April 9, 2018 6:47 pm
Updated: April 9, 2018 7:50 pm

B.C. judge calls for Crown to criminally prosecute pipeline protesters

Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, centre, is arrested by RCMP officers after joining protesters outside Kinder Morgan's facility in Burnaby, B.C., March 23, 2018.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
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A BC Supreme Court judge is calling on the province to press criminal charges against protesters arrested for violating an injunction while protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

More than two dozen people who were arrested in March for breaking a court order to stay more than five metres from Kinder Morgan’s Burnaby property made their first appearance in court on Monday.

Green Party MP Elizabeth May and NDP MP Kennedy Stewart were among them.

READ MORE: ‘A government openly in opposition’: Kinder Morgan CEO speaks on pipeline project

In the hearing, Justice Kenneth Affleck argued that the case was not about Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain project, but about demonstrators willfully breaking the law.

He argued that it was a matter of criminal contempt of court, not of civil contempt, and argued that B.C. Attorney General David Eby’s office should manage the case.

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Speaking outside the courthouse, May wouldn’t comment on the charges, steering the conversation towards this weekend’s bombshell news that Kinder Morgan was essentially pressing “pause” on the project.

The energy giant said on Sunday that it was suspending all “non-essential activities and related spending” on the pipeline expansion over concerns about legal delays and financial risk to shareholders.

“The manoeuvres by Kinder Morgan in making its announcement [Sunday]  are clearly intended to increase pressure on the British Columbia government by creating a deadline of May 31st. This is an artificial deadline,” she said.

WATCH: Alberta’s Notley says she had ‘frank chat’ with B.C. Premier Horgan over Trans Mountain pipeline action

“We have a strong, factual case that this project is not in the national interest. That British Columbians are not selfishly holding up something that would help all Canada,” May added.

READ MORE: How Ottawa might try to save the Trans Mountain pipeline

But in making his recommendation that the province take over the protesters’ case, Justice Affleck said the issue was not about whether the Trans Mountain project is environmentally sound or lawful, but about the unlawful action of demonstrators.

The matter has now been adjourned to next week. Justice Affleck said he hopes to hear from the Attorney General to see if Crown will take over proceedings from Kinder Morgan.

Global News has requested comment from Trans Mountain and the attorney general’s office.

Nearly 200 people have been arrested in Burnaby in assorted protests against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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