruling in order to appeal any custodial sentence.
Six additional Protectors appeared in court today to have their future trial dates set. Trial dates range from late October to December 3rd.