Statement To The Court: Kinder Morgan Defendant

Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta

Oct 4, 2018 - I'd like to state for the record and in the name of accuracy that i too received late disclosure and that I informed the crown rep this morning that contrary to the affidavit of my arresting officer, I was not obstructing the gate.  In fact, video footage shows that I was well to the side.

That said,

I do not believe that civil disobedience undermines the rule of law. Quite the contrary- to paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr,  "Any [one] who breaks a law that conscience tells [them] is unjust and willingly accepts the penalty . . . in order to arouse the conscience of the community on the injustice of the law is at that moment expressing the very highest respect for law."

On the other hand, unquestioning obedience to laws – however unjust – poses a very real danger. As an extreme example - as the late Israeli scholar Yeshiyahu Leibowitz pointed out - "everything the Nazis did was legal," since they made laws to suit their ideology.

 And Henry David Thoreau, in his essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” stated:

“. . .  What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”

 Some believe that a civil disobedient should not challenge the charges arising from their act and should submit to the punishment prescribed by law. Others take the position that defending oneself in court is more likely to contribute to the changing of the unjust law.

Although I generally adhere to the first view, I was at first convinced that in this particular instance the second view deserved support. And, as you may be aware, I even stated my intention to plead not guilty and to argue for a Defense of Necessity on the grounds that my home is only around 2 km downwind from the Transmountain Burnaby Facility, aka tank farm, placing me – and of course my husband and neighbours, many of them families with young children - already at risk, should a fire or, worse, a boil-over, occur at the facility, a risk that would increase considerably with expansion of the facility. 

In fact, I am convinced that the danger is posed not only by the proposed expansion of the tank farm, but currently exists to a lesser degree, and that therefore such facilities should not be permitted in populated districts, particularly in an earthquake-prone area such as ours.  In fact, my husband and I are actively preparing to move elsewhere should the expansion be imposed.

But you have made it quite clear that you will not entertain a defense on such grounds –which you maintain are inadmissible here because of being deliberated in the federal courts.  The same holds true for the fact that the proposed expansion poses a worsening threat to the environment that we all depend on to sustain our lives and the lives of its nonhuman inhabitants, although I realize that this may have changed in the wake of the recent ruling by the Federal Court of Appeals….

In any case, on reflection, I realized that I could not in good conscience claim that this danger - to myself and my husband – not to mention the even greater danger to closer neighbours of the tank farm, such as students and staff of Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby Mountain campus and residents of UniverCity, nearby elementary and secondary schools, the Henley and  Wembley Estates just a few metres from the facility, and extending throughout the Forest Grove,  Meadowood, and Sperling-Duthie Communities – that  I could not claim that this danger was my primary motivation for violating the injunction on March 24.  

In fact, I only became aware of the threat to all of our health and safety posed by the proposed expansion when I read the thorough and thoroughly damning reports by Chris Bowcock, a deputy chief in the Burnaby Fire department who is personally quite knowledgeable regarding the possible consequences of such an event, and other reports accessible on the website (/kmtankfarm) some days after my arrest.

In fact, what initially brought me to the gates of the tank farm – a mere 4,000 steps from my front door - and to the decision to commit civil disobedience on 24 March of this year (as well as on two occasions in 2014) – was my outrage at Kinder Morgan’s/ Transmountain’s, and now our own prime minister’s, blatant disregard for the aboriginal rights and title of local First Nations, not to mention all our human rights to a healthy environment for ourselves and our descendents. 

This violation of First Nations rights has been ongoing since the construction of the original pipeline and tank farm in the early ‘50s, at a time when First Nations people were barred from voting and forbidden to consult legal counsel! My awareness of this continued flouting of aboriginal rights and title and disrespect for their holders is what primarily motivated me to risk arrest in connection with this issue.

Although I have taken part in nonviolent resistance actions on a number of occasions since the mid-1980s, the Transmountain expansion was the first time since my return to Canada in 1995 after 7 years living in Jerusalem – with continued activism in the Palestinian Territories under Israeli military occupation -- that I encountered an issue for which I was prepared to risk arrest. The parallels between the injustices that my fellow nonviolent activists and I protested in Palestine and those that I have learned about in Canada – especially since my return – have been too blatant to ignore….

So as a long-time member of the Society of Friends/Quakers - with it's long history of resistance to war, slavery, and other gross injustices -  I am proud to be counted among BCs sinister seniors in the continuing struggle to stop the Transmountain expansion and protect our environment from the consequences of this irresponsible project.