Lawyer seeking injunction says B.C. protesters bent on stopping Trans Mountain

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Affleck told Wednesday that activists have conspired to intensify blockades.

VANCOUVER – Social media posts suggest anti- pipeline activists are determined to continue blockades at two terminals in Burnaby, B.C., as they cause more irreparable harm to the Trans Mountain project, says a lawyer seeking a permanent injunction against the protests.

Maureen Killoran told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Affleck on Wednesday that activists have conspired to intensify blockades and disrupt construction projects at the Burnaby Mountain and Westbridge Marine terminals before a mid-March deadline to meet environmental standards.

Affleck granted a temporary injunction on Friday, saying it would restrict protesters from coming within 50 metres of the facilities where protests began last November.

Killoran said Trans Mountain has the permits and leases required to carry on construction but protesters have put their own safety at risk because they often show up at 5 a.m. on icy roads to block vehicles.

“It is undisputed that Trans Mountain has incurred substantial costs,” she said, adding the protesters’ goal has been to cause so much financial harm through delays that the company is forced to abandon the $7.4-billion project that would twin an existing pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby.

“We have every indication based on the activities of the blockaders, based on what they’re saying on Facebook and other social media sites and to the media, that this will continue,” she said. “They have made a conscious choice to carry on.”

Activists are also unlawfully interfering with the company’s economic relations, meaning third parties including contractors are affected by ongoing disruptions and increased security costs, Killoran argued.

Trans Mountain, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, listed 15 people, along with John Doe, Jane Doe, and “unnamed persons” in a notice of claim asking for an injunction for a project that the federal government approved in November 2016.

“They are individuals who say pipelines are bad, oil and gas is bad, here are all the hazards that are associated with it,” Killoran said. “And with respect, that’s the job of the National Energy Board and that job has been done. It took three years to do it,” she said to snickers from a packed courtroom.

Protesters are causing private and public nuisance by blocking roads and jumping onto vehicles, requiring Trans Mountain to ship workers in by water but blockades have appeared at marinas as well, Killoran said.

Casey Leggett, a lawyer representing one of the defendants, argued a 50-metre buffer zone as part of the interim injunction is too broad because it covers private property and even prohibits residents from using a nearby trail.

Leggett suggested that any further injunction be extended only until March 19, by which date migratory birds returning in the spring may pass the area of the Westridge Marine Terminal.

However, Affleck said there’s no doubt the protesters’ strategy is to make it difficult, if not impossible, for Trans Mountain workers to complete the project. He suggested not granting an injunction and allowing the company to continue the work it’s legally entitled to do could lead to such an outcome.

“Would that be the appropriate role for this court to play, to tell the plaintiff this court can’t help you out, you’re on your own?”

Bina Salimath, one of the 15 people named in the notice of civil claim, said outside court that she will carry on with blockades even if a permanent injunction is granted because protesters anticipated that would happen.

“Kinder Morgan is doing it for its stakeholders,” she said. “I’m doing it for my stakeholders, which is the community, so I will continue on with the work.”