After harpercon Rick Norlock made an ass of himself asking the representatives from the BCCLA and Greenpeace if they were "fundamentally opposed ... [get it? fundamentally/fundamentalist??? huh? ya geddit??] ... to getting terrorists off the streets," let's see if Megan Leslie of the NDP can restore dignity and sanity to this process.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much to our witnesses.I'm the environment critic for the NDP, so I really want to focus on section 2 and the specific exclusion for lawful activity. However, before I get to that, I do want to ask a quick question of Greenpeace, because you're an international organization. You're Greenpeace Canada, but you know what's going on with your colleagues around the world.How do the laws proposed in Bill C-51 compare to what Greenpeace faces in other countries?
A good question, because Blaney and his fellow harpercons have been making many assertions about foreign regimes, which Craig Forcese has said are erroneous.
Thank you very much for the question.
Certainly, if we compare this law to those of the European countries, there are protections for both lawful and unlawful protest as an essential part of democratic change. As I laid out at the beginning of the remarks, some of these critical changes that have been brought about vis-à-vis human rights, social justice, and the environment wouldn't have been made possible without the right to protest.
T'would appear that Ms. Kerr was not prepared for that question.
In drilling down a little bit—I know, Ms. Kerr, that you didn't have a lot of time to get into that aspect of your brief—as I look at section 2 and this exclusion for lawful protest, your examples are incredible and inspiring. But I think about more banal examples, such as when the Raging Grannies came to my office. They didn't have a permit to be on the sidewalk outside of my office, but they were singing about GMO seeds, and then they came in and we had tea.
During the Idle No More movement in Halifax, people descended upon the Micmac Mall in Dartmouth and started a spontaneous round dance. It was nothing but goodness and light. People came out of stores, and they danced and they sang. But they didn't have a permit.
I agree with Professor Forcese's analysis of the problems this creates.
Ms. Cheung, maybe I'll start with you. Could you talk first about what impact will this have on groups that are seeking to combat climate change, groups that are concerned about environmental rights?
As the committee will hear in more detail today, the concern is that this law makes no exemption for.... Unlike the definition of terrorist activity in the current Anti-terrorism Act, the bill now only provides exemption for lawful protest. I think that, as our colleagues at Greenpeace and as Professors Roach and Forcese have indicated, this is just far too broad. It captures all sorts of peaceful, non-violent protects that may simply be running afoul of a municipal bylaw: they may not have a proper permit—that sort of thing.
As I've stated, ... at these hearings, the harpercons have explicitly stated that this law will NOT target peaceful civil disobedience. BUT the law, as worded, can encompass peaceful civil disobedience. And it's the words in the legislation, not the the promises made before the law is passed, that have the final say.
Listening to sane, decent people speak at these hearings is like a breath of fresh air after the stench from the harpercons' mouths.
We have heard discussion about, for example, this not being what this law is meant to target; that it's not really meant to go after the Raging Grannies or kids who are protesting without a permit. But I think this approach—and this is something we set out in our brief—really threatens to politicize what ought to be an objective assessment of security. It makes quite subjective what constitutes a true security threat vis-à-vis what isn't a true security threat.For the politically active, this is quite concerning, because whether their conduct were to be considered as something that undermines the security of Canada might simply turn on whether their cause is politically popular or not. In our view, that's quite dangerous for freedom of expression and for the right to dissent. We take the view that the better approach would be to adopt the definition contained in the Criminal Code, which explicitly exempts from the definition of terrorist activity all advocacy, all protest, all dissent, and stoppage of work.
And that's what we're trying to get at here, isn't it—terrorist activity?
Okay.Mr. Stewart or Ms. Kerr, what impact do you think this could have on citizens' efforts to protect the environment and engage on environmental issues?
Well, this is our great fear, that so many of our supporters, seeing the potential conflation of peaceful protest and terrorism...and that even though this wasn't the intention of the bill, many legal experts are interpreting it as such, that it will put a real chill on individuals' and communities' activism, in a context in which there actually is quite a huge deficit of trust between many citizens and their government and some government institutions.... The extent to which it will harness, will contract, will constrain the right of people to carry out legitimate protests against very serious concerns around clean rivers and air and an end to catastrophic climate change....
Which is probably one of the bill's selling points to the harpercons and their pay-masters. The chilling effect it will have on protesters who will have to worry that some government authority will interpret what they do as "terrorism," which will bring down a mountain upon their heads and allow the state to arrest them and their supporters and remove their internet presence and confiscate their resources and etc., etc.
Thank you for bringing up the word “chill”, because it's really important for me. As it is there is a chill in the environmental movement around protest and speaking out. But I also think about things such as, in Halifax, our having an “Occupy” in Victoria Park. I went down right before folks were being arrested to talk to them about what their legal rights were, how to not resist arrest—those kinds of basic legal facts. There was no chill there, but folks really had no idea what their rights were.
So it is about the chill, but I think it's also about...those folks could be spied on without their even knowing, just because they didn't have a permit to be in Victoria Park. That's what we're talking about here, isn't it?
Do you want to jump in there, Keith?
Given the context right now, there is a great deal of conflict over what to do about climate change. Given that this is one of the defining issues of this century, there should be. The attempt to put a chill on those types of protests, when people who have protested against pipelines have already been spied upon, as you will hear.... We've already had statements from government ministers that very much equate this movement with being anti-Canadian, and also from the RCMP that it's the “anti-Canada petroleum movement”, which I had never heard of before.We shouldn't be trying to limit democratic discussion, even when it is intense. That is part of being in a democracy; that is our right as Canadians. There are laws to deal with such things as illegal protests; we don't need to conflate those types of protests with terrorism. This is why your British colleagues say to separate policing of peaceful protest from anti-terrorism. That is what should be done.