“If the Law says that”, said Mr. Bumble, “the Law is an ass”.
The good citizens of Burnaby have lost their case against the large international corporation, Houston-based Kinder Morgan, who wish to extend their pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby.
The company sought and received from the Court an injunction to keep protesters from interfering with their work on Burnaby Mountain Conservancy.
Kinder Morgan case harkens back to past injustices
Over the past few months I’ve found myself reading up on legal writing from the past. I’ve become interested in judges of yore and in particular have been reading the famous letters between Sir Frederick Pollock and the great American jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes.
This has taken me back to my days in Law School, so many years ago, and as I read the decision regarding Burnaby, I thought of England in the Middle Ages when the law had become so hidebound that nobody could get justice.
What had happened is that over the years, the “causes of action”, or the things people could sue for, were further and further restricted and the documentation that one had to use became so technical that the slightest mistake had one thrown out of court. This was so unfair, except to lawyers and judges, that The Lord Chancellor interfered and thus came about the Court of Equity, called the Court of Chancery.
The main principle of this new body of law and courts to enforce it was “Equity will not suffer a wrong without a remedy”.
Just imagine if that laudable principle applied to the Courts today!
Eventually in the late 19th century, the Court Of Chancery, was amalgamated with the Common Law courts, with the principles of equity supposed to remain.
People can no longer sue for their rights
I don’t think there is much doubt that we have once more reached the position where people can no longer sue for their rights.
Surely there has developed the right of people to a clean environment, to Crown Land not being unnecessarily desecrated, a public say when it’s proposed that that it will – to waters being clean and fish being preserved, neighbourhoods being safeguarded, natural beauty being preserved, clean air, and so on.
Yet none of these things are recognized by the law as things the citizenry can enforce in the courts.
“Public Process”, a phrase so adored by Conservatives, is a sham. One only has to look at the National Energy Board, appointed by a Conservative government from Conservatives in the Calgary oil patch and read what the distinguished Energy expert, Mark Eliesen has to say about just what a bad joke they are.
Environmental “Kangaroo Courts”
It’s no different with the Federal-Provincial Environmental Committees looking into so-called “run of river” projects.
With these “Kangaroo Courts” the public is invited and then are treated like children, denied the right to speak their minds or cross-examine witnesses, and then they’re utterly ignored.
Crown land, which is to say the land that belongs to all of us, is administered by the governments – governments clearly in the pocket of companies like Kinder Morgan and other politically-donating companies and they couldn’t care less about honest, decent folks whose great “sin” is to band together to protect where they live.
No “cause of action”
When these neighbours go to court, as we have seen, they’re told they have no “cause of action”. The government doesn’t care because they’re so few in number that their votes won’t matter. Furthermore, by the time elections roll around, there will be many other issues such that these folks and those who agree with them are swamped.
Why can’t people defend what is the theirs just because it isn’t exclusively theirs? The right of the Crown to dispose of rights on Burnaby Mountain is not absolute. As we have seen, through the torturous process of what little democracy we have left, the public could toss the government out and impose their own wishes. Unfortunately, this right is about as easy to enforce as it was to gain access to medieval courts in England.
“The Rule of Law”
It is high time that we, the public, force governments at all levels to recognize this gross distortion of fairness.
One thing is for sure coming out of the Burnaby Mountain situation – there will be more people protesting as time goes on. And good, decent fellow citizens will go to jail so that large corporations can work their wicked and selfish ways.
I notice in the Weekend Sun that the president of an LNG plant proposed for Kitimat is applauding British Columbia for having “The Rule Of Law”. For that, read that he is delighted that “The Rule Of Law” is that he can do whatever he damn well pleases.
From LNG to Kinder Morgan: Citizens rising up
I happen to live on Howe Sound. The citizens from Horseshoe Bay north, led, I might say by First Nations and grassroots community groups, are much exercised about an LNG plant proposed for Squamish. The Clark government, utterly unconcerned about environmental issues and what they consider protesting nuisances, is determined that it will go ahead and the public is determined that it will not. There will be protests and no doubt the usual consequences.
I believe in “The Rule of Law” – provided the law is fair. The law under which we operate with respect to the things that God gave us is totally unfair. If citizens can’t defend that which is their birthright, how can “The Rule Of Law possibly be considered fair?
I applaud the good citizens of Burnaby.
Far from being law breakers, they are, in the best traditions of freedom and democracy, upholding what is right – and God bless them.