Special prosecutors to handle federal MPs' cases after anti-pipeline protest arrests

B.C. premier concerned about 'catastrophic consequences' regardless of pipeline's owner

Crown prosecutors have agreed to take on proceedings against nearly two dozen anti-pipeline protesters in B.C., including those of federal MPs Elizabeth May and Kennedy Stewart.

In particular, special prosecutors are being brought in to determine whether or not the politicians will be charged criminally.

On Monday, the prosecution service issued a statement saying it was "in the public interest" to appoint special prosecutors to the cases.

May, Stewart and the other protesters first appeared in court on charges of civil contempt last week. They were accused of violating a court order to stay five metres back from the Trans Mountain pipeline construction site on Burnaby Mountain.

At the hearing, the judge recommended the protesters be prosecuted by the Crown, rather than in civil court as part of a lawsuit from Kinder Morgan.

Stewart, MP for Burnaby South, was in court for the decision on Monday. The first two rows of seating in the courtroom were filled with others who'd also been arrested and charged.

May spoke to reporters from the House of Commons in Ottawa after the Crown announced its decision, saying she wasn't at liberty to comment on the news. She did, however, reiterate her opposition to the project.

Five more protesters were arrested at one of Kinder Morgan's worksites in Burnaby over the weekend, bringing the total number of people arrested in the past month to around 200. Around 170 have been charged with civil contempt.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and B.C. Premier John Horgan met for a last-minute summit in Ottawa to discuss the future of the project as the provinces continue to bicker.

Trudeau, who called the impromptu meeting in between a flurry of official overseas trips, said his government has the authority to ensure the Trans Mountain pipeline is built and would take the financial and legislative actions needed to make it happen.

He said he called the summit with the battling premiers to "come together" for a project that he said is in the national interest.

With files from Rafferty Baker