The people belong to the land. Conquest and settlement invert this relationship, create property, and then assert exclusive rights over that property. - Paul Woodward
B.C. outdoorsmen risk criminal records in David vs. Goliath battle to keep lakes public
CBC News Canada Last updated November 21, 2014
Nicole Valley Fish and Game Club member Rick McGowan says he’s done nothing wrong because you can’t bar access to a public road. Photo: CBC
A group of outdoorsmen near Merritt, B.C., say they’re being threatened with criminal charges and accuse the RCMP of taking sides in a dispute over access to lakes on a massive cattle ranch owned by a U.S. billionaire.
The Douglas Lake Cattle Company is trying to restrict access to more than 30 lakes on a spread the size of Luxembourg.
CBC first reported two years ago on the David and Goliath battle between the ranch, said to be the largest working cattle ranch in Canada, and the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club.
But now the fight, reminiscent of an old-fashioned western, is heating up again as members of the fish and game club risk criminal charges by cutting locks on gates across roads that were once public.
“These locked gates are significant because we are trying to keep them open for future generations of the public to get in here and they keep locking ‘em on us, and we are going to keep unlocking them until somebody does something about it,” the club’s Rick McGowan told CBC News.
Ranch officials say the land on their more than half-a-million acres is private. That includes the roads to the popular fishing and hunting grounds near Stoney and Minnie lakes.
Those who force their way in are getting more than just threats. They’re facing criminal charges.
“It’s like a great big schoolyard bullying game they are playing. And they figure well, if we charge a few people, kick a few butts, then everybody will stay out of here,” said McGowan.
So far, billionaire Stan Kroenke is saying little. Kroenke owns the St. Louis Rams, is the largest shareholder of Arsenal in the English Premier League, and is married to Ann Walton, daughter of the founder of Wal-Mart.
Kroenke has earned the nickname “Silent Stan” for his shrewd business deals and general lack of comment.
Kroenke’s historic ranch is no stranger to standoffs.
B.C.’s first train robber, the famed “gentleman bandit” Bill Miner, who allegedly coined the phrase, “hands up,” once hid out at Douglas Lake Ranch back in 1905 before being arrested at the ranch following a manhunt.
Years later a movie about the saga, The Grey Fox, was filmed in these same dusty foothills.
Ranch manager Joe Gardner said people who cut locks are trespassing on private land.
“It doesn’t really matter how much money owner Stanley Kroenke has,” Gardner told CBC back in 2011. “What matters is our legal right.”
McGowan said he’s not broken any laws.
“They are threatening to charge us with public mischief and our point of view is — this is what’s illegal,” he said. “These are public roads and you have to have a permit to lock a public road. They have no permit.”
McGowan and other members of the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club were recently summoned to the Merritt Community Corrections office, where they were shown documents that offered them a compromise.
If they signed the “adult alternative dispute resolution” agreement it meant they admitted to mischief, agreed to community supervision, but would avoid criminal court.
So far, members have all refused and every chance they get, they continue to cut locks.
“There is not a chance I am going to do it,” said club member Kim Robinson. “If I sign this and say I’m responsible and I did this, it can come back and bite me in the ass.”
The RCMP say the men could end up in court.
“This is the exact thing we don’t want happening,” said RCMP Sgt. Norm Flemming. “Could he be charged for that? Absolutely. [This person is] expressing their frustration and they are going about it in the wrong way.”
The property dispute is winding its way through B.C. Supreme Court, which will consider whether the roads in question, and the land around the lakes, are public or private.
In the meantime, the RCMP have said they will arrest and charge anybody who damages locks, because the locks are ranch property — whether the road is or not.
So the standoff may end up in criminal as well as civil court. If so, it won’t be the first time Douglas Lake is the backdrop for a wild western-style showdown.
Related: ‘This is going to be a war,’ says Burnaby mayor as 26 pipeline protesters arrested (with video)
Dan Fumano The Province British Columbia Canada November 21, 2014
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As pipeline protesters clashed with police on Burnaby Mountain — leading to 26 arrests — Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said his government was ready for a “war” in the courts.
“This is going to be a war, and it’s going to be one that carries on for a number of years,” Corrigan said of the legal challenges his city has mounted in various levels of court, in attempts to stop Kinder Morgan’s work on Burnaby Mountain.
“The bigger argument that needs to be fought is: How much can the federal government impose its will on local governments and the ability of people to make local decisions? That’s really the quintessential issue that takes this beyond a merely local situation to being one that attracts interest from municipalities right across Canada.”
What had been a peaceful protest early Thursday became tense later that afternoon as officers ordered the crowd of over 100 chanting demonstrators to move back.
Police arrived on the scene Thursday at around 8:30 a.m. to enforce last week’s B.C. Supreme Court injunction ordering protesters to clear encampments blocking surveyors from doing work for the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
By Thursday evening, police confirmed 26 protesters were arrested, including five in custody.
Those released were done so on the condition that they no longer interfere or obstruct work being carried out by Trans Mountain, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan.
Later in the day, Corrigan encouraged protesters not to put themselves in a situation where they could be arrested or hurt, and said his government was ready to take on Kinder Morgan and Canada’s National Energy Board in their own way.
Corrigan, a former criminal lawyer who grew up in East Vancouver, told The Province on Thursday that he and his city’s staff are well-prepared for the battles ahead.
“I didn’t look for the fight. But like any good east end boy, if it comes to me, I’m not going to back down,” said Corrigan, recently re-elected to a fifth term as mayor of Burnaby. “This came to our doorstep. We didn’t go looking for this fight … but this will likely turn into a case that will have implications for cities right across Canada for a long time.
“This is a fight that’s been a long time coming. We’ve been dealing with 21st-century problems using a 19th-century statute.”
While Corrigan expressed gratitude and respect for the police, he said he was “very disappointed” people were being arrested Thursday, and that RCMP had to enforce the court order before the city’s legal appeal had been resolved.
BREAKING: SFU scientist Lynne Quarmby arrested in Kinder Morgan protest at Burnaby Mountain
Jenny Uechi and Mychaylo Prystupa Vancouver Observer British Columbia Canada November 21, 2014
Simon Fraser University molecular biology department chair Lynne Quarmby waving to supporters during her arrest on Burnaby Mountain on Friday. Photo: Mychaylo Prystupa. Visit this page for its embedded and related links and video (1:11).
Scientist Lynne Quarmby — the chair of SFU’s molecular biology and biochemistry department, and face of public opposition against pipeline giant Kinder Morgan — has just been arrested at Burnaby Mountain.
“The reason we’re in this predicament here in Burnaby has to do with the Conservative Harper government and what they did at the end of 2012 in the omnibus bill that stripped environmental regulations,” she said in a speech minutes before her arrest.
“The NEB process is now a sham…We have a process that does not allow consideration of climate change…at a time that climate change is the biggest problem facing humanity. It’s unethical. The new NEB Act is written as requested by the oil industry.”
“At the end of the day when you’re dealing with unjust law and abusive power, the last resource we have is civil disobedience. It’s done in full respect of the rule of law. But it’s also done with serious responsibility with being a citizen in this country,” she said, as cheers erupted.
“So now, I’m going to turn around and walk up this hill — and be the best citizen I can be.”
Soaked by a heavy downpour of rain, the scientist then turned her back to the crowd and walked calmly toward the police lines on Burnaby Mountain.
As the scientist approached, an RCMP officer asked her if she knew that what she was doing could get her arrested. Quarmby responded she was fully aware of her actions as a citizen.
Apparently reluctant to have to cuff her, police linked their arms and shook their heads, insisting she could not pass. Undeterred, Quarmby quietly walked around the police line and set foot in the injunction zone. At that moment, her wrists were cuffed.
She raised her hands above her head as the crowd cheered and sang in support. Quarmby peacefully entered the police van, along with Voters Taking Action against Climate Change spokesman Kevin Washbrook and another young woman who were also detained.
Quarmby said previously said she is ready to be arrested for her criticism of Kinder Morgan, and that she discussed it with her family yesterday.
“I have a 27-year-old son. I had a conversation with him last night,” she said. “He, of course, will be impacted (by the arrest). He understands all the risks I’m taking. But he supports me 100 per cent and is very, very proud of what I’m doing.” She said he has also been flooded by messages of support.
She said youth were on her mind as she spoke out against Kinder Morgan — a Texas-based pipeline giant founded by Rich Kinder, a former executive at Enron.
Kinder Morgan is currently proposing to twin the existing Trans Mountain pipeline by running a pipeline through Burnaby Mountain to triple bitumen capacity from Alberta’s tar sands to 890,000 barrels per day.
The project has sparked heavy citizen opposition, in part because it would multiply the number of oil tankers through Burrard Inlet seven-fold if approved.
“This is only the beginning of a very long process — we’ll just have to see how it all plays out.”
She said both her family and her community at SFU have provided “tremendous love and support”.
Quarmby has repeatedly asserted that she — and others who have protested Kinder Morgan — are “not radicals”, but merely citizens concerned about the impact on the environment if the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion goes through.
Quarmby is among five citizens (including fellow SFU professor Stephen Collis and an SFU administration worker) against whom Kinder Morgan has filed a multi-million dollar law suit last month. The company’s lawyer cited her op-ed in the case against her, and said her opposition had cost Kinder Morgan upwards of $5 million in losses.
“I am not going to let Kinder Morgan take away my freedom of speech,” she said.
When the courts granted Kinder Morgan an injunction against protesters last week, over 800 citizens — many of them Burnaby residents — showed up on Burnaby Mountain on Monday to support the protest against the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.
SFU has expressed strong support for both Quarmby and others who Kinder Morgan sued this month. Over 300 faculty, staff and students signed a letter in support of two professors facing court actions by Kinder Morgan.
Michael Hale, a farm owner in Chilliwack and spokesperson for citizen group Pipe Up Network, said people are concerned about Kinder Morgan’s “heavy-handed tactics” and that what was happening to Burnaby Mountain and critics like Quarmby was a ‘litmus test’ for every other community along the pipeline expansion route.
“There are many parks in B.C. along the proposed pipeline route that Kinder Morgan is going to be working in,” he said. “What’s happening in Burnaby is what will happen everywhere else. Kinder Morgan made a big deal about how they’re going to listen to people. Is this their idea of consulting?”
Federal MP Kennedy Stewart, who flew in from Ottawa last night and was at Burnaby Mountain this morning, said Kinder Morgan was being “completely irresponsible,” and that he saw Burnaby constituents and business owners on the mountain today to oppose the pipeline expansion, despite the police arrests yesterday.
More Kinder Morgan protesters arrested on Burnaby Mountain
CBC News Canada November 21, 2014
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Burnaby RCMP say a total of 34 anti-pipeline protesters have been arrested and charged with civil contempt since police began arresting people Thursday morning for defying a court injunction to stay clear of Kinder Morgan’s worksite.
Twenty-six people were arrested Thursday and eight today.
The protesters vowed to continue their fight to block geo-technical survey work by Kinder Morgan, even after their arrests. First Nations and environmental groups held a morning news conference to annonunce their continued defiance.
Burnaby RCMP Staff Sgt. Maj. John Buis said all but five of the protesters that were arrested have been released, All have been charged with civil contempt of court. The five people who remain in custody were to make court appearances today.
Kinder Morgan is proposing to bore a tunnel under the mountain for the rerouting and expansion of its existing Trans Mountain pipeline.
Meanwhile, Kinder Morgan spent the night moving heavy equipment to its work site on Burnaby Mountain, as police continued to block public vehicle access to the area at the bottom of Centennial Way.
Faith Notheisz was one of the protesters arrested and released yesterday.
“Honestly … I don’t feel afraid at all because I know I’m in the right,” she said on Thursday after her release.
Fellow protester Jeff Wang, who is originally from Shanghai, questioned why protesters were being arrested in a country that lectures China on human rights.
“This is democracy? It’s ridiculous,” said Wang.
From the archives: To whom does land belong? Private hunting reserves, pipelines and illegal settlements; no intergenerational justice
Salt Spring News British Columbia Canada November 18, 2014