EXCLUSIVE: Burnaby rejects NEB's request for police at pipeline hearing

City lawyer says NEB needs police to keep public out

The National Energy Board has asked the City of Burnaby to help provide police for the September Kinder Morgan hearings, but the city has said no.

The board asked for seven RCMP officers and one field supervisor and offered to cover the costs, but Burnaby declined in a July 29 letter.

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“It is with regret that the City of Burnaby will not be able to authorize the reallocation of police resources from the Burnaby detachment for the services requested,” wrote Lambert Chu, the city’s deputy manager. “The reassignment of seven police officers plus one supervisor to the hearings would reduce the operational strength of the Burnaby detachment and compromise its ability to respond to major emergencies and to maintain public safety during these situations.”

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan and the RCMP could not be reached for immediate comment, but city lawyer Greg McDade criticized the NEB’s police request.

“The reason why they need the police is to keep the public out,” he told the NOW, adding the NEB issued a ruling banning the public from sitting in on the hearing. The only people allowed to attend will be actual intervenors, and they’ve limited them to two people per intervenor, he explained.

“What kind of a public hearing is it where you are keeping the public out and you are so afraid of the public attending, you’re asking for police presence, you’re asking for armed guards to keep the public away from the board panel?” he said. “What are they afraid of?”

However, in June, the NEB said the public could watch the hearings online, but that doesn’t sit well with McDade.

“I also find it completely ironic they announced to great fanfare they’re coming to Burnaby to hear from the Burnaby public, and the Burnaby public isn’t allowed to come in. They have to watch it on the Internet,” he said.

According to the board’s request, the police were asked to attend the hearings, liaise with the board’s security advisor and conduct security rounds. The RCMP were to respond to any serious incidents, injuries or criminal activity, ask for backup if needed, and debrief the NEB’s security.

Tara O’Donovan, an NEB communications staffer, confirmed the board received Burnaby’s rejection letter, but only shortly before the NOW called for comment.

“We have to take some time to consider our options, but I do want to say our first priority is safety. This includes the safety of our staff members, hearing participants and the public,” she said.

O’Donovan said the NEB has no legal authority to compel Burnaby to supply police, but the board has an obligation under the Canada Labour Code to conduct a security assessment prior to the hearing to ensure staff will be safe. When asked about anticipated security threats, O’Donovan noted the “various disruptions” on Burnaby Mountain. (Last fall, more than 100 people were arrested while protesting Kinder Morgan’s survey work on the mountain.)

“Our hope is people will be respectful of those who come to present their final arguments,” O’Donovan added. “This is intervenors’ final opportunity to present face-to-face to the board.”

Hearing sessions for the oral summary arguments for intervenors will start on Wednesday, Sept. 9 and run until Sept. 30 at the Delta Burnaby Hotel and Conference Centre. The NEB will have three of its own security advisors attend each hearing session. The board has also hired Commissionaires B.C., a private security company, to put nine guards and one supervisor on site, with digital two-way radios. The hotel will also have two representatives assigned to each hearing.

Registered intervenors can send a maximum of two representatives, and accredited media will be allowed to attend. As for the hearing schedule, the City of Burnaby is set to present on Friday, Sept. 11 and BROKE (Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion) will be on Monday, Sept. 28. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation is set for Sept. 23, and Simon Fraser University will present on Friday, Sept. 25, although the schedule is subject to change. Other intervenors include Metro Vancouver, various First Nations bands and civic governments (including New Westminster and Vancouver), environmental or conservation groups and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Kinder Morgan representatives will make their final case to the board in August in Calgary. 

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