Community awaits verdict after Kinder Morgan pipeline hearings conclude

SFU professors Lynne Quarmby and Stephen Collis outside the B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday

Hearings for the trial between Kinder Morgan and Burnaby Mountain protesters concluded Friday night after three days of discussion concerning the presence of said protesters at the proposed pipeline project sites.

Five individuals, including three SFU professors, were named in a court injunction by Kinder Morgan last Thursday. In the injunction, the company demanded that the protesters allow them access to two testing sites on Burnaby Mountain. The protesters had previously set up blockades at the two borehole sites.

The company is also suing these individuals for $5.5 million in direct costs and $88 million in lost revenue for Trans Mountain for each month that the project is delayed.

In response to the injunction, the protesters launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for their court case. The cause raised over $18,000 in one day and reached the $40,000 goal by Wednesday morning.

SFU president Andrew Petter released an official statement on Friday saying that the university itself will not offer any financial or legal support. He explained, “While the university will not interfere with the rights of faculty, staff or students to act upon their deeply held personal beliefs, it is not in a position to ameliorate the financial or legal consequences of such action. Nor would it be appropriate for the university to comment on legal matters that are before the courts.”

He also stated that he will not take an official stance as president of the university concerning Kinder Morgan’s plans for pipeline expansion.

“It would be inappropriate for the institution itself to take positions on policy issues that fall beyond its core institutional mandate,” Petter wrote in the statement. “To do so would lack legitimacy, place a chill on free and open debate, and compromise the university’s ability to act as a credible and neutral defender of the speech rights of others.”

Although the university hasn’t offered official support to its staff named in the suit, over 300 SFU faculty members, staff, and students have signed a letter of support for the professors currently on trial.

The trial between Kinder Morgan and the five individuals commenced last Wednesday and continued through the rest of the week. Both Lynne Quarmby, SFU professor of biochemistry, and Stephen Collis, SFU professor of English, were named in the suit, and spoke publicly outside the BC Supreme Court on Wednesday amidst a large crowd of supportive protesters.

“I don’t think Kinder Morgan wants you to hear what I have to say — and I think that is why they are trying to silence me,” said Quarmby, according to Vancouver Observer.

Quarmby continued, “As a scientist, I say things like it is a scientific fact that climate change is upon us, and it’s going to get worse. It is also a scientific fact that the burning of fossil fuels is a major reason we are in this situation.”

The trial had some entertaining highlights, including the legal team for Kinder Morgan using Collis’ own poetry as evidence against him, and the accusation that the protesters facial expressions of anger towards Trans Mountain workers are “not just intimidation” but “actually assault.”

The allegation quickly sparked online satire, as Twitter users, including Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson, began uploading their own snarling faces under the hashtag, #KMface.

The hearing concluded on Friday afternoon after all arguments were heard. The case has been adjourned until November 17, although the judge stated he may make a decision prior to that date.