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Pipeline protesters including MPs Elizabeth May, Kennedy Stewart should face criminal charge: judge

A B.C. provincial court judge has recommended that protesters arrested at demonstrations against the Trans Mountain pipeline project — including two federal politicians — be prosecuted criminally, rather than in civil court.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and NDP MP Kennedy Stewart were among a dozen protesters who appeared in court on Monday on charges of civil contempt.

The politicians were arrested after joining a demonstration against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion project in Burnaby, B.C., on March 23.

They blocked the road, violating of a court order to stay five metres back from company work sites.

Kennedy Stewart, NDP MP for Burnaby South, was also arrested on March 23. (Anita Bathe/CBC)

Civil contempt is not a criminal offence.

However, on Monday, a B.C. Supreme Court judge recommended the charge be changed to criminal contempt rather than civil, as the alleged contempt was against a court-ordered ban and not Kinder Morgan.

The case has been adjourned for a week while the attorney general’s office decides whether or not it will take over.

Dozens arrested at protests

Thousands of protesters rallied against the $ 7.4-billion project at Kinder Morgan’s Westridge Marine and Burnaby terminals over the month of March, according to RCMP.

Counting the politicians, more than 170 people were arrested for violating the court order within a week.

Activists had planned to continue daily protests until March 26, the environmental deadline for the company to finish clearing nearby trees before migratory birds began nesting.

Thousands of people marched during a protest against Kinder Morgan’s $ 7.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project in Burnaby, B.C., on March 10. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Workers were said to have finished that job on time. However Kinder Morgan announced Sunday that it would be suspending non-essential spending on the project — a move that opponents in British Columbia say throws the future of the project into doubt.

The Texas company said its decision was largely based on the B.C. government’s legal challenges to the pipeline and the need to protect its shareholders. The deadline to reach agreements with its stakeholders on how to proceed is set for May 31.

With files from Megan Batchelor

CBC | Politics News