MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. – Several pipeline protesters were released from a British Columbia jail on Sunday, a few days before their weeklong sentences were set to end.
Seven protesters in all were sentenced to a week in jail on Aug. 15, after pleading guilty to contempt charges in B.C. Supreme Court.
Five who were released on Sunday issued a joint statement, saying they were imprisoned because of their opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
In the statement, the five women — who include anti-poverty activist and Order of Canada recipient Jean Swanson — said they are not criminals, but “political prisoners.”
Swanson said in a phone interview that her four days spent at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge, B.C., had not deterred her in what she said is a fight against climate change.
“I don’t know how anyone can look at the sky in Vancouver today and say global warming is not an issue,” said Swanson, in reference to the smoke and particulate matter from wildfires hazing the skies in southwestern B.C.
“We need to do something, we need to stop the insanity.”
From her perspective as an anti-poverty advocate, Swanson said the Trans Mountain pipeline ties the issues of homelessness, poverty and climate change together.
“For all those billions and billions of dollars, governments could actually create jobs building renewable energy … Governments could end homelessness, they could put clean and safe water on Indigenous reserves.”
In May, the federal government announced its intent to acquire Trans Mountain from Kinder Morgan Canada.
According to recent documents filed with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission, the sale could cost as much as $1.9 billion more than the initial quote of $4.5 billion.
The documents also suggest the project could take another 12 months to finish.
More than 200 activists have been arrested for demonstrations against the Trans Mountain project since March.
Those released on Sunday also included former B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Susan Lambert.