Nikiforuk: The Brutal Legal Odyssey of Jessica Ernst Comes to an End (post includes translation of the article into Spanish). “They whispered to her you cannot withstand the storm. She whispered back, I am the storm.”

Comment by a Rural Albertan:

Murray the dickhead missed his chance. Instead of being known as a champion of right he will be known in history as the selfish coward who backed out. Now that’s justice.

WillKoop Mr. Koop’s comment was removed from the comments at Tyee after I posted it here, seems by disqus. There’s nothing in it that isn’t public. Did Mr. Klippenstein threaten to sue? Mr. Klippenstein sued the Ontario Law Society (LSO) to defend his freedom of thought and expression while seemingly denying us non-lawyers ours – the worst of it is he is on the Board of the LSO, “regulator” of lawyers.

Thank you, Andrew.

Mr. Klippenstein was raised a as a conservative Mennonite in Canada. The way I see it, as someone who has followed Ernst’s case for some ten years and filmed a number of her and Nikiforuk’s presentations in Alberta, Klippenstein seems to have abandoned his moral teaching and duties in refusing to release ALL of Jessica Ernst’s legal files. This is very troubling and dishonorable, amidst ongoing numerous Supreme Court, provincial government and private industry shenanigans over the last 16 years or so. Aside from the obvious and irksome question as to why Klippenstein would have bridled Ernst’s access to her own website for a lengthy period of time, why would he then choose not to release all the files to his client, after promising to do so, and fake some idiotic excuse in Nikiforuk’s article to get himself off the public hook??? Hmmmm. Hiding something? The best thing for Klippenstein to do, before descending into Dante’s stairway to hell, is to release her files. Perhaps then there may be a secret path to Dante’s purgatory!

annie_fiftyseven WillKoop

Yeah, what is he hiding? I’d like to know. Me too!

The above two comments were posted to the article on The Tyee, the complete comments are copied below, beneath the translation.

Many comments coming in, some include:

NL:

Good evening Jessica … I was very disappointed to read that the time has run out on your lawsuit against Encana. What an injustice! There is no question that the Alberta/Federal governments, the judiciary, the regulator and Big Oil all conspired against Jessica Ernst to make sure that Big Oil did not lose the case. And the final straw was your lawyers leaving the case and then not providing you with all the essential files relating to the case.

You must be totally exhausted, but in some ways relieved that it is over. That said, I am sure you are disgusted to see Encana walk away untouched. However, looking at the bigger picture, the campaigning you’ve done against hydraulic fracturing around the world has been amazing and you have informed millions of people that HYDRAULIC FRACTURING is UNACCEPTABLE. Jessica Ernst has led the charge.

I speak from experience when I say that your presentation to 400 people at the Stephenville Arts and Culture Centre turned the tide against fracking on the West Coast of Newfoundland. The support we received from your presentation and the media interviews you gave resulted in the Panel Review and a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing was established in our province.

Coverage of your presentations in NL was also shared with the other Atlantic provinces and that resulted in organizations in our province linking up with anti-fracking groups right across Canada and down into the US and even in Europe. So while you lost a courageous battle in Alberta, you were instrumental in winning campaigns against fracking all over the world.

We cannot thank you enough for the support you gave us. [We] will be thinking of you as you adjust to life now that the court case is over. You have reserved a special place in the hearts and souls of the Port au Port/Bay St. George Fracking Awareness Group.

….said she will be sending positive energy in your direction and hopes you get a chance to relax and take some well deserved time for yourself. “Thinking of you.”

W Kootenays, BC:

Dear Jessica, You are always in the back of my mind as I work in my garden or berry patch, clean out the sheep pen, or call the sheep in for the night.  Once, a long time ago, I spent a week in Rosebud…. Rosebud was such a lovely, peaceful, quiet little village!

Born in 1936, I grew up in Holland.  My father was a brilliant lawyer.  Unlike lawyers today, he fought for justice, not for the money.  More than once, he sued the government, and won.  For some cases he did not charge any fees for an appeal.  He would have done that in your case.  He would have won.  Unfortunately he died in 1964.

You know, Martin Luther King was murdered.  Abraham Lincoln was murdered.  Mahatma Gandhi was murdered.  John Kennedy was murdered.  And yet, all of them changed the world.  Maybe not right away.  Maybe not without others picking up their quest.  Andrew Nikiforuk’s articles in the Tyee keep pounding away at the stupidity of fracking and the irresponsible power trip of that idiot Jason Kenny.

I decided about 30 y ears ago (yes, it took me a while!) that I could not change the world by byself within a year.  But, I decided, I could try to keep my own “back yard” clean.  And so I confided to a friend that if there was a piece of shit on my path, I did not hold my nose and walk around it, but cleaned it up.  Amazing how many pieces of shit I found!  Well, I guess they found me…

Both you and Wiebo Ludwig have rung the emergency bell loud and clear to wake up the people, the country, the world, to the clear and present danger of fracking.  You fought back, and they foisted on you a clear and present injustice.  I hope it will go down in the annals of jurisprudence.

One woman standing in the middle of the road to stop the tanks.  You were that woman. One Rosa Parks.  One David up against not one but an army of Goliaths.  Stand tall. Be proud.  You are an inspiration. With love and admiration,

SK: WOW!! what a story! your story! absolutely frustrating and unbelievable- the system is truly evil. [we] read it parallel and were just amazed and shocked. all your time, energy, losses (financially and emotionally). it’s unfortunately “just” a story that shows how f*%# the system is (great “last statement” in the article). on the bright side you brought awareness and change to some places in terms of fracking and it’s terrible effects. at least there is that, which is BIG – thank you jessica!

Dallas TX: But, but, but, I thought we were all being paid by Vladimir Putin! Did you not get your check? I’m sure he put it in the mail. Putin pays me in gold bars. Heavy.

Alberta: You have already begun to let go. Letting the courts follow their rules was a start. And that is good. Poor Klippenstein. He can’t do that. He’ll be haunted for a long time.

MB: Oh my I don’t know what to write. What a tragedy. … I appreciate what you are doing to help us our way so much. I am so used to butting against a stone wall that I find it amazing to find someone who understands.

London UK: Thanks for all you have done Jessica. Be Kind to yourself. So much was achieved.

BC: I am sorry to hear about this legal outcome. Thank you for your fight, the example you have set, voicing what the petroleum industry has done and keeps doing, and protecting water.

NS: I read Andrew’s article – excellent – what a great job he did with synopsis of your journey.
History will surely acknowledge your efforts and your voice ( in the wilderness ).

BC: I have great sympathy for Ms. Ernst and anyone who takes on a battle like that. At some point I think the full truth about the so-called justice system is going to come out. … What we have in fact is a massive multi-layered protection racket. To fully understand why that is so one needs to appreciate what is called capture theory. … It’s insidious. And it is human nature, not difficult to understand. But they all claim they are not like us. Law school replaces human nature with something higher. And they are all subject to oaths of office. But that’s nothing more than self-serving bullshit. … They are trying to preserve the system – with rhetoric. They haven’t begun to face the truth, and it may already be too late. They will admit that their institutions are greatly stressed. But it’s worse than that. They are slowly coming apart at the seams. … I have faith that eventually the public will come to understand the extent of the capture problem, including I’d say most consequentially its presence in the courts. … The whole system is under increasing stress. … There’s a single agency currently facing what might be called a day of reckoning. It is the Canadian Judicial Council. This petition, which may not in itself achieve a great deal, is one indication. More consequential is the CJC’s record of handling complaints.

Rosebud, Alberta: Oh man you’ve gone through a lot, thank you for your fight for safe drinking water in our town, and so so much more

Ontario: Gandhi thought that in the end tyrants always fall….I sure hope so.

Alberta: The storm you’ve been through is something right out of Tolkein that I can’t even imagine. Love and Hugs

BC:

… poor Jessica … she’s a prophetess . Prophets never win against their opponents… but they save their souls in the process . My hat is off to you , Jessica , and I bow to the truth that stands where you stand . I hope you can feel the blessing from another world , where you belong .

Thank you , Jessica , on behalf of the mute , the invisible, the many poor voiceless sisters and brothers … We always felt the way you do , but didn’t think we could make a difference … but you did .

” … wenn Unrecht zu Recht wird , wird Widerstand zur Pflicht ! “
( … when injustice becomes law , the just become outlaws … very
loosely paraphrased by F. )
Ciao , bella .

USA:

Jessica, I’m a big admirer of yours and have been following you—and feeling emboldened by your example of speaking data to power—since the beginning. I fully appreciate the psychic toll this kind of work takes.

I often tell people, who express these kinds of sentiments to me, “please don’t thank me; instead, tell me what YOU are going to do to stop fracking.”

So please know that, as of [-], I am retiring from academia and as of June 1 will become a senior scientist within the…Network with the sole purpose of providing good science on the risks and harms of fracking to frontline communities. My decision to do this arises from a long period of self-discernment during which time I often reflected on your work and courage.

Let’s keep inspiring and transforming each other—

Gratefully,

Alberta: murray looks like a total backpeddling loser in the article …

NS: Jessica, I am devastated for you. You are my hero none the less! Your courage and perseverance is unmatched and I am so grateful for the attention you brought to the fracking outrage. I hope you are well in other ways and I send my love to you.

Victoria BC: Wow. Just finished reading Andrew’s excellent piece on the end of your lawsuit. … The whiny quote from Murray about how he has not withheld your files, but has provided you with so much info and materials made me snort in disbelief. No mention of how you gave him and Cory all the info they needed, thoroughly and expertly researched and elegantly presented. What an asshole

I love your quote at the end of the article. Excellent judgment and summation!

USA: Jessica, This is a heartbreaking conclusion to your incredible work. I want to thank you for taking on this goliath at incredible personal cost. I wish your legal case had a different outcome, and trust you know that your work has inspired and supported so many people around the world. With deep respect and gratitude,

Calgary: Dearest Jess, You are an amazing person and despite all the obstacles that were put in front of you – you hurdled them. You’re absolutely right the court of the People!! are on your side. I’m sorry that it didn’t go well in court and it sounded like a very abusive and one-sided situation and therefore very difficult to bare… I’m so so sorry you had to go through that!!

You’re a gem – so generous and compassionate. Healing is at foot and we’re here “virtually” supporting you.

Thank you for sharing the article – Andrew Nikiforuk is a very good writer! You wanted to do what is right and doing it for the benefit of all beings! Precious clean water!! Carry that with you always!! Don’t let the assholes in this world take any of this away from you.

Ireland:

The case was important but what you have achieved while fighting it is so much bigger than even the oil and gas industry in Canada. …

People weren’t really following the case Jessica. They were following you.

Your testimony about what happened to you and more importantly how you fought back despite the size and powerful nature of the oil and gas industry has awakened and inspired communities around the world. You’ve managed to do that at scale.

I remember Tamboran’s CEO making a comment that there was only one woman in Canada that didn’t like the [frac] industry. He forgot to mention how powerful you are.

Enjoy the good weather when it comes. We are thinking of you here….

Alberta: dear j,  i, too, wish your water had never been frac’d.  i am so sorry.  14 years of fighting for justice while dealing with nasty horrid people.  shame on the courts, lawyers, gov’t, oil companies and anyone else protecting the frac’in industry!  such fools!  choosing greed again and again.  if only they understood their damage.  i love you and understand the depth of what you have accomplished.  not all cases are meant to be won in a courtroom to be deamed successful.  lives have been changed for the better because of your case.  your efforts have mattered.  your legacy is strong and powerful!  now rest.  

USA: Jessica, I am so sorry to read about this. Thank you for all you have done to protect clean water and vulnerable communities, [-] is right about how many people you have helped. The future will be different because of your work.

Wales: Hi Jessica, … I just wanted to send some love and solidarity for everything you’ve gone through. We managed to get fracking (as good as) banned in Wales, and the work you did made a contribution to our battle. And although the conclusion is lunsatosfactory from a legal point of view I’m glad the ordeal is over for you. Love and peace,

Edmonton, Alberta: I’m so glad “all is well” with you, seems to me, the whole venture has now become a compelling incentive for “leaning on the sustaining infinite” no less than 100%, where “to-day is big with blessings.” I hope I’m correct in thinking you’re not allowing any sense of failure (that would be false) on your part, or regret, to invade your sense of well-being. God is good, — your original unselfish motive cannot, will not, go unrewarded, even though we can’t yet see the way. Much gratitude for your courage, and what your efforts have meant to the wide community, very much love, very big hug,

Rural central Alberta: Just read Andrew’s column. I am so sorry it has all ended this way. What a long battle it has been. In so many ways you helped many people and raised so much awareness even if it didn’t end the way we had all hoped. Thank you so much for the years of work and dedication- there can never be enough to compensate you for it all. I do really hope you can find some way to give your poor heart a rest

USA: Jessica, So sorry for this awful outcome!  You fought long and hard, and raised the bar for all of us.  I hope to be as much “a threat to the petro system” and a “vexatious litigant” as you! Ha! Take that lying Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella!

New York USA: What a horror story. You have my utmost respect and deepest gratitude.
Solidarity from New York City,

USA: oh my goodness — may your light shine on in the hearts of good men and women.

USA:

Dear J

I am so very sorry for how this turned out. Please be assured that what you endured has inspired many and caused much harm to others never to occur.

Hero.

Never hesitate to ask me for anything.

best

USA: Dear Jessica, What a story! After following your efforts for so many years, I offer you a hearty congratulations for your persistence in getting everything good that you could get out of a terrible situation. Thank you for being you, and for inspiring the rest of us to fight for justice.

BC: That was a good article on you by Andrew in the Tyee. Indeed, you won in the realm of public opinion despite the corruption in our political and legal systems. You remain an admirable symbol of dedication and conscience in all who know you.

USA: Jessica, Just seeing this and am at a loss for words.  I…feel it hard to breathe while reading Andrew’s (as always) eloquence of reveal of all your struggles. 

Klipp…,” had all the files she needed”;  …” all the files to which she is entitled”…  are all hard to read without, as Nikiforuk calls it—sober rage.

Your quote below says it all.

“The oil and gas industry can break the law. Their regulator can violate the law and punish those harmed. And it is all supported by a legal industry that enables the abuse while punishing harmed citizens, dragging them through the courts and taking their money. It’s a dirty system, and that’s my summation.”

BUT for us that call you hero, your extensive wins in the court of public opinion and your extensive worldwide outreach has provided for the protection of so many others —and Mother Nature. You remain part of the struggle and I stay tuned for your next move and how to support you and all of us in the down and dirty of exposing the truth. With love and so much respect and gratitude, 

Edmonton Alberta: That article by Andrew is a great summary of everything that has happened. I actually had tears of sadness and rage by the time I was finished and I understand better now why you mention being heavy hearted and solitary of late. You could not have fought any harder and it’s just another example that the legal system does not protect the land or its people but rather capitalist organizations. So devastating when you sit down and think about it truly.

California: Jessica, You are a Warrior Woman! Thank you for fighting the battle that you have.

If it is any consolation we haven’t gotten much traction here, with journalists interested in the evidence of corruption and collusion only to have their editor reject the story with the evidence.

In the that O&G industry dictates our War Policy and our Intelligence Agencies control the media it is any wonder that any progress is made toward protecting the planet and humans.

I toast your heart, intelligence and stamina.

Michigan USA:

Oh, Jess, this is just terrible. I read the article out loud to…. I can’t believe that Klippenstein bailed on you like that!!! Jess, people donated to you because they wanted to support you. It’s not your fault that the lawyers left the case and left you high and dry.

I hope no one takes you up on your offer.

More than that, how are you doing financially? Do you still have your home? Are you able to accept donations now?

Yes, I still have my home, frac’d as it is (I hauled water yesterday and unloaded it to compressor noise assaulting me). In writing in 2019, Klippenstein even threatened me with losing my home by the defendants taking it in costs, if I didn’t let him “wind” my case down, which shocked me to my core and which I will never forgive. Yes, I can accept donations (two came in winter, that I will not deposit), but I won’t – in good conscience. For those that want to donate to me, use the money instead to help provide drinking water to frac harmed families elsewhere and or to work keeping frac’ing out of your community. Thank you!

***

A neighbour in Rosebud dropped in with this, saying, “It so fits you and your case!”

They whispered to her, you cannot withstand the storm.

She whispered back, I am the storm.

More comments and notes included below.

The Brutal Legal Odyssey of Jessica Ernst Comes to an End, The Alberta landowner fought an epic battle against fracking interests by Andrew Nikiforuk, May 18, 2021, TheTyee.ca [Spanish included below.]

Tyee contributing editor Andrew Nikiforuk has written about fracking and its impacts on landowners since 2004. His account of Jessica Ernst’s fight for justice, Slick Water, was published in 2015. It won the National Society in Science Award from the U.S. National Association of Science Writers in 2016.

After 14 years of battling Alberta regulators and the fracking industry over a water well contaminated with methane and chemicals, Jessica Ernst says she feels incalculable grief and anger.

On April 1, 2021, her tortuous legal crusade — which included a controversial detour to the Supreme Court of Canada — came to an end with no resolution. What one Alberta lawyer dubbed “the legal saga of the decade” is over.

Court of Queen’s Bench Judge J.T. Eamon accepted applications from Encana and the Alberta government to dismiss the case due to inactivity on the file for three years.

“It was inevitable,” says Ernst who was informed three weeks after the dismissal. “The rules are the rules.”

After Toronto lawyers Murray Klippenstein and Cory Wanless quit the case in August 2018 without warning, Ernst was left hanging.

“My lawyers knew I couldn’t find a replacement lawyer in Alberta when they quit,” said Ernst. “They even wrote me that and added that I would fail as a self-represented litigant.”

She not only had no lawyer, but incomplete legal files to work with, Ernst says. Klippenstein told The Tyee in 2019 that he would return them to Ernst, but she maintains his firm only returned some correspondence but not the complete files. And so the lawsuit languished.

Although Ernst tried to find another lawyer, she says that she couldn’t find a suitable candidate for various reasons, including conflict of interest. Most big law firms do business in or with the oil patch.

She also doubted whether she could afford a new retainer fee of at least $50,000 and pay to get another lawyer up to speed on more than a decade of legal wrangling that cost Ernst more than $400,000.

“With my lawyers quitting and not returning my files, I realized that my lawsuit’s clock was being run out,” Ernst said in a Tyee interview.

Klippenstein replied to Ernst’s statements. “It is regrettable that Ms. Ernst has chosen to turn on and attack the public-interest-minded lawyers who provided her high-quality legal services in a formidable uphill battle at a heavily discounted rate for a decade.”

He said, “There is no truth to Ms. Ernst’s recent claim that her ability to continue her case was impeded because of lack of file materials from us as her former lawyers. Ms. Ernst at all times had all the file materials she needed to proceed with her case, either with other lawyers or on her own.”

There was one other worry for Ernst. A judge could order her case moved into an Alternative Dispute Process, a mediation aiming to achieve a binding settlement.

That process, noted Ernst, “could gag me from talking about the case and fracking. I wanted to keep my own voice. I didn’t want to be silenced.”

“The system dismissed my case,” she added, “but I don’t think I lost in the court of public opinion.”

Ernst’s lawsuit and its legacy outside the courts — the subject of many pieces in The Tyee and a book by this journalist — has been profound.

The former oil-patch consultant went on gruelling speaking tours organized by community groups in Ireland, England, New York, Nova Scotia, Yukon and Newfoundland to inform citizens about the realities of fracking. Almost every jurisdiction she visited ended up banning fracking or putting a moratorium on the highly disruptive technology.

Her legal case also played an indirect role in driving a $10-million water piping project to communities whose aquifers had been heavily impacted by shallow fracking and other issues in Alberta’s Wheatland County.

The project, funded by taxpayers, has delivered safe water to the Albertan communities of Redland, Rosebud and others where extensive fracking changed both well water quality and supply more than a decade ago.

“I consider that water project a much greater vindication of my lawsuit than anything that could have happened in court,” said Ernst, who lives outside Rosebud hamlet, and was not provided safe water.

Ernst’s protracted battle began in 2001 when Encana, then one of the most powerful corporations in Canada, and several other energy companies drilled and fracked thousands of shallow wells in coal-bed methane and sand formations around central Alberta.

That activity — what industry called “carpet bombing” — was followed by hundreds of complaints about dramatic changes in groundwater quality and quantity throughout the region.

Ernst’s initial objections to fracking near her home in Rosebud raised many eyebrows. For starters, the regulator didn’t like industry critics, and the oil-patch environmental consultant was well known. The scientist even cancelled her work with Encana, then a major client, to prove her displeasure with the company’s conduct.

After her own well water was contaminated with explosive volumes of methane and other chemicals, she eventually decided to sue Encana, the Alberta government and the oil and gas regulator, then known as the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board, for gross negligence.

The landmark case attracted global attention for several reasons. It happened just at the beginning of North America’s contentious shale gas boom and fracking revolution. Her $33-million lawsuit also effectively put the technology of hydraulic fracturing on public trial — a development neither the Alberta government nor industry wanted or welcomed.

The high-pressure use of water, sand and chemicals to shatter hydrocarbon-bearing rock formations can cause earthquakes, contaminate groundwater, poison nearby residents and result in significant releases of methane into the atmosphere. Many jurisdictions in North America and Europe have banned the technology. Ireland is now seeking a worldwide ban.

First filed in 2007, Ernst’s lawsuit alleged that Encana drilled and fracked shallow gas wells into coal seams linked directly into the local groundwater supply between 2001 and 2004 near Rosebud and polluted her water well with methane and chemicals. Not even her dogs would drink it.

Instead of upholding the law and investigating the contamination, the regulator then violated Ernst’s rights by banishing the landowner from the board’s investigation and complaint process. The regulators also branded her as a criminal threat in a signed letter.

The lawsuit set off a battle royale in a province whose economy and politics are tied to the oil and gas industry. Since 1999, for example, members of a highly secretive committee choosing judges for Alberta’s provincial courts either had ties to the Tories or the oil patch or both, according to Kevin Taft’s book Oil’s Deep State.

Many Albertans viewed Ernst’s lawsuit as a threat to the petro system, and tried to bully her into silence. One of her dogs was killed under mysterious circumstances.

Sympathetic landowners, many of whom had lost water wells to fracking, often packed court rooms in Drumheller and Calgary. They viewed Ernst as a heroic symbol of resistance to industry’s abuse of power in rural communities.

Meanwhile a scandal-plagued regulator argued legal statute granted it immunity from lawsuits and that it owed “no duty of care” to landowners.

It also tried to label Ernst as “an eco-terrorist” — a claim the court summarily rejected. The Alberta government, which then had a legal mandate to protect groundwater, fought to eliminate all mention of water contamination in her lawsuit. They lost that argument.

Judges came and went, and time and money flew by with no evidence ever presented in court.

In 2013, Glenn Solomon, a prominent and politically well-connected Calgary lawyer representing the regulator, described the tenor of the dispute in a conversation caught on tape.

“The people who typically are suing are getting a lot of resistance and it’s a knock-em down drag-em out brawl where the oil companies are not resolving it,” he said, referring to how the industry typically resolved damages to groundwater or livestock with money and non-disclosure agreements. “If you drag in the regulators, I can tell you from experience… it’s World War Three.”

He explained that Encana and arms of the provincial government “all have unlimited resources. You know they have office towers full of experts… So anyone who wants to pick that fight is literally crazy.”

But Ernst, who recognized her odds were not good in Canada’s legal system, felt she had no choice given that groundwater was a public resource and that contamination moved through that water over time. Fracking pollution, she reasoned, could affect generations of rural people and livestock.

As a survivor of sexual abuse, Ernst also believed that it would be immoral to allow her case to be settled out of court with hush money combined with what she described as “disgusting” non-disclosure agreements — an approach used by powerful institutions like the Catholic Church to suppress public knowledge of sexual abuse cases.

From 2014 to 2017, one part of her case reached the Supreme Court on a dramatic issue: could an energy regulator or any other government body actively breach the Charter of Rights and brand a citizen a criminal because its legal statue granted it immunity from lawsuits?

In a rare split decision of five to four, the highest court of the land concluded that the energy regulator couldn’t be sued. The court chose to not even examine the constitutional issues raised by its decision.

One judge, Rosalie Abella, said a regulator found Ernst a “vexatious litigant.” There is no record of any regulator using that term for Ernst. Four of the judges wrote that they saw no basis for that denigrating characterization now entered into the legal record.

Ernst subsequently discovered that the Supreme Court of Canada seemingly has no mechanism to correct false and seriously damaging statements made in its rulings.

Legal scholars, such as Lorne Sossin, then dean at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, called the Supreme Court’s decision a terrible precedent that effectively weakened the Charter.

The Ernst case “is not about whether the Charter was breached, or, if so, whether Charter damages are appropriate — rather, this case is about whether a claimant should have a chance to prove her allegations of a Charter breach warranting damages as a remedy, and whether a statute can bar her from having such an opportunity,” wrote Sossin.

“By upholding the validity of a statute to bar a Charter remedy, the Supreme Court of Canada has allowed a legislature to unilaterally circumscribe constitutional protections and done so for no broader constitutional rationales or benefits.”

Ernst’s opinion was equally blunt. “The judges protected the law-violating regulator and damaged our Charter, setting terrible legal precedent which may harm many. It makes me sick.”

One year later, her lawyer Murray Klippenstein, the head of law firm in Toronto, abruptly quit the case.

On Aug. 26, 2018, Klippenstein notified Ernst that he was abandoning the case because of changes in the legal climate in Ontario and because of her attitudes about the legal system.

Klippenstein explained his decision to The Tyee in a July 31, 2019 email: “I had increasing concerns about Ms. Ernst’s views about the viability of her own lawsuit, in particular because of Ms. Ernst’s highly and increasingly critical views of the legal system, and of the lawyers that were a part of that system, to the point where I thought it was simply no longer viable for us to represent her going forward.”

Ernst disputes that explanation. “Klippenstein himself warned me in 2007 that the case might take 12 years and asked if I would quit. I said I wouldn’t. He warned me that the system could be unfair to ordinary Canadians and that I might lose everything. He knew from the beginning my reservations about the legal system and my belief that it supports the rich and the powerful.”

In 2018, Klippenstein promised to return Ernst her legal files and restore her website on fracking and the lawsuit, which had been run by the lawyers and hacked. He also promised to send back unspent funds — a sum of $40,000.

The website and unspent funds were eventually returned after a year’s delay. But not all of her legal files have been returned, Ernst says.

In an email to The Tyee, Klippenstein made this statement: “Unfortunately, Ms. Ernst seems to be suggesting that I have somehow improperly been withholding file materials. That is not so. Ms. Ernst was provided with extensive information and materials throughout the case, and after, and has received all the file materials to which she is entitled.”

Ernst says that in August 2019, Klippenstein promised to serve Ernst, the defendants and the court formal notice of his withdrawal in two weeks. The public record shows the lawyer did not serve notice until 18 months later, after Encana filed its application to have the case dismissed.

Ernst’s disillusionment with Canada’s legal system has only grown. “The whole system protects the status quo.”

During her legal ordeal, citizens around the world contributed $75,089.89 to her legal fund.

She said she would not have allowed the fund to seek donations had she known the lawyers were going to quit, adding that she will refund any contributor who can prove their donation. “I feel most terribly about this. Many of these people could hardly afford to give, but did so anyway.”

When Ernst started the lawsuit, she was 50-years-of-age and the proud owner of an environmental service consultancy with scores of big-name clients in the oil patch.

At the end of her lawsuit, her business is dead, and Ernst is now 64 with no prospect of employment in her profession.

She reflected on her ordeal with a sober rage.

“The oil and gas industry can break the law. Their regulator can violate the law and punish those harmed. And it is all supported by a legal industry that enables the abuse while punishing harmed citizens, dragging them through the courts and taking their money. It’s a dirty system, and that’s my summation.”

La brutal odisea legal de Jessica Ernst llega a su fin, La terrateniente de Alberta libró una batalla épica contra los intereses del fracking by Andrew Nikiforuk May 18, 2021, TheTyee.ca 

Jessica Ernst se convirtió en una destacada crítica de la fracturación hidráulica, que inyecta líquido a alta presión para forzar la salida de petróleo y gas suelto. El sistema desestimó mi caso, pero no creo que haya perdido en el tribunal de la opinión pública”. Foto de Colin Smith. Tras 14 años de lucha contra los reguladores de Alberta y la industria del fracking por un pozo de agua contaminado con metano y productos químicos, Jessica Ernst dice sentir una pena y una rabia incalculables. El 1 de abril de 2021, su tortuosa cruzada legal -que incluyó un controvertido desvío al Tribunal Supremo de Canadá- llegó a su fin sin solución. Lo que un abogado de Alberta apodó “la saga legal de la década” ha terminado.  

El juez del Tribunal de Queen’s Bench, J.T. Eamon, aceptó las solicitudes de Encana y del gobierno de Alberta para desestimar el caso debido a la inactividad del expediente durante tres años.

“Era inevitable”, dice Ernst, que fue informado tres semanas después del despido. “Las reglas son las reglas”. Después de que los abogados de Toronto Murray Klippenstein y Cory Wanless abandonaran el caso en agosto de 2018 sin previo aviso, Ernst se quedó colgado. “Mis abogados sabían que no podía encontrar un abogado de reemplazo en Alberta cuando renunciaron”, dijo Ernst. “Incluso me escribieron eso y agregaron que fracasaría como litigante auto representado”. No sólo no tenía abogado, sino que los expedientes legales estaban incompletos para trabajar, dice Ernst. Klippenstein dijo a The Tyee en 2019 que se los devolvería a Ernst, pero ella sostiene que su bufete solo le devolvió parte de la correspondencia, pero no los expedientes completos. Y así la demanda languideció.

Aunque Ernst intentó buscar otro abogado, dice que no pudo encontrar un candidato adecuado por varias razones, entre ellas el conflicto de intereses. La mayoría de los grandes bufetes de abogados hacen negocios en o con el sector petrolero. También dudaba de poder permitirse una nueva cuota de retención de al menos 50.000 dólares y pagar para que otro abogado se pusiera al día en más de una década de disputas legales que le costaron a Ernst más de 400.000 dólares. “Al renunciar mis abogados y no devolverme mis expedientes, me di cuenta de que el reloj de mi demanda se estaba agotando”, dijo Ernst en una entrevista con Tyee. Klippenstein respondió a las declaraciones de Ernst. “Es lamentable que la Sra. Ernst haya optado por atacar a los abogados de interés público que le prestaron servicios legales de alta calidad en una formidable batalla cuesta arriba a un precio muy reducido durante una década”. Dijo: “No es cierta la reciente afirmación de la Sra. Ernst de que su capacidad para continuar con su caso se vio obstaculizada por la falta de material de archivo de nosotros como sus antiguos abogados. La Sra. Ernst tuvo en todo momento todo el material de archivo que necesitaba para continuar con su caso, ya sea con otros abogados o por su cuenta.”

Había otra preocupación para Ernst. Un juez podría ordenar que su caso se trasladara a un Proceso Alternativo de Disputa, una mediación destinada a lograr un acuerdo vinculante. Ese proceso, señaló Ernst, “podría impedirme hablar del caso y del fracking. Quería mantener mi propia voz. No quería que me silenciaran”. “El sistema desestimó mi caso”, añadió, “pero no creo que haya perdido en el tribunal de la opinión pública”.

La ex asesora de la explotación petrolera Jessica Ernst prende fuego al agua de pozo infundida con metano de su propiedad. Foto de Jeff McIntosh, The Canadian Press. El pleito de Ernst y su legado fuera de los tribunales -el tema de muchos artículos en The Tyee y un libro de este periodista- ha sido profundo. La ex consultora de explotaciones petrolíferas realizó agotadoras giras de conferencias organizadas por grupos comunitarios en Irlanda, Inglaterra, Nueva York, Nueva Escocia, Yukón y Terranova para informar a los ciudadanos sobre la realidad del fracking. Casi todas las jurisdicciones que visitó acabaron prohibiendo el fracking o estableciendo una moratoria sobre esta tecnología tan perturbadora. Su caso legal también desempeñó un papel indirecto en el impulso de un proyecto de canalización de agua de 10 millones de dólares para las comunidades cuyos acuíferos se habían visto muy afectados por la fracturación hidráulica superficial y otros problemas en el condado de Wheatland, en Alberta.

El proyecto, financiado por los contribuyentes, ha suministrado agua potable a las comunidades albertinas de Redland, Rosebud y otras en las que la fracturación hidráulica extensiva cambió tanto la calidad del agua de los pozos como el suministro hace más de una década. “Considero que ese proyecto de agua es una reivindicación mucho mayor de mi demanda que cualquier cosa que haya podido ocurrir en los tribunales”, dijo Ernst, que vive en las afueras de la aldea de Rosebud y no recibió agua potable. La prolongada batalla de Ernst comenzó en 2001, cuando Encana, entonces una de las empresas más poderosas de Canadá, y varias otras compañías energéticas perforaron y fracturaron miles de pozos poco profundos en formaciones de arena y metano en capas de carbón en el centro de Alberta. Esa actividad -lo que la industria denominó “bombardeo de alfombras”- fue seguida por cientos de quejas sobre cambios drásticos en la calidad y cantidad de las aguas subterráneas en toda la región. Las objeciones iniciales de Ernst al fracking cerca de su casa en Rosebud levantaron muchas cejas. Para empezar, al regulador no le gustaban los críticos de la industria, y la consultora medioambiental de la cuenca petrolífera era muy conocida. La científica incluso canceló su trabajo con Encana, entonces un cliente importante, para demostrar su descontento con la conducta de la empresa.

Después de que el agua de su propio pozo se contaminara con volúmenes explosivos de metano y otras sustancias químicas, decidió finalmente demandar a Encana, al gobierno de Alberta y al organismo regulador del petróleo y el gas, entonces conocido como Junta de Conservación de Recursos Energéticos de Alberta, por negligencia grave. Este caso histórico atrajo la atención mundial por varias razones. Ocurrió justo al comienzo del polémico auge del gas de esquisto y la revolución del fracking en Norteamérica. Su demanda, de 33 millones de dólares, también sometió a juicio público la tecnología de la fracturación hidráulica, algo que ni el gobierno de Alberta ni la industria querían ni acogían. El uso de agua, arena y productos químicos a alta presión para romper las formaciones rocosas que contienen hidrocarburos puede provocar terremotos, contaminar las aguas subterráneas, envenenar a los residentes cercanos y provocar importantes emisiones de metano a la atmósfera. Muchas jurisdicciones de Norteamérica y Europa han prohibido esta tecnología. Irlanda pretende ahora que se prohíba en todo el mundo.

Presentada por primera vez en 2007, la demanda de Ernst alegaba que Encana perforó y fracturó pozos de gas poco profundos en vetas de carbón conectadas directamente con el suministro local de aguas subterráneas entre 2001 y 2004 cerca de Rosebud y contaminó su pozo de agua con metano y productos químicos. Ni siquiera sus perros querían beberla. En lugar de cumplir la ley e investigar la contaminación, el regulador violó entonces los derechos de Ernst al expulsar a la propietaria del terreno del proceso de investigación y reclamación de la junta. Los reguladores también la tacharon de amenaza criminal en una carta firmada. La demanda desencadenó una batalla campal en una provincia cuya economía y política están ligadas a la industria del petróleo y el gas. Desde 1999, por ejemplo, los miembros de un comité muy secreto que elige a los jueces de los tribunales provinciales de Alberta tienen vínculos con los conservadores, con el sector petrolero o con ambos, según el libro de Kevin Taft Oil’s Deep State.

Jessica Ernst frente a los compresores de Encana en Rosebud, Alberta. Foto de Tor Lundberg Tuorda. Muchos habitantes de Alberta consideraron la demanda de Ernst como una amenaza para el sistema petrolero e intentaron intimidarla para que guardara silencio. Uno de sus perros fue asesinado en circunstancias misteriosas. Los propietarios simpatizantes, muchos de los cuales habían perdido pozos de agua a causa de la fracturación hidráulica, a menudo abarrotaban las salas de los tribunales de Drumheller y Calgary. Veían a Ernst como un símbolo heroico de la resistencia al abuso de poder de la industria en las comunidades rurales. Mientras tanto, el regulador, plagado de escándalos, argumentaba que la ley le otorgaba inmunidad frente a las demandas y que no tenía “ningún deber de cuidado” con los propietarios de las tierras. También trató de etiquetar a Ernst como “ecoterrorista”, afirmación que el tribunal rechazó sumariamente. El gobierno de Alberta, que entonces tenía el mandato legal de proteger las aguas subterráneas, luchó por eliminar toda mención a la contaminación del agua en su demanda. Perdieron ese argumento.

Los jueces iban y venían, y el tiempo y el dinero pasaban volando sin que se presentaran pruebas en los tribunales. En 2013, Glenn Solomon, un destacado abogado de Calgary con buenas conexiones políticas que representaba al regulador, describió el tenor de la disputa en una conversación grabada. “La gente que suele demandar está encontrando mucha resistencia y es una pelea de noqueo y arrastre en la que las compañías petroleras no resuelven”, dijo, refiriéndose a cómo la industria suele resolver los daños a las aguas subterráneas o al ganado con dinero y acuerdos de no divulgación. “Si arrastras a los reguladores, te puedo decir por experiencia que es la tercera guerra mundial”. Explicó que Encana y las ramas del gobierno provincial “tienen recursos ilimitados. Saben que tienen torres de oficinas llenas de expertos… Así que cualquiera que quiera iniciar esa lucha está literalmente loco”.

Pero Ernst, que reconocía que sus posibilidades no eran buenas en el sistema jurídico canadiense, consideraba que no tenía otra opción, dado que las aguas subterráneas eran un recurso público y que la contaminación se trasladaba a través de ellas con el tiempo. La contaminación del fracking, razonó, podría afectar a generaciones de habitantes de zonas rurales y al ganado. Como superviviente de un abuso sexual, Ernst también creía que sería inmoral permitir que su caso se resolviera fuera de los tribunales con dinero de socorro combinado con lo que ella describió como “repugnantes” acuerdos de no divulgación, un enfoque utilizado por instituciones poderosas como la Iglesia Católica para suprimir el conocimiento público de los casos de abuso sexual. Entre 2014 y 2017, una parte de su caso llegó al Tribunal Supremo por una cuestión dramática: ¿podía un regulador energético o cualquier otro organismo gubernamental incumplir activamente la Carta de Derechos y tachar a un ciudadano de delincuente porque su estatuto legal le otorgaba inmunidad frente a las demandas? En una rara decisión dividida de cinco a cuatro, el más alto tribunal del país concluyó que el regulador de la energía no podía ser demandado. El tribunal optó por no examinar siquiera las cuestiones constitucionales que plantea su decisión.En una rara decisión dividida de cinco a cuatro, el más alto tribunal del país concluyó que el regulador de la energía no podía ser demandado. El tribunal optó por no examinar siquiera las cuestiones constitucionales que plantea su decisión. Una de las juezas, Rosalie Abella, dijo que el regulador consideró a Ernst un “litigante vejatorio”. No hay constancia de que ningún regulador haya utilizado ese término para referirse a Ernst. Cuatro de los jueces escribieron que no veían ninguna base para esa caracterización denigrante que ahora ha entrado en el registro legal. Posteriormente, Ernst descubrió que el Tribunal Supremo de Canadá no tiene, al parecer, ningún mecanismo para corregir las declaraciones falsas y gravemente perjudiciales que se hacen en sus sentencias.  

Juristas como Lorne Sossin, entonces decano de la Facultad de Derecho Osgoode Hall de la Universidad de York, calificaron la decisión del Tribunal Supremo de terrible precedente que debilitaba de hecho la Carta. 

El caso Ernst “no trata de si se ha infringido la Carta o, en caso afirmativo, de si la indemnización por daños y perjuicios es adecuada, sino de si un demandante debe tener la oportunidad de probar sus alegaciones de infracción de la Carta que justifiquen una indemnización por daños y perjuicios, y de si una ley puede impedirle tener esa oportunidad”, escribió Sossin. “Al confirmar la validez de una ley para impedir un recurso de la Carta, el Tribunal Supremo de Canadá ha permitido que un legislador circunscriba unilateralmente las protecciones constitucionales y lo ha hecho sin ningún fundamento o beneficio constitucional más amplio”. La opinión de Ernst fue igualmente contundente. “Los jueces han protegido al regulador que viola la ley y han dañado nuestra Carta, sentando un terrible precedente legal que puede perjudicar a muchos. Me pone enfermo”.

Ernst dirigiéndose a la Coalición de Acción y Recursos contra el Fracking de Nueva Escocia en 2011. También habló en Irlanda, Inglaterra, Nueva York, Yukón, Terranova y otros lugares. La mayoría de los lugares que visitó acabaron por prohibir o detener el fracking. Foto vía NOFRAC. Un año después, su abogado Murray Klippenstein, director de un bufete de abogados en Toronto, abandonó abruptamente el caso. El 26 de agosto de 2018, Klippenstein notificó a Ernst que abandonaba el caso debido a los cambios en el clima legal en Ontario y por sus actitudes sobre el sistema legal. Klippenstein explicó su decisión a The Tyee en un correo electrónico del 31 de julio de 2019: “Tenía cada vez más preocupaciones sobre las opiniones de la Sra. Ernst sobre la viabilidad de su propia demanda, en particular debido a las opiniones altamente y cada vez más críticas de la Sra. Ernst sobre el sistema legal, y sobre los abogados que formaban parte de ese sistema, hasta el punto de que pensé que simplemente ya no era viable que la representáramos en adelante.” Ernst rebate esa explicación. “El propio Klippenstein me advirtió en 2007 que el caso podría durar 12 años y me preguntó si lo dejaría. Le dije que no lo haría. Me advirtió que el sistema podría ser injusto para los canadienses de a pie y que podría perderlo todo. Él conocía desde el principio mis reservas sobre el sistema judicial y mi creencia de que apoya a los ricos y a los poderosos”.
En 2018, Klippenstein prometió devolver a Ernst sus archivos legales y restaurar su sitio web sobre el fracking y la demanda, que había sido manejado por los abogados y hackeado. También prometió devolver los fondos no gastados: una suma de 40.000 dólares. El sitio web y los fondos no gastados fueron finalmente devueltos tras un año de retraso. Pero no todos sus archivos legales fueron devueltos, dice Ernst. En un correo electrónico a The Tyee, Klippenstein hizo esta declaración: “Desgraciadamente, la Sra. Ernst parece sugerir que, de alguna manera, he estado reteniendo indebidamente material de archivo. Eso no es así. A la Sra. Ernst se le proporcionó amplia información y materiales a lo largo del caso, y después, y ha recibido todos los materiales del expediente a los que tiene derecho.” Ernst dice que en agosto de 2019, Klippenstein prometió notificar a Ernst, a los demandados y al tribunal una notificación formal de su retirada en dos semanas. El registro público muestra que el abogado no notificó hasta 18 meses después, después de que Encana presentara su solicitud de desestimación del caso.

La desilusión de Ernst con el sistema jurídico canadiense no ha hecho más que crecer. “Todo el sistema protege el statu quo”. Durante su calvario legal, ciudadanos de todo el mundo contribuyeron con 75.089,89 dólares a su fondo legal. Dijo que no habría permitido que el fondo buscara donaciones si hubiera sabido que los abogados iban a renunciar, y añadió que reembolsará a cualquier contribuyente que pueda demostrar su donación. “Me siento muy mal por esto. Muchas de estas personas apenas podían permitirse dar, pero lo hicieron de todos modos”. Cuando Ernst inició la demanda, tenía 50 años y era la orgullosa propietaria de una consultoría de servicios medioambientales con decenas de clientes de renombre en el sector petrolero. Al final de su demanda, su negocio está muerto, y Ernst tiene ahora 64 años y ninguna perspectiva de empleo en su profesión.

Reflexionó sobre su calvario con una rabia sobria. “La industria del petróleo y el gas puede violar la ley. Su regulador puede violar la ley y castigar a los perjudicados. Y todo ello está respaldado por una industria legal que permite el abuso mientras castiga a los ciudadanos perjudicados, arrastrándolos por los tribunales y quedándose con su dinero. Es un sistema sucio, y ese es mi resumen”. [Tyee]

Comments on The Tyee to the article:

Robert Cox

Quebec is planning a constitutional challenge to create a “nation” within a nation. Millions for legal fees to protect OUR constitution?? Welcome to the Napoleonic Empire of Trois Pistoles.

Rena

BIG Thank you to Tyee and Andrew Nikiforuk for the tremendous article about JESSICA ERNST. Without your coverage, most people would never know about the sacrifices Jessica has made for us all. She’s a true modern day heroine that we should honor and show appreciation for.

She should be nominated for the Order of Canada Award or something along that line. https://www.gg.ca/en/honour…

Jeffrey Simpson

Wow! What a sad ending to a story I have been following since it began. However, I think that the public is on her side and the dangers of fracking are becoming well known. Little good that does her now. The part about the fresh water pipeline having to be funded by the taxpayer just made me angry.

annie_fiftyseven  Jeffrey Simpson

“The part about the fresh water pipeline having to be funded by the taxpayer just made me angry.”

Well, Encana changed their name and moved to the states, so taxpayer funded it is. Corporate welfare is king in Alberta.

Mindcraft

The land will be toxic, and still those who claim to serve us, will also enjoy the fruits of toxicity in the food they dine and the wine they savour. There is no escape, if one looks at the planet and its scale, the total freshwater on the planet is smaller than a grain of rice on a football.
Our leaders love to trot out patriarchy, yet forget they are responsible for governing a life based planet, not making a killing from a dead chemical based investment that doesn’t support living mass. Of course staying home ends the spread of a cold virus, yet politics can’t even understand this simple event of physics, yet continues to be exotic super spreaders that need expensive vaccines, above common sense.

There is however no vaccine to clean water on the scale that it is being polluted, this is thermodynamics v linear endless growth and the waste to profit ratio in Titanic proportions to be competitive. Our governing process can be laughed at as an unsinkable ship, stronger than common sense.

WillKoop

Thank you, Andrew.

Mr. Klippenstein was raised a as a conservative Mennonite in Canada. The way I see it, as someone who has followed Ernst’s case for some ten years and filmed a number of her and Nikiforuk’s presentations in Alberta, Klippenstein seems to have abandoned his moral teaching and duties in refusing to release ALL of Jessica Ernst’s legal files. This is very troubling and dishonorable, amidst ongoing numerous Supreme Court, provincial government and private industry shenanigans over the last 16 years or so. Aside from the obvious and irksome question as to why Klippenstein would have bridled Ernst’s access to her own website for a lengthy period of time, why would he then choose not to release all the files to his client, after promising to do so, and fake some idiotic excuse in Nikiforuk’s article to get himself off the public hook??? Hmmmm. Hiding something? The best thing for Klippenstein to do, before descending into Dante’s stairway to hell, is to release her files. Perhaps then there may be a secret path to Dante’s purgatory!

annie_fiftyseven WillKoop

Yeah, what is he hiding? I’d like to know.

Saz-C

Wow thanks for this piece — so important to credit those who (like heroic Jessica Ernst) have the conviction & means to oppose egregious harms inflicted not only on themselves, but on whole communities too..
.
I feel Jessica’s “incalculable grief and anger” over her obvious case of, “industry’s abuse of power”.. What i DON’T get is, how she was said to have “no evidence” when testing could definitively prove contamination of a public water supply!!? How could Ms. Ernst be anything but a victim from a legal standpoint, when in all respects she presents as a credible – even benevolent – citizen with a strong case?

What’s infuriating is the apparent acceptance of our ‘status quo’ as a corrupt propaganda machine/ overlord we the peasants are powerless to oppose (!?) So it’s best to roll over & ACCEPT injustices/ wrongs committed by polluting fossil-fuel giants – in a climate emergency – because they’re rich & powerful??

(they’d laugh in the U,S,, where cases against REAL “eco-terrorists” – i.e. chronic polluters like Pfizer, who’ve paid out court-ordered billion$+ over the years — are brought & won every day:))

Yet Canada’s a democracy, last checked — iE. governed by “public servants” who make/ amend laws meant to protect OUR best interests (& not the bottom lines of wealthy corps whose ethics DON’T SYNC with 21st-C. global aspirations/ standards!?)

We need to demand much better from our govts, EG. ACCOUNTABILITY for plans/ policies promised — eg. SHAMe Premier Horgan for breaking his promise to save BC’s last intact Old-Growth forests from certain extinction by logging, a sinister FAIL that got him elected but spells disaster for BC – else our future looks bleak, with court judgements still based on archaic laws that favour extractive ECOCIDE over Climate Action – something our failing ecosystems CAN’T afford..

It’s 2021 – access to clean water is deemed a ‘universal right’ — let’s UPGRADE NOW.. or elect (greener) govts that WILL, before it’s too late?

Regan911

There are few things I’m proud of as a native Albertan these days, but Jessica Ernst and Andrew Nikaforuk are two people that I’m happy to have represent us. I’m sorry the outcome of this case did not serve the justice it was due.

Clearcut Acres

This makes me sad and angry. I salute you, Jessica Ernst. You are a person of courage, conviction, and integrity, and you were attacked and vilified for it. You have earned the respect and admiration of may people who try to do what you did so courageously. My best wishes go to you. If there is still a place where one can contribute to help with your costs, I’ll give something again.

John Merriman  Clearcut Acres Well expressed. I heartily agree.

JCensored 

They should make a movie about it and get the story out there for the public… we certainly can’t rely on postmedia, global, or cbc to do it.

Diane

Very sad news indeed. What a sham of a legal system we have, eh? I’ve followed your story, Jessica, from the horrible beginning. What Encana and the corporate buddy system did to your land was simply unGodly.

John Merriman Diane

Unfortunately, it’s many of the Godly who believe that man shall have dominion over the Earth and trash it any way he likes.

Ralph Haygood

Dirty systems ultimately amount to evil people making evil choices. Yes, I said “evil people”: evil is as evil does. Over and over again, the people to blame for this atrocity, from executives to (captured) regulators to lawyers, did things that undoubtedly were within their abilities to recognize were wrong, such as telling lies about the environmental impacts of fracking or the character of Ms. Ernst. If they had vestiges of conscience, they suppressed them and “went along to get along”. It’s especially inexcusable of highly paid lawyers and officials, who easily could (or should be able to) afford to retire rather than contribute to such a perversion of justice.

Remember Adolf Eichmann’s excuse, that he was just an “unlucky” participant in a bad system? The court that tried and convicted him wasn’t impressed by that excuse.

Roy Brander

A little shocking that Nikiforuk didn’t grab this story; he’s been following this stuff since he actually (kind of) supported the otherwise-execrable Wiebo Ludwig, just because Ludwig’s opponents (big oil) were also terrible.

A since-college friend of mine, Fiona Lauridsen, from near Standard, fought a similar battle, though just in public opinion, not courts; she was the subject of a CBC documentary at one point. The outcome was the same, but far less expensive and frustrating, for Fiona. It’s the court-system that was the bad move, alas. Not where you’ll get justice on this kind of problem.

annie_fiftyseven Roy Brander

Nikiforuk has written about Lauridsen, including in his award-winning book Slick Water.

    • Sarah This case totally sullies the Alberta government, the oil industry, the lawyers involved and the Canadian Supreme Court. Innocent landowners’ rights were abused by the lot of them. All of these powerful factions of our society clearly only care about their bottom line, profits and money. This whole situation reminds me of the Erin Erin Brockovich fight in California, but Alberta has proven themselves even worse since Jessica didn’t win her case. So much for real justice.
    • I had a brush with lawyers when my marriage broke down. It totally amazed me how little was accomplished while $ thousands were vacuumed up by her. Then after being scammed by two companies over the last decade, first I used the Small Claims Court process, that took up a couple of years. But I won! Then last year, a company tried to illegally confiscate my car, intending to sell it from under me. I then found out about the online Civil Resolution Tribunal. This was much speedier and less costly, and I won there too. In both cases, I did not hire any lawyers. Way too expensive and seemingly a way for them to print money for themselves.
    • I wouldn’t ever want to live in the USA, but I would choose the USA over Alberta. Fortunately, I don’t have to choose since I live in the lovely Lower Mainland of BC. I am totally disgusted by what has happened. I have an abundance of respect for Jessica Ernst and what she has done to illustrate how everything is rigged against the common person in Alberta and even our country, when matters concern Big Oil.
    • Pete Tinga I would like to know where and when the energy regulator called her an ECO Terrorist ?!?
      We should be privy to that if this article is to be complete.
      It sounds to me as if she started out with a contaminated water lawsuit that spun into a defamation of character judgement.I think in her defamation suet she had to name an individual where she chose to name a Energy Regulator and that was a dumb move, no wonder the court threw it out !

annie_fiftyseven Pete Tinga

“I would like to know where and when the energy regulator called her an ECO Terrorist ?!?”

Stunning eh? Although the regulator’s slanderous slur didn’t start out as “eco-terrorist.” First, they labelled Ernst a ‘criminal threat,’ but then they got caught, on tape, admitting that was a total lie:

“A transcript of a taped conversation with an ERCB lawyer read and heard by this reporter seems to contradict the contents of this ERCB brief. In 2006 a board lawyer admitted to Ernst and a witness that the agency had no real safety concerns with Ernst, but disliked her public criticism of the board because it had become ‘humiliating.'”

So what would any industry-funded regulator do when confronted with a humiliating situation of their own making? Why, slap-on a bogus “eco-terrorist” label, of course.

“December 2012: In its legal brief filed with the court, the energy regulator changes its 2005 accusation that Ernst posed a ‘criminal threat’ and described her as being an ‘eco-terrorist.’

…. Sept. 19, 2013: Justice Wittmann, despite not having presided over the original hearing, rules Ernst has a valid Charter of Rights and Freedoms claim but that the regulator is protected by legislation giving it immunity from civil litigation. He dismisses the regulator’s claim that Ernst is an ‘eco-terrorist’ due to ‘the total absence of evidence.'”

But the dirty, sleazy label fun doesn’t stop there, it just gets dirtier, sleazier and more sinister – at the Supreme Court of Canada:

“One judge, Rosalie Abella, said a regulator found Ernst a ‘vexatious litigant.’ There is no record of any regulator using that term for Ernst. Four of the judges wrote that they saw no basis for that denigrating characterization now entered into the legal record.

Ernst subsequently discovered that the Supreme Court of Canada seemingly has no mechanism to correct false and seriously damaging statements made in its rulings.”

Really odd to me that Abella doesn’t even attempt to use the regulator’s actual filthy, bogus labels; “criminal threat” and “eco-terrorist.” Instead, she pulls a totally new bogus and defamatory label out of her ass, puts it into the regulator’s mouth, and labels Ernst as a “vexatious litigant.”

I expect that kind of filth from an industry-funded good old boys club, but for the life of me I cannot fathom why a judge on Canada’s Supreme Court would make up even more filth – and be able to get away with it.

https://thetyee.ca/News/201…

https://thetyee.ca/News/201…

https://thetyee.ca/News/202…

    • ScottyonDenman THANK YOU, JESSICA ERNST. You opened the public eye to fracking’s harm. Your story resonates with so many, your courage is an inspiration, and your work is invaluable.
    • dda I’m so sorry, Jessica. Unfortunately, you’re right about the ‘system’. You were out monied, out lawyered, and defeated by attrition. They can surely outlast you in our “courts”.
      But – please don’t see this as a total defeat. You and Andrew have been able to eloquently and effectively inform those of ‘us’ who care of the stark and brutally unfair and unhealthy actions of the fracking industry. World wide. You’ve planted the seeds – watch them grow. I hope you find some peace and satisfaction in the work you’ve put in – for the greater good. Thank you.
    • PS dda

“I thought it was simply no longer viable for us to represent her going forward.”
how well put and thought out conniving observation, by a lawyer no less. it is what it is, us and them, the sad history we have thought to move/evolve on into democracy is repeating itself. now what? right? stay strong…

annie_fiftyseven dda

Well said dda. Those seeds are growing around the world …

“The former oil-patch consultant went on gruelling speaking tours organized by community groups in Ireland, England, New York, Nova Scotia, Yukon and Newfoundland to inform citizens about the realities of fracking. Almost every jurisdiction she visited ended up banning fracking or putting a moratorium on the highly disruptive technology.”

Thank you Jessica!

    • John Otvos There is no true democracy as long as corporations hold the upper hand. As Chris Hedges has stated on many an occasion: “Unless we overthrow them [the sociopathic corporate elite] they will kill us all.” And so continues the 6th mass extinction…
    • phodgson I couldn’t agree more with Mrs.Ernst and her opinion on the Canadian legal system, shame.

PS phodgson

money talks, conflict of interests, and money talks while democracy listens and learns that you pay until you can’t. sad, yes. despicable. yes. corrupt. yes. demoralizing. yes. legal? no, but…..
it really is not issue of necessity and provision of service for social betterment as much as moral issue and despicable denial of accountability.

i rest my case but would not call anyone “your honour/honor” in a legal system that defies such atrocities. I agree!

    • ZweiSystem If anyone thinks Canadian courts are impartial, think again. In the end, the courts will do what government tells them to do.Canadian law is law only for the rich and powerful.
  • Jeffrey Simpson  ZweiSystem I think the government does what big corporations tell them to do.
    • NN  ZweiSystem Yes, the system is crooked, but it’s ridiculous to suggest that governments have any influence on judges.

annie_fiftyseven NN

I don’t think it’s ridiculous at all.

From the above article:

“The lawsuit set off a battle royale in a province whose economy and politics are tied to the oil and gas industry. Since 1999, for example, members of a highly secretive committee choosing judges for Alberta’s provincial courts either had ties to the Tories or the oil patch or both, according to Kevin Taft’s book Oil’s Deep State.”

https://www.cbc.ca/news/can…

And this is pretty special. Chosen friends in chosen places?

March 8, 2011, Mountain View Gazette – “June verdict for man charged with threatening Fish and Wildlife officer

… On the tape the accused can be heard to say: ‘Anytime you want to bring your old lady over here I’ll service her, you (expletive). Get the (expletive) off my property.’

Also on the tape the accused can be heard saying: ‘I’m going to manhandle this guy in about a minute.’

… Jason Nixon 30, will be back in court June 13 for Judge Graham’s verdict.”

pbs dot twimg dot com/medi/D1_1RjzXcAAWemi dot png

Here’s the tape … not.

April 17, 2019 – “Judge bans media access to video of confrontation between MLA Jason Nixon and wildlife officer

A provincial judge has ruled that video evidence from an old trial, showing a confrontation between UCP MLA Jason Nixon and an Alberta Fish and Wildlife officer, cannot be released to the media.

The video footage was originally played at Nixon’s 2011 trial into obstruction of justice and threatening the officer. He was found not guilty on both counts.

In making her decision, Judge Marlene Graham cited the Youth Criminal Justice Act as the reason for withholding the tape, due to the involvement of a young person in the incident.

But the judge spent much of her time talking about the possible impact on Nixon’s reputation.

Graham noted that Nixon was re-elected as an MLA on Tuesday and that he held a position of power within the UCP while in opposition.

‘The risk of harm and prejudice to Mr. Nixon outweighs any interest that the public might have in seeing this DVD,’ she told court.

Graham herself was a Progressive Conservative MLA from 1997 to 2004 in the riding of Calgary-Lougheed, the current riding of UCP Leader Jason Kenney.

It’s the latest step in a legal battle that has played out for more than a year.

The video in question is of a conversation between Nixon and wildlife officer Adam Mirus.

A dashcam on Mirus’s vehicle caught the ensuing conversation — that’s the recording Nixon doesn’t want released.”

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/judge-ban-jason-nixon-video-confrontation-1.5102152

Nixon is currently Alberta’s Environment Minister.

      • Steve  ZweiSystem Agreed, but it is fairly common for all nation states to have legal systems that serve and bolster the top of the social power structure that exists, and Canada is not unique in this regard.Note what Murray Rothbard writes in Anatomy of the State (a short text I would highly recommend): “For while the seeming independence of the federal judiciary has played a vital part in making its actions virtual Holy Writ for the bulk of the people, it is also and ever true that the judiciary is part and parcel of the government apparatus and appointed by the executive and legislative branches…this means that the State has set itself up as a judge in its own cause, thus violating a basic juridical principle for aiming at just decisions.”The foxes are in charge of every henhouse and have set themselves up as judge, jury, and executioner, everywhere. As I have argued many times on this site, the ruling class has a primary motivation to control and expand the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue streams. All other concerns are secondary/tertiary and mostly serve to support their primary concern.We are led to believe through powerful and ever-present narratives and propaganda that government and its increasingly-expanding (and expensive) bureaucracies are a social good that serves the masses. It is one of many myths that exist in our world, with virtually all of them serving the interests of those at the top of our power structures. All large, complex societies seem to gravitate towards this type of sociopolitical system. It is rare indeed for a system to not fall prey to the depravity of the wealthy and powerful who primarily wish to maintain and/or expand their privileged positions.
        • ZweiSystem  Steve All I can say is Canadian justice has been so bureaucratized, so debased by politicians, only the very wealthy are served.The myth of the independent judge is long gone as many important decisions are made not reading law texts but over a ‘brandy” at ones private club.Today, judges like to be seen as impartial, champions of justice, but instead they are very partial and champions of title and wealth.Not much has changed in over a 1,000 years.
      • WWallace Mud  ZweiSystem i agree, but IMO you forgot to mention that the corporations control the government which in turn makes the laws that the courts in turn carry out.
      • puppyg  ZweiSystem “… only for the rich and powerful”And it is human nature that officials at every level will, as they say, ‘go along to get along’. Their compliance and allegiance come from a need to feel secure, to believe that “at least I’m still okay”. The resulting status quo is a house of cards that, to bring down, takes a revolution.
    • Kiskatinawkid This whole sordid affair should serve as a warning to rural residents in northeastern BC thanks to Horgan’s sellout to LNG. The damage has been going on for years, but is going to get exponentially worse once (if) these LNG plants come on line.
      Sell the farm now while it still has some value.
    • anne cameron You didn’t “lose”, Jess. You’ve won the respect and admiration of many people. Sometimes Goliath and his army of arstles appears to have come out on top but he.. and they.. have to live with each other, and you don’t.
      Ya done good, my friend. Ya done real good!
    • political ranger Throughout all the sturm and drang this horrific story of despicable characters creates, let’s not forget one thing; it was and is the Alberta gov’t that was responsible for all this. Gov’t ministers and gov’t employees.
      Charlatans like Lorne Taylor, past Minister of Environment and Dan MacLennan, former head of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees both contributed to this farce; neither could believe that things should or could be any different. That’s just the way it was!Let’s not get off on to a tangent like the state and responsiveness of the legal system, no matter how important that is. It’s not what this story is about.
      This is about a corrupt government robbing and cheating citizens directly and through the use of it’s corporate proxies. The government is Alberta and the Albertans it employs. Let’s not lose sight of that. It’ still going on!
      • kouroi  political ranger Are you saying that the Supreme Court and the 5 judges in majority there are not just asses defending the big corporations of penalties caused by their wrong doing?
    • ReynoldR We have a legal system that prioritizes corporate greed above the charter rights of people. How Sad. Time for a serious discussion about dismantling capitalism and building back better.
      • Alan Girling  ReynoldR dismantling capitalism is a discussion, but careful with the slogans. ‘build back better’ comes from the very corporate elite you wish to dismantle.
    • Graham Disappointing to say the least. And they still continue the practice of fracking. It should have been stopped immediately after having been proven to poison underground water. This whole story reminds me of civil rights cases. Where roadblock after roadblock is set in ones way, where rules and laws are twisted to ill purposes, facts are dismissed and governments of all levels work against its people.
      I don’t understand.
      In this case, through government and regulators, we have allowed industry to spoil the landscape and libel anyone who points it out. For money, jobs, appointments on boards, taxes, and because it spoils our vision of ourselves.
      The courts and the regulators should not and cannot have its feelings hurt, they should not take offence to persistence and determination. They should consider the greater good and not just corporate or regulatory wellbeing. While this case has been allowed to die I think it has brought much to light and in doing so, hopefully, will make it much more difficult to get away with this again. I hope it will bring about positive change.
    • allan The “regulator” ought to be officially referred to as “the fixer”
    • JuHoansi Note to self: If I’m ever in a similar situation, never hire Klippenstein as my lawyer.

Comments from citizens via email:

SK: Read the article in the Tyee on your saga with fracking, looked like quite the ordeal but it sure seems you made a difference in the larger attitude toward fracking.

USA: OMG– so Inspiring AND disheartening– Even in “enlightened” Canada–it’s the same damn thing–

“After Toronto lawyers Murray Klippenstein and Cory Wanless quit the case in August 2018 without warning, Ernst was left hanging.”

“My lawyers knew I couldn’t find a replacement lawyer in Alberta when they quit,” said Ernst. “They even wrote me that and added that I would fail as a self-represented litigant.”

Yukon: Hello Jessica, Thank you for being a true warrior against corrupt governments and the fossil fuel industry that continues to poison our most precious resource “water”.

I just read the excellent article that Andrew Nikiforuk wrote in the Tyee on the present status of your claim. You are a person on knowledge, honesty and a super women in taking on such a corrupt industry. You provided Yukoners Concerned the motivation to fight fracking and to ensure that all Yukoners understand the consequences of going down that road.

As a result the current Yukon Government and was recently elected for a second minority 5 year term, promised to put another moratorium against fracking in the Yukon. There is no doubt about it, our hard work over the past number of years, have paid off and Yukoners have a good understanding of what the long term effects of fracking are.

When Albertans start to realize that they have a dwindling supply of fresh water they may get that message that can’t drink nor grow food for the next generations.

Thanks again for being a positive model in building for the future. If we can be of support for the future please do contact us.

BC: Dear Jessica, I am sorry to hear about this legal outcome. Thank you for your fight, the example you have set, voicing what the petroleum industry has done and keeps doing, and protecting water.

BC: Just now finished reading the Tyee article…. Her treatment by the government and her lawyer is disgusting.. She is a woman of integrity and drive, treated most unfairly.

BC: Murray proves himself an asshole over and over again. My wish is that he slithers back into the slime he came from….

AB: Hi Jessica, From what I’ve gleaned lately and ongoingly (from Nikiforuk’s recent article of late), I want to congratulate and let you know that you certainly have gone down a fantastic route of challenging the power and control that is in place across the full spectrum of our controlled reality. … You’ve done very well.

NS: Jessica Ernst gave time and money for years to ensure that the fracking industry could not continue to destroy our water, Earth and air freely. Government and legal systems failed her. Most of the media too. Big time. We owe her a big thank you-especially here in NS where her 2-3 visits here helped inform and galvanize the public to push government for a moratorium against fracking.

AB: OMG JESSICA. !I was stunned to wake up to this story, my takeaway at arms length Murray baby was yet another facilitator to Encana by delaying as he did to enable and assist. What a goof. The RCMP and a three times removed lawyer for the crown returned…files from STACKS – 73 bankers boxes and wow…. Bottom line I am alive, my brain works, and we have actually changed much for a better world for women, rural women in particular. You fighting on HEALS me all the time when I need it most.

You had that Judge Barbara in Calgary who was changed by you, Jessica, I could see her light up and yes the game is totally rigged, it always was and betrayal in this land of Trumpers and Kenney types is rampant for the price of a cup of coffee.

Congrats on a hellava battle, much MUCH love!

BC:

Oh my
How heartbreaking.
Thank you for your years and years of effort and personal costs (not just the financial but emotional costs). One day hopefully through renewed processes you will be found legally right by the courts. Thank you

NS: I am devastated for you. You are my hero none the less! Your courage and perseverance is unmatched and I am so grateful for the attention you brought to the fracking outrage. I hope you are well in other ways and I send my love to you.

AB: OMG Jessica, … my heart goes out to you; I’m so angry, so outraged and sad at the injustice of it all. What a shitty world we live in with such cruds running the show and trashing our beautiful earth. Jessica, you are a true heroine the likes of which we’ve never had before and I thank you with all my heart for your courage and integrity. I just want to cry. with love and gratitude,

BC: Good morning Jessica…i read the tyee often and saw the courageous fight you are in….i also remember the Ludwig affair from years ago….and the pain they put him through……you have first hand knowledge of the theft of your monies by the legal law society that you don’t belong to…….you are also aware of the massive trespasses against Your good name and honest intentions………these transgressions to your honor cannot be recognized in civil courts where all the actors have immunity……..a man or woman in a common law court can lawfully charge the man acting as the trespasser….as well as anyone under his control………there is no other way as the law courts are massively corrupt…… ..all that money they stole from you has to be replaced and more  

BC: Hi Jess, just read Andrew’s article and it got us all worked up…. can’t imagine what it did for you to rehash everything again. You are still a hero to many, including us, I know that doesn’t make what you’ve gone through any less painful.

We were reading this this morning & thought we should send it to you. I always loved her music and what she did, you should read the reader’ choice comments too, this one reminded me of someone I know:

“God I love her and her broken down, fierce, weird, wild independent female spirit. What a human on this earth.”

Sinead O’Connor Remembers Things Differently, The mainstream narrative is that a pop star ripped up a photo of the pope on “Saturday Night Live” and derailed her life. What if the opposite were true?

Co Leitrim, Republic of Ireland, saved from frac hell:

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