The B.C. Prosecution Service is going ahead with prosecuting 15 protesters for criminal contempt for allegedly defying an injunction passed in 2019 that protects the construction of a liquefied natural gas pipeline in northern B.C.
Crown lawyer Trevor Shaw told Supreme Court Justice Marguerite Church on June 1 that prosecutors need another four weeks to decide whether to charge 10 additional protesters with criminal contempt related to the blockades and actions last fall opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline, reported the CBC.
In total, 27 people were arrested over a period of six days between September 2021 and November 2021, two of whom the Crown decided not to charge due to evidentiary reasons.
The 670-kilometre pipeline would transport natural gas from Dawson Creek in northeastern B.C. to Kitimat on the Pacific coast. Almost all of the route has been cleared and nearly one-third of the pipeline has already been installed.
The pipeline has the support of 20 elected First Nation governments along the route, including the elected governments of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and Haisla Nation. But it’s opposed by the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and environmental activists, whose protests against the pipeline spread to other parts of the country in early 2020, in many cases with protesters setting up blockades on railroads.
Last December, the RCMP reported that a group of protesters allegedly threatened Coastal GasLink security officials, damaged trucks, and fired flares and bear bangers at security officials.
In February, the RCMP said about 20 protesters, some armed with axes, attacked Coastal GasLink security guards and smashed their vehicle windows.
Church had asked prosecutors twice before to consider pressing criminal contempt charges against protesters accused of defying the injunction she issued in 2019 that protects the access to the pipeline worksite, reported CBC.
The Crown declined to say exactly why in both previous cases, when they decided that prosecution was not in the public interest.
The decision to prosecute this time around was made after Crown counsel applied “both the evidentiary and the public interest tests” found in their policies for charge assessment relating to civil disobedience, Shaw told the judge.
Lee Harding contributed to this report.