May fined for criminal contempt charge

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Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May was fined $1,500 after pleading guilty to criminal contempt of court on Monday.

May was charged for her part in protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion during a March 23 protest at a Kinder Morgan worksite in Burnaby.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Affleck sentenced May to an elevated fine that was three times higher than what the Crown and May’s defence lawyer jointly requested. During his judgement, Affleck said that perception of a higher purpose did not give people the right to pick and choose which aspects of the law to uphold. His decision also stemmed from his finding that May had “exploited her role as member of Parliament and party leader” to encourage others to act illegally.

The judgement came a day before the federal government announced that it would buy the existing pipeline and expansion infrastructure from Kinder Morgan at a cost of $4.5 billion to ensure the project goes ahead despite shareholder uncertainty.

In a press conference given from the steps of the Vancouver courthouse on Monday morning, May said her court process was complete other than signing the final paperwork and paying the fine, which she was about to do. Otherwise, she said, she could talk indefinitely about reasons why the pipeline project must be stopped.

“I remain a Member of Parliament; I’m holding my head up high,” May said. “My job continues: to do everything I can to best represent the constituents of Saanich-Gulf Islands, and to protect the Salish Sea, to stand with First Nations in solidarity, and to continue to speak, as we can in a democracy, against this project.”

“I clearly respect the rule of law,” May added. “I respect the court process that I just went through.”

May said she continues to believe non-violent civil disobedience has a place in a functioning democracy. She also explained that although her offence is called “criminal contempt of court,” it is actually a common law matter and she therefore does not have a criminal record or any related restrictions that would impact her job as MP.

Nine people from Salt Spring were also charged for participating in the protests. Myna Lee Johnstone and Jan Slakov pled guilty and have been sentenced to community service and/or fines. Six of the others are working together with a defence lawyer in Vancouver and will learn more about their options this week.

May will be part of community fundraiser for the arrested islanders taking place at Fulford Hall on Saturday, June 9. The event will include participation from WSANEC councillor Mavis Underwood and her granddaughter Grace, Phil Vernon and friends, Bill Henderson, Luke Wallace, Murray Reiss, Reuben George (Tsleil-Waututh Nation) and  MLA Adam Olsen.

The program starts at 7 p.m. with entrance by donation.

Also expected to attend is Vancouver environmental engineer Romilly Cavanaugh, who is a former employee of Kinder Morgan and has been arrested herself for protesting the pipeline expansion.

For more information, see the blogspot at standupsaltspring.wordpress.com.

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