Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Civil Contempt Charges Dropped against Dozens of B.C. Anti-Pipeline Protesters

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Civil Contempt Charges Dropped against Dozens of B.C. Anti-Pipeline Protesters

Article excerpt

Judge drops civil charges against B.C. protesters


VANCOUVER - A judge threw out civil contempt charges Thursday against dozens of activists who have been arrested while demonstrating against a pipeline project on a mountain near Vancouver.

The ruling came a week after the RCMP began rounding up protesters on Burnaby Mountain, where Kinder Morgan is conducting drilling work related to its proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

More than 100 people were arrested, nearly all of whom faced civil contempt proceedings for violating a court injunction ordering them to keep away from two drilling sites.

The company admitted it provided incorrect GPS co-ordinates when it initially sought the court order. At one location, the co-ordinates were so inaccurate that the actual work site was entirely outside the area covered by the injunction.

Texas-based Kinder Morgan went to court Thursday asking that the injunction, which is set to expire on Dec. 1, be extended to Dec. 12.

Not only was the extension denied, but the judge, who had raised serious concerns about the GPS errors, ended the hearing by inviting Kinder Morgan's lawyer to drop the civil contempt proceedings. The company then applied to have the cases withdrawn and the judge granted the application.

Earlier in the day, Judge Austin Cullen suggested the GPS errors would raise reasonable doubt in any subsequent civil contempt proceeding.

"What's happened thus far is that apparently people have been arrested on the basis of an order that refers to some other piece of property," said Cullen, prompting laughs and jeers from the courtroom's crowded public gallery.

"The concern is that people have been arrested and subjected to restraints on their liberty," he said later.

The judge's order affects anyone cited for civil contempt before the judgment was made. Cullen also revised the injunction to fix the GPS co-ordinates, which means the ruling won't affect anyone who might be arrested for violating the injunction from now on.

It also won't affect the handful of people facing criminal charges, including for assault and obstruction of justice.

"I'm thrilled," protester Lynne Quarmby, who was arrested last week, said outside court. …

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