Laurie Embree is a 70-year-old grandmother and tonight (July 31) she'll spend the night in jail.
It will be the first of seven days that Embree, a resident of 108 Mile Ranch, will spend behind bars.
According to Protect the Inlet, an Indigenous group mostly led by Tsleil-Waututh members, Embree is one of nine activists who were arrested in June 2018 at a protest outside Kinder Morgan's tanker facility in Burnaby who subsequently could be sentenced to short terms in prison.
"During the hearing, the Crown accused Protect the Inlet Protectors of 'widespread organized lawlessness' and argued that stronger sentencing is needed for deterrence, up to 14 days in custody," reads a media release the group issued today. "Protectors questioned government’s drive to punish those standing for climate justice and Indigenous rights, while refusing to punish Kinder Morgan after $920 fine for 4 counts of breaching of the Water Sustainability Act last year that took 11 months to come down."
Embree addressed the court before her sentencing.
"Your Honour, I have lived my 70 years abiding by the law," she began. "But, if we look back into our history, there have been many times when our laws have supported injustices.
"In the 18th century there were laws that supported child labour to the benefit of the Industrialists of the times," Embree continued. "In the 19th century, laws were created to support the ownership of black people to the benefit of Plantation Owners. In the 20th century, we made laws that allowed us to take native children away from their parents and to place the rest of the family on reserves, to the benefit of Europeans that wanted their land. And again, laws that suppressed women’s rights, to the benefit of their husbands.
"All of those laws were created through the judicial system- that you are a part of, sir – but they were actually designed by influential people behind the scenes that would profit from them. As much as we think we have come a long way, the mentality behind the Industrialists, the Plantation owners, the European lust for Indigenous land, and the men that wanted their wives to do their bidding, is still very present in our society. Our judicial system is still being manipulated by rich and powerful people that have the influence to make our legal system work for them. I truly believe that when we have laws that support injustices, it is the duty of all good men and women to stand up and challenge those laws."
Embree argued that history would eventually find her and other activists working to address climate change in the right.
"This law sir, that you have created, and that I, and many others are peacefully challenging, is unjust," she said. "It supports an industry that is not just harming children, or black people, or women, or Indigenous peoples. Your law, in fact, is supporting an industry that has been scientifically proven to be harming the whole world and every living thing on it.
"Today I feel privileged and proud to be standing on my side of the bench before me."
The Trans Mountain project involves twinning an oil pipeline that runs from Edmonton—where it receives diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands—to a port in Burnaby. Upon completion, it would triple the amount of bitumen transported to the Lower Mainland, increasing the number of oil tankers moving through Burrard Inlet from some 60 ships per year to more than 400.
Last May, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's administration announced that Ottawa will purchase the pipeline from Kinder Morgan Canada.
Once Ottawa's purchase of the pipeline closes, the deal will see Kinder Morgan Canada, a subsidiary of the Texas-based Kinder Morgan Inc., sell the Trans Mountain pipeline to a Crown corporation. It's tentatively scheduled to close before the end of August for an estimated cost of $4.5 billion.