Prosecutors asked to consider criminal contempt charges for Coastal GasLink protesters

Prosecutors asked to consider criminal contempt charges for Coastal GasLink protesters

A B.C. Supreme Court decide has questioned prosecutors to take into consideration legal contempt fees from extra than two dozen people accused of defying a court docket buy that prevents them from interfering with the construction of a controversial pipeline.

Justice Marguerite Church invited the B.C. Prosecution Services on Wednesday to carry prices against 27 persons arrested past drop in a sequence of blockades and actions opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which would transport pure gas throughout northern B.C.

The invitation came at the ask for of the firm’s attorney, who argued the protesters wilfully breached an injunction Church issued in 2019, knowing their defiance would obtain popular general public interest.

“It is clear from the evidence in advance of me that the protest actions have escalated considering the fact that 2019, and there is evidence, which if accepted, might aid a getting of felony contempt,” Church said.

“It is crystal clear from the proof before me that there is an important community fascination in fostering a respect for the rule of legislation. The carry out alleged is defiant of the rule of legislation, and such perform depreciates the authority of the courtroom.”

‘The additional general public defiance aspect’

If completed, the 670-kilometre pipeline would operate from around Dawson Creek in the east to Kitimat on the Pacific coastline.

The project has been the subject of ongoing protest in latest decades backing the objections of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who say Coastal GasLink does not have consent to cross their territory.

The corporation has signed profit agreements with 20 band councils alongside the route of the task. But the hereditary management suggests band councils do not have authority about land beyond reserve boundaries.

Prosecutors asked to consider criminal contempt charges for Coastal GasLink protesters
Supporters go to a protest in downtown Victoria in opposition to the Coastal GasLink Pipeline in 2020. The steps of protesters allegedly defying an injunction have been given widespread focus, which elements into a charge of prison contempt. (Madeline Eco-friendly/CBC)

Wednesday’s courtroom proceedings mark the third time Church has invited the prosecution service on behalf of B.C.’s Lawyer Basic to think about criminal contempt rates from pipeline protesters.

On both past occasions — in 2019 and 2020 — prosecutors declined to go after felony prices.

The court proceedings emphasize the big difference in between felony and civil contempt charges. 

Coastal GasLink lawyer Kevin O’Callaghan said both equally civil and contempt fees require “evidence of intentional act or omission in breach of a distinct order.”

“The distinction is the supplemental general public defiance factor in felony contempt,”  O’Callaghan stated.

“We say that the functions of these folks … are displays of general public defiance of an injunction get, and as a result felony contempt.”

‘Not producing any confessions’

As he argued for prosecutors to get involved, O’Callaghan ran through the allegations towards both persons and teams of people today who have been arrested past slide.

Protesters are accused of using Coastal GasLink’s heavy equipment to harm forest company streets and bridges, blocking contractors from doing their work opportunities.

Journalist Michael Toledano emerges from B.C. Supreme Court in Prince George immediately after his release from custody. Toledano was arrested for civil contempt but the corporation is not pursuing prices. (Betsy Trumpener/CBC)

O’Callaghan mentioned that just one protester who allegedly utilized a device identified as a “sleeping dragon” to chain himself to the underside of a bus was also arrested in June 2021 for assaulting a law enforcement officer at a protest against old-advancement logging in the Fairy Creek watershed.

“And so [he] really should have been knowledgeable of the publicity that goes alongside with these protests,” O’Callaghan said.

The company lawyer also cited the arrests final November of journalists Amber Bracken and Michael Toledano, who ended up taken into custody by RCMP even as they discovered them selves as members of the media.

O’Callaghan claimed the company decided not to go after contempt prices versus Bracken or Toledano, but claimed their presence at the protest camp would have signalled to a group of men and women arrested at the very same time that their defiance would receive common notice.

Church mentioned the “steps of the protesters and the enforcement action undertaken by the law enforcement has captivated sizeable neighborhood, national and even international awareness.”

“There has been intensive use of mainstream media and social media to attract focus to the actions of the protesters,” Church noted.

Defence law firm Frances Mahon signifies 26 of the 27 protesters. She agreed with O’Callaghan that the evidence — if accepted — would be adequate to build a cost of felony contempt.

“While I want to make it obvious that we are surely not building any confessions in that regard, and that we do intend to vigorously defence these allegations,” Mahon stated.

Crown lawyer Trevor Shaw was also dialled into the virtual proceedings. He advised the choose he had very little a lot more to include at this place in the method.

No day has been established for the B.C. Prosecution Company to announce its choice on legal contempt expenses.