Ongoing protests in British Columbia to stop a tar sands pipeline project by fossil fuel giant Kinder Morgan escalated on Thursday night after 26 protesters were violently arrested. Those arrested also included protesters who refused to comply with an injunction issued earlier in the week ordering them to move from their encampment on the mountain.
In response, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan promised that he was ready to fight a "war" in the courts with the federal government.
"This is going to be a war, and it’s going to be one that carries on for a number of years,” Corrigan told the Province. "The bigger argument that needs to be fought is: How much can the federal government impose its will on local governments and the ability of people to make local decisions? That’s really the quintessential issue that takes this beyond a merely local situation to being one that attracts interest from municipalities right across Canada."
In June, an independent poll found that more than 60 percent of Burnaby residents oppose Kinder Morgan's development proposal to invest $5.4 billion into expanding an existing tar sands pipeline and storage terminal—which the city says would lead to seven times as many oil tankers using the nearby Burrard Inlet each year.
At a press conference on Friday, Burnaby Mountain protesters said they would "remain steadfast" despite the arrests, and said the key issues in the fight against Kinder Morgan were "Indigenous rights, climate change, and protection of the lands and waters against corporate greed."
Police released some of those arrested from custody on the condition that they no longer interfere with Kinder Morgan operations in the area, which are being carried out by the company's subsidiary, Trans Mountain.
Mayor Corrigan assured protesters that his government was prepared to fight the company—and the energy industry at large—in the courts.
"I didn’t look for the fight. But... if it comes to me, I’m not going to back down," Corrigan said. "This came to our doorstep. We didn’t go looking for this fight ... but this will likely turn into a case that will have implications for cities right across Canada for a long time... This is a fight that’s been a long time coming. We’ve been dealing with 21st-century problems using a 19th-century statute.”
An appeals court is currently considering a bid by the city to force Kinder Morgan to stop conducting its geological survey on the mountain, which Burnaby says violates city bylaws. Burnaby's first attempt to stop the work was overturned in October.
Updates on the movement can be followed on Twitter under the hashtag #BurnabyMountain.
This story was originally published on Common Dreams.