Protests led by Tsleil-waututh First Nation and Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE) have won a major victory against the tar sands pipelines. The charges against protesters who defied the injunction were dropped, the company was unable to get its injunction extended and Kinder Morgan was unable to complete their survey work on Burnaby Mountain. This is an important first victory in the years long battle to stop new tar sands pipelines from being built across BC.
The proposed Kinder Morgan Trans mountain pipeline is a plan to add a second tar sands pipeline along the route of an already existing 1100km long pipeline. The pipeline will end in Burnaby in the unceded territory of the Tsleil-waututh First Nation and over 400 super tankers will travel in and out of the Burrard inlet to collect this oil for delivery to markets in Asia. The existing pipeline has seen seven spills of more than 800,000 litres of oil since 2005. One of those spills was in the city of Burnaby itself.
In September, Kinder Morgan came to Burnaby Mountain to prepare for drilling to survey the interior of the mountain. This drilling is to support their application to the National Energy Board to route the pipeline through a tunnel through Burnaby Mountain. They began by clear cutting a section of forest inside the park. Protests began building from then on. The city of Burnaby won a court case to stop the planned drilling, but Kinder Morgan was able to get a ruling from the NEB allowing them to proceed. However, everywhere Kinder Morgan went they were obstructed by protesters. After a week in court, the courts sided with profit over people and granted an injunction to take effect on November 17 at 4PM.
Eight hundred protesters showed up at that time and the RCMP did not enforce the court order. Three days later the RCMP began arresting people. Over 120 people were arrested for crossing the police line. At the same time hundreds more cheered them on. Grand Chief of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Stewart Phillip, announced to the assembled delegates of the BC Federation of Labour that he was going to Burnaby Mountain to get arrested. He was greeted with thunderous applause. The arrestees included university professors, doctors, parents, grand parents, children, authors and at least one 87 year old.
Mass civil disobedience discredited the injunction and pushed the courts to throw them out on a technicality. It turns out that the company that wants our trust to build and operate an 1100 km long pipeline doesn't know how to operate a GPS device properly. On Thursday, November 27, the courts threw out all the charges for defying the injunction because the GPS coordinates that Kinder Morgan provided did not correspond to the area on the mountain where they were drilling and where police were making arrests. Kinder Morgan lost again that day when the court denied their request to extend the injunction until December 12. The oil company beat a hasty retreat off the mountain the next day.
These victories were possible due to the work activists across the province have done for years, and the growing solidarity with, and support for, the First Nations on whose land these ecocidal projects are being built. All weekend the mountain was the scene of celebrations and speeches filled with the joy of this victory, and resolution to win the battles to come.