Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

Op Ed

Moving Mountains for Mother Earth

Could the Burnaby Mountain anti-pipeline protest turn into an international political prisoner incident?

Betty Krawczyk, Cumberland BC

 

es, a lot of people, both native and non-native, are angry at Kinder Morgan over Burnaby Mountain. I understand this anger. I also understand how and why a court injunction was used against the protesters at Burnaby Mountain. What is a court ordered injunction?

 

When a private companyís work is being interfered with by people who protest the work, then the company can go to court and ask a judge to make an order stating that the protesters have to stop interfering. The judge will almost certainly give the injunction. He or she will almost certainly have been a corporate lawyer before becoming a judge. So with injunction in hand and read to the protesters the police can then be called to come arrest people who wonít get out of the way of the bulldozers. If anybody refuses to stand down they will be arrested and taken to jail and charged with Contempt of Court.

They will be presented with an undertaking which is a promise to appear before a judge on a certain date. The arrestees will be allowed to go free if they sign the undertaking which also demands a promise not to go back to the arrest site until their court hearing or any other protest site. With undertaking signed, the arrestee is set free until their trial date.

 

How does this work out in real time? Not good.

 

The arrestee is essentially washed out of the protest. He or she canít go back to the protest, canít join any other protest, and at trial must apologize to the presiding judge for disobeying a court order, and or, pay a fine and do some community work. The alternative to this disgusting, degrading scenario? Refuse to sign the undertaking. Stay in jail. When people do this there is a transfer of power. The powers that be wonít know what to do with such protesters as they have become political prisoners in a country that isnít supposed to have political prisoners.

If one defends oneself in the courtroom when brought before the judge one can speak oneís own piece to a crowded courtroom full of supporters and media. The fate of the Burnaby Mountain would become international news if two or three of the protesting people, native and non- native, simply refusedÖrefused to move from the site when ordered, refused to sign the undertaking, refused to apologize to the judge, refused any kind of punishment designed to wash them out of the system. Courage is contagious. The corporations would rant and rave and threaten to make protesters pay millions of dollars (they are bluffing, they just want the court to charge protesters with Criminal Contempt of Court instead of Civil Contempt so they donít have to pay court costs). And protesters wonít have a criminal record because Contempt of Court is not coded (not in the Criminal Code as a crime per se.)

I realize that not everybody involved with Burnaby Mountain can put their affairs on whole and stay in jail for weeks, maybe months on end while being held for Contempt of Court. All I can say is that during this time there will be many court hearings and jailed protesters will have many opportunities to physically, morally and spiritually stand up for the earth in which we all live and move and have our beings. Again, courage is contagious. The mayor of Burnaby has discouraged people from taking this hard road as he is confident of a win in court. I hope he is right, but my own years of experience with the courts of BC over environmental protests tells me the mayor may be expecting too much and if the protesters want to save Burnaby Mountain they must do it themselves.

 

 

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