By Tyler OLSEN and Jeff NAGEL
Abbotsford Police Department (APD) officers seen taking part in crowd control measures during a public protest on Burnaby Mountain against Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion plans are there as part of an integrated policing unit, police say.
Several people have remarked online on the visible presence of APD officers at the protest, which has received much press coverage over the past week.
APD Const. Ian MacDonald said the officers at the scene are part of the Lower Mainland District Integrated Tactical Troop. The unit has 130 members from both the RCMP’s Lower Mainland district and from various municipal police agencies, including the APD.
“They get deployed to a variety of incidents,” MacDonald explained.
The unit provides crowd control, and takes part in large-scale search and neighbourhood canvassing operations, among other duties requiring a substantial police presence.
Call-outs are co-ordinated by the RCMP Lower Mainland District’s emergency response team. Any contributing agency, including the APD, can request assistance from the tactical troop, MacDonald said.
Dozens of protesters have been arrested on Burnaby Mountain since police moved in last Thursday to clear activists who blocked Kinder Morgan’s oil pipeline survey crews.
As of Monday, more than 70 had been arrested – some charged with civil contempt of court for violating a court injunction and others briefly detained and released.
Burnaby RCMP Staff Sgt. John Buis said two may face criminal charges of assault or obstruction but added police “continue to facilitate peaceful and lawful protest.”
Workers on Friday began drilling two test holes into the mountain to determine whether a tunneling route for the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline could avoid existing Burnaby neighbourhoods.
Besides the civil disobedience, the City of Burnaby and its council are engaged in court battles aimed at thwarting the project by refusing access.
“I don’t think this is going to be over quickly,” Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said.
Burnaby is in federal court challenging Trans Mountain’s authority granted by the NEB to override city bylaws and it also wants the B.C. Court of Appeal to grant Burnaby an injunction barring the Kinder Morgan crews from the conservation area after a lower court judge refused.
Langley Township, Abbotsford, Vancouver and Metro Vancouver are among the local governments that have filed as intervenors.
Corrigan said the federally granted authority to supersede local cities could result in all sorts of federally regulated bodies – not just pipeline companies but also port terminals, airports, railways and telecommunications firms – gaining the ability to trump local land-use decisions.
“We are extremely concerned,” he said. “The issues are so much bigger than this incursion in a park on Burnaby Mountain.”