Five climate change protesters charged with trespassing after crashing Vancouver Enbridge hearing
Three men and two women have been taken to a city jail. By Mike Hager, Vancouver Sun January 15, 2013
VANCOUVER — Five protesters have been charged with trespassing after crashing Tuesday’s public hearings on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project at its Vancouver venue.
The five were taking aim at what they say is a flawed review process that excludes the public and any mention of the proposed pipeline’s contribution to climate change, according to Sean Devlin — one of those charged.
Vancouver police spokesman Sgt. Randy Fincham said three men and two women were taken to a city jail, charged and released after they entered a conference room at the Sheraton Wall Centre hotel at 11 a.m., where the joint review panel was sitting.
Asked to leave “because they were blowing whistles and causing a disturbance,” they refused.
Police believe a sixth person may have opened the door for the demonstrators, but that person has not been arrested.
The panel is hearing from about 330 people who registered to speak at the downtown hotel. The panel is linked by video to the Westin Bayshore Hotel in Coal Harbour, where 250 seats are available.
Devlin and the others allege the public live streaming video link to the hearing was cut by the panel organizers during the disturbance. National Energy Board representatives were unavailable to comment Tuesday night.
Devlin, a 29-year-old Vancouver-based activist and co-creator of the viral Sh*t Harper Did video and website, said he was shocked by the federal omnibus budget bill passed last year “which gave (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper’s cabinet the power to override the findings of these National Energy Board (NEB) hearings.”
“The function of these hearings is supposed to be exactly that, hearing from the public, looking at the science and trying to determine what’s in the public interest,” Devlin added.
“This subtle rule change that happened last spring basically means that this whole hearings process — as flawed as it was before – is essentially now nothing more than a public relations stunt being conducted by the government and the oil industry.
“So while we do respect the individuals who are expressing their opposition within the hearings, we wanted to remind the public that at the end of the day all of these hearings can be disregarded by the Harper government, and that is simply unacceptable.”
The man who had his testimony interrupted Tuesday was a friend of the agitators and vocalized his support for their actions as security and police surrounded the five and arrested them, Devlin said. The group, which included 23-year-old Brigette de Pape and Fiona de Balasi Brown, decided the night before to disrupt the Tuesday’s hearing after attending a noisy rally that saw hundreds of protesters demonstrate outside the hearings.
“The risks of climate change and of these pipelines going through front-line communities are so great it’s important to take risks to stop these destructive pipelines and to stop climate change,” de Pape told The Sun. “I believe that it is through these kinds of direct action that we can stop the Enbridge pipeline.”
Last April, the Conservative government announced it was ending the ability of the Calgary-based NEB to kill a project with a negative ruling.
At the time, the government said that federal politicians, not appointees, should make the decision on major projects.
However, Harper later insisted that independent panels will decide the fate of the major project, after the declaration by his senior B.C. minister, James Moore, that Ottawa has no plans to “ram through” Enbridge’s $6-billion Northern Gateway project in order to sell more oil to China.
The NEB panel is canvassing communities throughout B.C. and Alberta on the proposed 1,173-kilometre pipeline, which begins north of Edmonton and terminates at Kitimat on B.C.’s northwest coast.
The pipeline is meant to open up new markets in Asia for crude from the Alberta oilsands. Virtually all of Canada’s oil exports are now shipped to the United States
B.C. First Nations and some northern communities, as well as environmental groups, are opposed to the project because of the risk and effect of oil spills from the pipeline and tankers. Enbridge contends the pipeline can be built and operated safely, and will be an economic boon to Canada.
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