This Article is part of the Tar Sands Reporting Project special report See the full report

Burnaby residents ask court to toss out Kinder Morgan’s lawsuit

“This [Kinder Morgan] application should fail.  The court should dismiss it," a Burnaby resident's lawyer told the B.C. Supreme Court.

SFU Professor Stephen Collis Kinder Morgan lawsuit court - Mychaylo Prystupa
Kinder Morgan law suit defendants spoke to a throng of media outside the B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday in downtown Vancouver. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

Friday will likely see the conclusion of a high profile legal case by Texas-based Kinder Morgan against Burnaby residents said to have obstructed the company's contentious pipeline survey work on Burnaby Mountain. 

Yesterday Burnaby’s residents had the chance to go on the attack against the civil suit and injunction application.

“This application should fail,” lawyer Neil Chantler told the B.C. Supreme Court judge, and “the court should dismiss it.”

Kinder Morgan is seeking to build the Trans Mountain oil sands pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby.  A recently proposed “preferred corridor” would slice through Burnaby Mountain.  But that has generated much protest, company-citizen clashes, and now these legal proceedings.

“The [Burnaby] Conservation area is a very important public resource that has been set aside by the residents of Burnaby for protection exactly from this kind of intrusion,” said Chantler.

“What this case is really about is a private oil company that wishes to cut down trees and cause other irreversible damage on public conservation lands when it’s very authority to do so is under appeal,” he added.

The lawyer represents one of the citizens, Alan Dutton in his personal capacity, but also as the caretaker for the group, “BROKE”, or Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion.

Dutton, along with two SFU professors, a university admin worker, and a young activist are facing fines and possible serious damage claims for delaying the $5.4-billion pipeline.

Dutton is a retired non-profit worker, a former SFU sociology instructor, and a distinguished expert on hate crimes, who has previously worked closely with the RCMP.  He’s also personally devoted to the protection of the Burnaby Conservation park, and runs the BROKE website and Facebook Page.

“He’s not engaged in any of the Trans Mountain employees.  He’s not participated in any acts of violence.”

“All he has done is…encourage people to come out and support their environmental movement, raise awareness of the harm and destruction that the oil companies plan within their conservation area, and freely express themselves,” said Dutton’s lawyer.

We Love This Coast protesters Kinder Morgan BC Supreme Court - Mychaylo Prystupa

"We Love This Coast" banner unfurled outside B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday.  Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

All of the citizen defendants targeted by the multinational-pipeline company state they are lawfully practicing their constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression.

Kinder Morgan argued Wednesday that this is not about “climate change” or citizen opinions, but about the defendant’s “conspiracy” to organize protesters to stand in the way of the company’s geotechnical work on the mountain. 

Chantler took direct aim at the company lawyer’s assertion.

“My friend is trying to characterize this whole thing as a conspiracy because some people have said, ‘Let’s stop Trans Mountain! Let’s stop Trans Mountain from doing their work on Burnaby Mountain!’”

“These people are not saying let’s protect Burnaby Mountain for the sake of getting in the way of Trans Mountain.  These people are saying let’s get in the way of Trans Mountain for the sake of protecting Burnaby Mountain,” the defence lawyer said, drawing applause from the gallery.

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