25 July 2019, Unceded Coast Salish Territories (Vancouver, BC) — A group of artists announced an appeal of their convictions for criminal contempt of court today after a sentencing hearing for their blockade at the gates of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline tank farm last April.
The 2018 protest took place as part of ongoing Indigenous-led resistance to the tar sands pipeline and tanker project, now owned by the Canadian government.
“I was on Burnaby Mountain because I feel a great responsibility to protect our coast and stand with Indigenous leaders opposed to this pipeline,” said Pia Massie, then Artist-In-Residence at Emily Carr University Faculty of Culture and Community.
“Artists have always helped define key moments in history and this is one of them,” said Massie, sentenced today to 100 hours community service to be completed within 6 months.
Massie organized the April 12, 2018 protest that brought together local artists from universities and grassroots communities to blockade Kinder Morgan’s gates in an effort to delay construction on the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project. [Flickr link to photos from April 12, 2018]
Massie also helped organize a fundraiser that raised more than $14,000 for the appeal in two weeks. “Contributions came from a total of 20 community-minded friends and ranged from $20 to $3,000,” she said.
Also appearing in court today in the first week of a two week trial were Tawahum Bige, Jim Leyden and Stacy Gallagher, all arrested last August. They face up to two weeks in jail under the heavier sentencing guidelines imposed last year after protests continued throughout the spring and summer. The three are Indigenous and are mounting a defence based on Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution.
Tawahum Bige, Lutselk’e Dene and Plains Cree, Two-Spirit and Nonbinary poet, “The work we do to protect the land is done for future generations. I am but one arrow, bendable and breakable; bundle us together and we are unstoppable.” Bige has performed on stages including Talking Stick Festival and Verses Festival of Spoken Word, and has completed the first ever Indigenous Spoken Word residency at the Banff Centre in 2018. [Flickr link to photos from August 14]
Indigenous Elder and Sundancer Jim Leyden, arrested August 21 said, “I support the call for all work in unceded territory to be dependent upon informed and prior consent. I believe we must do whatever it takes to protect our sacred mountain and defend the Salish Sea.” [Flickr link to photos from August 21]
More than 200 people were arrested at the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project construction sites in 2018 before the Federal Court of Appeal ruled in favour of First Nations and environmental organizations, overturning permits and halting construction. Punishments for breaching Kinder Morgan’s and then Trans Mountain Corporation’s 5 metre injunction ranged from community service to jail time, with penalties increasing as protests continued in 2018. The current sentencing recommendation from the Crown is 30 days.
Pipeline opponents expect arrest numbers to rise significantly if and when construction begins in earnest. Recent regulatory rulings from the National Energy Board indicate construction will not begin again before Spring 2020.