Enbridge protester Trish Mills has received the lightest sentence possible for chaining herself to a fence at the company’s Line 9 Westover site last year.
The Hamilton woman, who was part of a group of 60 protesters who took over the property last June, pled guilty to a charge of mischief, but received a conditional discharge with one year of probation.
Three other charges related to a skirmish during her August court appearance — assaulting a peace officer, obstructing a peace officer and causing a disturbance — were dropped.
'I’m absolutely going to continue my environmental activism.' - Trish Mills
It’s "the most lenient sentence" possible, said Justice Bernd Zabel, who heard Mills’s guilty plea Tuesday.
Under a conditional discharge, Mill will have no criminal record if she follows the terms of her probation. If Mills reoffends, the judge warned, she won’t get off so lightly.
“This is a break you only get once from the courts,” he said. “If you come back before us in the future, you will not receive the same consideration.”
The protesters made headlines on June 20 when they took over the Enbridge site, demonstrating against the planned flow reversal of the section of Line 9 that runs from north Hamilton to Montreal.
Flow reversal, opponents say, could damage the line and cause an oil spill, particularly if it carries heavier bitumen from the Alberta oil sands. The pipeline crosses several major rivers that drain into Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, as well as Spencer Creek, Hamilton's largest watershed.
The matter is currently before the National Energy Board, which expects to make a decision early this year.
Mills used a U-shaped bicycle lock to chain herself to a fence and “in doing so, interfered with Enbridge’s ability to conduct business on its site,” said Steve O’Brien, who represented the Crown.
The demonstration went on for about a week before police charged 13 protesters with trespassing and four people with mischief. The other three have previously received the same sentence as Mills – a year of probation with the order not to go within 200 metres of an Enbridge property.
Mills is 29 and has no criminal record. She had three letters of character reference, which impressed Zabel.
“She’s very socially minded and giving of her time,” he said.
Mills’s guilty plea shows remorse, Zabel said. But afterward, Mills told CBC Hamilton that the ordeal has been worth it.
“It was both effective, brought more attention to the cause, got the word out and had an impact on others,” she said.
“I’m absolutely going to continue my environmental activism.”