Mel Lehan: Statement Regarding Sentencing For Violating TransMountain Injunction

Mel Lehan


Thank you for this opportunity to speak.

Before my arrest and throughout more than half a century of volunteer community contributions, I’d always worked within the bounds of law.

I took the longer, legal route to reverse government policies because it was viable to take those routes.

But there are things we know, without a doubt, about climate change that made my response to it on Burnaby Mountain fundamentally different.

We know that climate change is real and is already causing great damage to our planet and to all living things inhabiting it.

There are boundless examples, domestically and globally. Here in British Columbia, we’ve had tangible warnings, including ahistorical wildfires that forced whole communities to evacuate under states of emergency.

We also know that there’s a tipping point beyond which the Earth cannot take anymore change of this nature, without damaging all life on our planet beyond the point of repair.

We know that any new carbon extraction, including Trans Mountain’s pipeline expansion, causes climate change to increase in severity.

We know that clean energy alternatives are available and that their cost is becoming competitive with oil which is now a sunset industry.

We know there is horrendous danger to area residents who surround the Trans Mountain tank farms. A bitumen leak and fire is not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when.” And we don’t have the capability to clean it up.

We know that the National Energy Board refused to consider the climate change impacts of the pipeline expansion and that it’s procedures were fundamentally unfair.

We know that the pipeline twinning is on the unceded territory of the Tsleil-Waututh, and that we were bound by law to consult with them but did not.

We know that traditional avenues for meaningful redress over decades have failed.

We know that significant power imbalances exist between us, as lay people, and Trans Mountain.

We know that the window for decisive change on climate change is closing rapidly. If concerted and drastic efforts toward complete decarbonization are not started immediately, we’ve failed.

We know that our federal government has been aware of these facts, but has chosen not to protect us.

Your Honour, as a concerned and caring citizen knowing all of that, I felt no option but to act as I did.

I accept that breaching the injunction was wrong in law.  I did not intend to depreciate the court’s authority through my action.

I did what I believe was necessary in these exceptional and unprecedented circumstances.

What I believe to be my responsibility as a citizen to help protect Mother Earth and all of its inhabitants.

What I believe was the only remaining peaceful and non-violent route left to get our politicians to act.

Thank you for listening to me.


Mel is a longtime community builder and environmental activist, who is a founder of St. James Community Square and the Kitsilano Farmer's Market.