Pipeline expansion opponents to gather at Kamloops Law Court to support those arrested at work sites

·3 min read

A group of opponents of the Trans Mountain expansion project planned to be at the Kamloops Law Courts on Monday (March 1) to support those who were arrested last fall in the city during demonstrations agains the work.

Miranda Dick, spokesperson for the We, the Secwépemc Unity Camp to Stop the Trans Mountain Pipeline, said eight protesters were attending court on Monday following their arrests on Oct. 15 and 17, 2020.

Dick said the court has not made it clear to them if the charges against them are civil or criminal in nature. Dick said court has refused to accept documents from hereditary Secwépemc Chief Henry Sawses that indicate the courts have a lack of jurisdiction on Secwépemc territory.

Dick said the Secwépemc Nation members and their allies are gathering to support those arrested as they “assert their rights and take on the systemic and environmental racism inherent to the same courts that continue assert jurisdiction with no legal rights to do so.”

The protesters set up an encampment near a Trans Mountain worksite off Mission Flats Road last fall. Intent on staying there permanently in a bid to stop the pipeline project, which is crossing the Thompson River at that location, the camp was dismantled by the protesters at the onset of winter, with a vow to return in the spring.

Work by Trans Mountain crews at that site to pull the new pipeline underneath the river was halted shortly afterwards when the company ordered a project-wide work stoppage to review its safety practices after an on-the-job death in Edmonton and serious injury to a person in Burnaby. There have also been more than 90 cases of COVID-19 workers along the Edmonton-to-Burnaby route.

Construction was scheduled to resume in early February, though some sites in Kamloops remain quiet.

The protesters argue the pipeline twinning project is being done on unceded Secwépemc territory. They have also cited safety concerns for the river and salmon populations within it, along with concerns about the safety of the ongoing project.

The protesters have said they represent the will of the Secwépemc people and contend First Nations band councils that do support the pipeline project have been bought off to do so. The Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation has a $3-million mutual benefits agreement with Trans Mountain.

On Oct. 15, 2020, five protesters were arrested following a demonstration at the Mission Flats worksite. Some were arrested at an entranceway to the beachside worksite after refusing to leave, while others were arrested after climbing on machinery on the south side of the road. Other protesters in the area that day told KTW April Thomas, Billie Pierre, Romilly Cavanaugh, Lorelei Dick and Chief Sawses were arrested.

Four people were arrested on Oct. 17 at the gate to the project worksite near Kamloops Airport. All four are believed to be women with the We, the Secwépemc Unity Camp, including group spokesperson Miranda Dick.

Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week