PV Vancouver Bureau
The Supreme Court of BC continues to jail environmental activists for defying a court injunction criminalizing protests against expansion of the TransMountain pipeline. Many of those given week-long prison sentences for their actions are senior citizens who have blocked the gates of the company in Burnaby.
Among those given such a seven-day sentence in mid-August was Susan Lambert, a former president of the BC Teachers Federation, who was found guilty of obstructing Kinder Morgan operations in June, before the company was bought by the federal government.
Before being taken into custody by sheriffs, Lambert made a statement explaining her actions:
“I believe that every citizen in a just and civil society has a responsibility to act thoughtfully to strengthen that society. It doesn’t become just and civil by itself, but through individual and collective actions to build caring, equity and social and environmental justice.
“One of the institutions of a civil society is the justice system. I respect the rule of law and know that without it we run the risk of descending into anarchy and chaos.

“But I also know that throughout history, laws have been used to bolster the rights of some and injure others. Laurie Embree mentioned child labour laws, laws that protected the slave trade and laws that enshrined the system of residential schools and reserves that served the settlers quest for land.
“I witnessed the enactment of legislation in 2001, intent on damaging the quality of public education in this province. That legislation was ultimately found illegal by Canada’s Supreme Court, but in the 15 years of court challenges leading to that decision, at least 5 billion was robbed from public education. A generation of children lived a bare-to-the-bone grade school experience.
“The rule of law is not necessarily just or even lawful.
“I worked hard to elect a federal government that pledged to fight climate change. I worked hard to elect a provincial government and local governments that pledged to do everything possible to halt the KM expansion. I spoke out, I demonstrated and protested.
“This court’s injunction rendered political protest meaningless as it kept protestors to the sidelines having no effect on KM’s operations. So I sat in a chair on a rainy Saturday blocking the KM gate. Having breached the injunction which protects the pipeline expansion, over my concern for a healthy planet, I am here today ready to face the consequences of my actions.
“I pled guilty but I feel better today than I did before this action. I feel less guilty. I, and my generation, are responsible for the mess we are in. Yet there’s no definitive action to stop this recklessness. Instead we expect our children and their children to face the consequences of our ruinous culture of consumption.
“The crime named `criminal contempt’ by this court doesn’t describe my/our actions at all. In fact I think I feel more like a political prisoner. We are people of conscience.
“It is my conviction, and I suspect everyone’s in this courtroom, that the scientists and our First Nations people are right. Emissions from the use of fossil fuels are harming our planet to the point of no return.
“The Economist of July 28, notes that `a record-breaking heat wave pushed temperatures in Tokyo above 40 degrees Celsius for the first time.` Not since a particular date, but for the first time ever.
“We are breathing particles from fires as far away as Alaska. BC’s Air Quality Health Index , which ranges from 1 to 10+ indicating “very high risk” warns that Prince George, Williams Lake, Kamloops, Castlegar and the entire Okanagan are now rated 10+ .
“The mute grief of the mother orca here was a resounding symbol of the effects of climate change.
“Yet we continue to burn and demand the extraction of fossil fuels, to feed the greedy maw of global corporate capitalism gone mad.
“And we expect our children to pay for our greed. We are no better than ancient cultures that sacrificed children to the gods. For that is what we are doing. Future generations will face the consequences of our inaction as sure as I stand here today facing the consequences of my pitifully small act of civil disobedience.
“Thank you for this opportunity to be heard. I know that each and every one of us in this courtroom is thinking of the contribution we are making today. As Margaret Mead said: `Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.'”