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Water Protectors jailed for defying Kinder Morgan injunction

Packed courtroom during sentencing of Water protectors
Lisa Descary

August 15, 2018

On the morning of August 15, in front of BC Supreme Court Justice Affleck and a packed gallery of activists and supporters, seven Water Protectors were sentenced for violating the June 1st injunction protecting Texas pipeline giant Kinder Morgan. Judge Affleck conceded that the seven accused spoke eloquently of the urgency that they felt, and the reasons that drove them to violate the injunction.

Retired teacher Charlotte Gyoba compared the injustice of this court decision to the injustice she experienced as a young Japanese-Canadian growing up in an internment camp in BC, and explained how public opposition to internment helped her family to have a life in Canada. Former BCTF president Susan Lambert stated that by leaving a devastated planet as our legacy, she felt we were ‘no better than ancient cultures that sacrificed their children to the gods.’ And COPE city council candidate Jean Swanson told the court that “Every single person who takes a stand against the pipeline is pointing toward a more just future.” Despite the fact that none of the seven had ever previously broken the law, and despite their powerful arguments, they were all still sentenced to seven days’ jail time.

As well as the more well known Susan Lambert and Jean Swanson, the seven climate activists also included Adrian Long, a member of the Vancouver branch of the International Socialists. His statement to the court pulled no punches in exposing the hypocrisy of a ‘justice’ system that puts people in jail for trying to protect the planet from climate catastrophe. The following is a transcript of his statement to the court:

“Of contempt of court proceedings, Justice Farris of the BC Supreme Court wrote that, 'Once our laws are flouted and orders of our courts treated with contempt the whole fabric of our freedom is destroyed. We can then only revert to conditions of the dark ages when the only law recognized was that of might.'

And what of the might of industrial capital, whose investments are secured amidst protest, with top executives like Ian Anderson and David Safari making off like thieves with millions in bonuses? All on the taxpayer’s back as well.

Or the might of the police and the courts in enforcing property rights over and above the consent of indigenous peoples, which our deceitful Prime Minister swore to abide by.

Questioned on the issue of civil disobedience, finance minister Bill Morneau responded, “there will always be challenges in getting things done in a democracy”.

What does Morneau mean by democracy when Justin Trudeau has betrayed his constituents by breaking a dizzying number of campaign promises? Does the highest office of government not show contempt for the democratic process by flouting key points on his election platform, which included a commitment to clean energy, and to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples? Article 19 of which specifically provides that states must obtain the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples prior to implementing any decisions that would impact them.

Something about all this doesn’t wash. The limited and corruptible democracy Bill Morneau would have us all believe is working as it should simply is not unless you’re a Texas oil company, and this court, in throwing folks in jail to back up the might of Kinder Morgan, isn’t helping our government’s fragile veneer of accountability and legitimacy.

During our first appearance here our Crown Prosecutor spoke of the purpose of general deterrence in contempt of court proceedings. Given that just yesterday more people were arrested up on Burnaby mountain, I think that this court is radicalizing people. And you’re being watched: last night, just 12 hours after yesterday’s morning arrests, over 20,000 people had seen the live video footage taken by activists.

History is in motion, and democracy is taking place here. I was of sound mind and conscience when I chose arrest and I’m the same now."

Do you feel radicalized? If you would like to join the fight against the Transmountain pipeline expansion, in BC you can sign up via Also, watch for an international day of action on Sept 8, 2018. For more information, contact Canada.

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