A Burnaby MP will pay $500 after pleading guilty to criminal contempt for breaking a court injunction banning anti-pipeline protesters from getting within five metres of Kinder Morgan’s two terminals in Burnaby.
Predicting the imminent demise of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, Stewart said it’s unlikely many more protesters will have to break the injunction, and he’s satisfied he will have done his part without breaking it again.
“I’d never rule it out, but I don’t think it’s going to be necessary for this pipeline,” he told Burnaby Now, “but I do feel like I’ve done what I committed to do for my community, and I’m satisfied with that.”
Stewart was in court Monday, where special prosecutor Michael Klein recommended a charge of criminal contempt against the MP for deliberately crossing the injunction line on March 23 with 16 other protesters, including federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May.
The protesters originally faced charges of civil contempt, but Justice Kenneth Affleck, the same judge who originally issued the injunction order on March 15, ruled, "as a matter of law," the alleged actions of the protesters were criminal contempt that should be prosecuted by the B.C. Prosecution Service instead of through civil proceedings undertaken by Kinder Morgan.
Special prosecutors were then assigned to Stewart’s and May’s cases to “avoid any significant potential for real or perceived improper influence in the administration of criminal justice,” according to the Attorney General’s office.
Affleck agreed with the criminal contempt charge against Stewart, and, after Stewart pleaded guilty, issued him a $500 fine.
“I talked to my lawyer about what to do here, and I decided the best thing for me, in terms of showing my full respect for the court, was to plead guilty and not cost any more court time,” Stewart said. “I know others aren’t doing that and that’s their prerogative, but I felt it was the best thing for me to do.”
Despite the name, criminal contempt is not a criminal code offence, so Stewart will not have a criminal record, and the MP said he was not required to sign any sort of undertaking to promise he wouldn’t break the injunction again.
In 1994, Burnaby MP Svend Robinson spent nine days in jail at the Ford Mountain Correctional Centre for criminal contempt for actions during anti-logging protests at Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island.
Robinson, however, was a “repeat offender,” he said in a recent phone call to Burnaby Now, having already had a finding of criminal contempt against him for anti-logging protests on Haida Gwaii in 1985.
“For the record, I have enormous respect for Kennedy’s courage and integrity in taking the stand that he took on Kinder Morgan,” Robinson said.
While Stewart will resign his federal seat sometime after the conclusion of the next sitting of the House of Commons at the end of June to take a run at becoming the mayor of Vancouver, he said his opposition to the Trans Mountain expansion will continue.
“I’ll be fighting it there in the House of Commons and then when I’m mayor of Vancouver – I think it probably will be dead by then – but if I’m mayor of Vancouver I’ll continue to fight it from there,” he said. “I think the city of Vancouver has done some good work on this. I don’t think they’ve gone as far as the city of Burnaby, and I would want to go further. I would also want citizens to be more involved in this, so perhaps consult a bit more widely before I took immediate action.”