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Thoughts on My Trial, Part 3: Sentencing

    Editorial & Opinions    July 31, 2019

On July 26th, the judge sentenced me to carry on with my volunteer work on Salt Spring — no fine, no probation officer, no jail. For six months, I’m to “keep the peace and be of good behaviour.” Apparently, this is the most lenient sentence he’s given to date for the 230+ convicted of contempt of court for protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX), most of them arrested in front of its Burnaby Terminal gate.

I had a strong case for acquittal, since Trans Mountain failed to mark its property line, as legally required, which led to my arrest on their private property, counter to my intention and great care to stay on what I reasonably surmised to be public property, outside of the Injunction Order arrest zone. The RCMP had used the TM fence and gate for the property line, which they confirmed in court, when the real line is 24 metres away.

For my light sentence, I also owe a lot to our great island, for the opportunity to volunteer with amazing people working for a better, greener future. I asked some of them to put in a good word to the judge about me and our shared activities, and those dozen+ letters of support went a long way to convincing him to give me the equivalent of a suspended sentence. I can’t thank enough those who provided kind and generous character references, beyond all expectations. So many others have been thoughtful and caring about my protest, arrest, and trial, too – all so very appreciated.

It’s not over for me, however, by a long shot. My protest will continue on three fronts, using my voice and pen, not trusting authorities enough to risk arrest again, knowing what I know now about the vagaries of Injunction Order law.

  1. The TMX is going ahead, and the First Nations fighting it still need all the support they can get, including money for court actions. Please donate to Protect the Inlet and other groups to help them win their legal challenges. My protest was entirely to answer their call for help. I’ve totally had it with Canada’s treatment of First Nations. Well before Canada began, big business (think Hudson’s Bay Company), backed by big government, with big plans, big money on the line, in a big hurry forced the “Indians” to knuckle and make way. Fast forward to now. Big oil, backed and owned by big government, with big plans, big money on the line, in a big hurry, are forcing B.C. First Nations/aboriginal/indigenous peoples to knuckle and make way. Forget that only a few have settled treaties, with about 100 in painfully slow process. Those on Vancouver Island with Douglas Treaties from the 1850s fight to have them respected. When B.C. entered Confederation in 1871, all B.C. Indian bands were to be urgently brought under treaty. Nearly 150 years of foot-dragging is a travesty, full of the deepest shame that urgently needs to be resolved before the TMX goes ahead, or any other project that runs roughshod over any First Nations’ rights.
  2. Injunction Orders are the last bit of Common Law left in Canada. All other laws are made and modified by our elected legislators, who we can communicate directly with and vote out of office. Supreme Court judges, who are inaccessible to citizens, create and administer Injunction Orders. They are appointed by Prime Ministers, which makes them political positions; e.g., in 2011, P.M. Harper appointed Judge Kenneth Affleck, who wrote, amended, and prosecuted the TM Injunction Order. He previously worked as a lawyer for big tobacco and asbestos companies. Supreme Court judges are only to create Injunction Orders when existing laws are not adequate. Trans Mountain managers said in court that, yes, they could have used existing laws to call in the RCMP to keep the peace around their sites, but they chose the Injunction Order route. There’s no need to ask why, when all it takes is a willing Supreme Court judge to intervene on big-oil’s behalf. I will begin working to educate the public, law students, and others about Injunction Order law, and I will lobby all MPs to change them from judge-made law to legislated statute law. Some other Commonwealth countries have done so. Doubtless, most MPs in Canada haven’t a clue about any of this and may wish to end the abuse of Injunction Orders to serve corporate interests at public expense.
  3. About 240 people have now been arrested for protesting the TMX. Most have pleaded guilty to contempt of court. Thirty or so, like me, have pleaded not guilty. I summarize my case as this: a little granny stands in front of a Texas oil giant’s gate, inadvertently on their unmarked private property, and gets 8+ days in B.C. Supreme Court for it, being tried with three others pleading not guilty. Good thing there are no more serious uses of this court. I’m gathering data to come up with a ballpark estimate of what this Injunction Order creation, amendments, arrests, trials, and detentions have cost B.C. taxpayers. I have a national news source to broadcast it, with others sure to be interested. Canada’s MPs should be impressed, as well.

Busy times ahead on these interconnected files, with thanks beyond words for the many, many islanders who have stalwartly supported TMX protests and are on board for future rallies and actions.

PS: The image is the B.C. Supreme Court’s Coat of Arms, which is also the Royal Coat of Arms of the U.K. I spent long hours looking at it in three different courtrooms, hanging over the judge’s head. “Honi soi qui mal y pense” it says. I knew the meaning and story behind it from long ago in school, but worth brushing up on, especially since, “In contemporary French usage, it is usually used to insinuate the presence of hidden agendas or conflicts of interest.” During my time in the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole of court, I especially appreciated this.

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