By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 25, 2013 - 0 Comments
Last Wednesday, Native Protestors blocked the QE II near Gateway Boulevard fully and then partially for a little less than 2 hours. Then during the afternoon commute, the same protestors set up a blockade on St. Albert Trail at Sturgeon Road. As St. Albert is a bedroom community of Edmonton, I represent many commuters. My office has been inundated with e-mails and phone calls asking why the RCMP allowed this admittedly peaceful protest to proceed. According to the St. Albert “Gazette”, the demonstration happened with the cooperation of the RCMP, who had met in advance with the protestors and were on scene to manage traffic. Apparently, the RCMP share Edmonton Police Service’s theory that managing a protest is a better tactic than stopping it.
I am not so sure. In the first place, acquiescing to an illegal activity does nothing to prevent further illegal activities. And make no mistake; the police were enabling an illegal activity. Section 430 of the Criminal Code clearly defines the offence of “Mischief” when one willfully “obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property”. Moreover, you can be charged with “Intimidation” when you compel “another person to abstain from doing anything that he or she has a lawful right to do” including one who “blocks or obstructs a highway”, which is “a road to which the public has the right of access” (Section 2).
A hallmark of a free society is our Charter protected rights of expression and assembly. Accordingly, I defend the rights of peaceful assembly without equivocation. However, one’s freedom to demonstrate cannot break the criminal law; one’s freedom to protest cannot trump another’s right to the lawful use of public property to get home after work. As enlightenment philosopher John Locke so famously declared: “my liberty to swing my fist is limited by the proximity of your chin.”
Blake Richards is similarly concerned.
That being said, some of the militant activists hiding behind the Idle No More banner are doing all they can to threaten the progress being made between our government and First Nations leaders. Canadians are growing increasingly frustrated and disappointed with the actions of those who blockade highways and railways. The blockades must stop. They are counterproductive, and an impediment to progress.
From a philosophical standpoint, violating the law is fairly central to the idea of civil disobedience.
Such protests are, of course, not unique to aboriginal causes. Farmers in British Columbia conducted a blockade of a private property on an entirely unrelated matter this month (the blockade ended Thursday at the RCMP’s behest). Farmers have used convoys in the past that have tied up or otherwise impeded traffic in the process of protesting government policy. (Farmers also protested the coalition in 2008.) And at least one such protest has occurred with support from some of Mr. Richards and Mr. Rathgeber’s colleagues (see story below).
Ultimately, we’re talking about tolerance: what should a democratic society be willing to tolerate and what should law enforcement be willing to tolerate before intervening? (From a policing standpoint, for the sake of maintaining peace and order, where is the line between letting a protest run its course and needing to enforce the law? At what point is it more troublesome to intervene than it would be to work around the situation?) Protesters who break the law probably have to accept the possibility of being arrested, charged or fined—though, with something like a highway blockade, working with law enforcement in advance might allow for reasonable compromises to be found. But protesters also have to keep in mind how the general public will view their actions: a protest might be meant to raise awareness, but it might hurt the larger cause if the action greatly angers and frustrates those directly impacted and is viewed unfavourable by the majority of those who read and hear the news. In that regard, Idle No More protesters might be smart to consider the complaints of Mr. Rathgeber and Mr. Richards, even if they disagree with their conclusions. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 6:03 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Oh how happy Conservatives must’ve been made last night to read the inflammatory remarks of Liberal MP David McGuinty. Oh how giddy they must’ve been at the prospect of hanging this one on the Liberal side. One presumes several backbenchers could barely sleep, so anxious to get on with today’s festival of shame.
Well, of course, happy and outraged. Deeply, terribly outraged. Yes, yes, incredibly outraged. Profoundly saddened even.
So immensely outraged, in fact, that the Immigration Minister was sent out after the meeting of the Conservative caucus to specially address the matter. And no less than four Conservatives—each of them an Albertan who could claim a personal affront—were sent up before Question Period to variously fume. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 5, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Indeed, this is one of the key difficulties of legislating in this area. Pre-emptive arrests, especially on the basis of dress, are constitutionally problematic, and law enforcement already has the legislative tools to deal with masked rioters once a riot is underway. As a result, the best way forward for parliamentarians is simply to support police efforts to develop better training methods and better crowd control techniques, to improve communication with revellers and demonstrators, to share best practices, and to increase the number of qualified officers to deal with large public gatherings.
Such an approach is less likely to achieve headlines, but far more likely to achieve results. Once the real bill is unmasked there remains no evidence that, had this legislation been on the books last year, the Vancouver riots would not have occurred, that they would have been policed differently, or that anyone would be more severely punished for participating.
Dylan Reid reviews the ancient history of legislators attempting to limit the ability of people to wear masks.
Modern authorities should take a page from this sixteenth-century experience and learn to distinguish between harmless and dangerous uses of masks. The New York anti-mask law did introduce an exception for parties in the 1970s. And the French law against covering the face also had to include a series of exceptions, including wearing them for Carnival. But these laws still don’t distinguish between wearing a mask for peaceful protest and wearing one for rioting. The resurgence of this long-forgotten issue reminds us that covering the face in public carries power—to set oneself apart from society or to identify oneself as part of a group, to break free of social rules or protest against authority. After all, even children carry an implicit threat when they walk the streets in disguise at the end of October, tricks if there are no treats—but we have yet to abolish Hallowe’en.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 5:43 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Thomas Mulcair agreed with Stephen Harper. Just not now. Or at least not the version of Stephen Harper that was now in front of the NDP leader.
“Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are trying to shove another 450-page budget bill down the throats of Canadians,” Mr. Mulcair reported. “The finance minister once again showed total disregard for our democratic institutions, choosing photo ops rather than Parliament, 450 pages. The Prime Minister once criticized the Liberals for their omnibus approach. He was right then, he is wrong now.”
“Will the Prime Minister respect Canadians, respect the role of Parliament and split this omnibus bill to allow for proper study?” the NDP leader asked.
Alas, Mr. Harper was not inclined to agree with his earlier view.
“Mr. Speaker, Canadians’ priorities are focused on the economy. They remain jobs and growth,” the Prime Minister reported. “This government continues to move forward with the latest version of the plan presented in March to promote jobs and growth across this country and to continue the relatively superior performance of the Canadian economy.”
You needn’t read the budget yourself, you see, because it is mostly just the words “jobs” and “growth” written over and over again for 450 pages. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 17, 2012 at 7:25 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. John Baird pointed at Thomas Mulcair and laughed.
Conservative MP Andrew Saxton was on his feet a couple rows back, claiming that the leader of the opposition had spent the summer promoting the idea of a tax on carbon. Mr. Baird apparently thought this was funny. Mr. Saxton had been preceded by Shelly Glover. And Mr. Saxton and Ms. Glover would be followed by Conservative MP John Williamson, all rising in the moments before Question Period to recite their assigned talking points.
Peter Van Loan had accused Mr. Mulcair of favouring a carbon tax this morning at a news conference to mark the start of the fall sitting. Two hours later, the Conservative party press office had then issued a “fact check” repeating the claim. Veteran Affairs Minister Steven Blaney posted the talking point to Facebook. Tim Uppal, the minister of state for democratic reform, tweeted it. Minister of International Co-operation Julian Fantino tweeted it too.
Last week it was Conservative MPs Phil McColeman, Susan Truppe, Joe Preston and Ed Holder. The week before that it was Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver. Back in June, the Conservatives launched television attack ads that repeated the claim.
By Emma Teitel - Friday, May 18, 2012 at 12:19 PM - 0 Comments
Gut reaction is a dangerous way to make a law. It has a tendency to catch hapless bystanders in its dragnet
On June 15 last year, just after Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo let in his fourth goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Boston Bruins, he looked up at the camera through the bars of his goalie mask with a vapid expression on his long and handsome face, one that was about to launch a thousand thugs. When the game ended a few minutes later in a humiliating 4-0 loss to the Bruins, Vancouver hockey fans laid siege to their own city. The streets were a sea of blue and green jerseys and broken glass; storefronts were demolished and police cruisers toppled; at least four people were stabbed, 140 injured, and more than 100 arrested. The vast majority of those responsible for the damage were not masked, kaffiyeh-clad boys spouting anarchist slogans, but drunk sports fans in their hometown sweaters, the names of their fallen hockey heroes printed across their backs in plain sight.
You would think, in light of the now notorious Vancouver riot, that if the federal government was committed to outlawing an item of clothing that was dramatically linked to violent protests, they’d seriously consider banning Canucks jerseys. But the piece of apparel that was implicated with the Conservative majority’s endorsement last week of Bill C-309 was that classic bogeyman of accessories: the mask.
The proposed law would make it a criminal offence to wear a mask during an “unlawful assembly,” punishable by a maximum 10-year prison sentence (which the Conservatives increased from the five-year maximum included in the bill when it was originally introduced in October of 2011). It was a special moment in Canadian history, with a dazzling illogic all its own, especially considering that this year’s mask-heavy Occupy protests were as peaceful as the Vancouver riots weren’t. Unfortunately though, logic of any kind probably didn’t factor very much in the vote. As Andrew Lokan of Paliare Roland Barristers (external counsel to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association) explained, it’s unlikely that Bill C-309—being a private member’s bill—was based on a substantive body of factual research, the kind, for instance, that might link personal anonymity to a violent herd mentality. So what was the mission in the first place? My best guess is the bill was driven by a visceral adverse reaction to cowardice (refusing to put a face to your convictions), by cynicism (the assumption that masked protesters are more likely to smash in a storefront than riled up hockey fans), and basic creepiness (the Richard Nixon mask in the movie Dead Presidents and Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street.) Hence the hatching of a good story—that people wearing Guy Fawkes masks are a dangerous menace to society. If only it were true.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 1:55 PM - 0 Comments
The vote broke along party lines—New Democrats voting in favour; Conservatives, Liberals, the four Bloc MPs and Elizabeth May voting against—save for three exceptions. Conservative MPs James Bezan, Blake Richards and Brad Trost voted in favour.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 9, 2012 at 2:11 PM - 0 Comments
From the latest issue of the print edition, 1300 words or so on the permanent campaign that is our politics (including a bit about something the NDP has been up to that I don’t believe has been reported elsewhere).
Consider one of the otherwise inconsequential portions of the parliamentary day—the time allotted for “statements by members.” These 15 minutes immediately before question period are generally reserved for the recognition of favourite causes, honoured constituents and notable world events, but in recent years this time has also allowed for free political advertising. Faced with a Liberal opposition, the Conservatives took regular pleasure in using those 15 minutes to mock Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. After barely two weeks of relative quiet this spring, the Harper government duly turned on the NDP—backbencher David Wilks stood up on June 15, nine sitting days into the new Parliament, to decry the dangerous policies of the “radical hard left NDPers.” Five days later, Conservative Blake Richards ventured that the NDP was “not fit to govern.” “With its high tax plan, the NDP is not fit to govern or to lead Canada through the fragile global economic recovery,” Richards informed the House. That particular phrase—and its cousin “unfit to govern”—have since been committed to Hansard, during members’ statements, question period and otherwise, a total of 37 times.
This is the embodiment of the permanent campaign—a constant, unrelenting and tireless approach to politics. And it is this idea of the never-ending election that now dominates Ottawa. What might have previously been dismissed as an unfortunate side effect of minority Parliament is now foundational to modern Canadian politics. The practice–in discourse and tactics alike–prevails even after the obvious political necessity is gone.
Why does this matter? Good question. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
Megan Leslie, asked yesterday about Mr. Trudeau’s shouted profanities.
I think it was an honest reaction from him in some ways. I certainly have bit my tongue so hard sometimes it bleeds in that House. I think he recognized that it wasn’t Parliamentary. Sometimes though the Conservatives and their games do get the better of us and we react. I think it was an honest reaction. He apologized for it. I just wish that the Conservatives would actually talk about issues and stop with the name calling and these kinds of dirty tricks. It’s really shameful.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, March 6, 2010 at 3:12 PM - 28 Comments
WoodworthMP demonstrating nimble political responsiveness once again, the PM pivots on a dime responding to Cdn support for our existing national anthem
WildRoseMPBlake Canadians spoke loud and clear and our govt listened – the National Anthem’s staying the way it is
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, August 20, 2009 at 12:47 PM - 13 Comments
Ontario Tory MP Patrick Brown hosted and played in his second Hockey Night in…
Ontario Tory MP Patrick Brown hosted and played in his second Hockey Night in Barrie charity game at the Barrie Molson Centre. The teams were a mix of Conservative MPs, past and present NHLers and some celebrities. The event raised $121, 000 for Barrie’s Royal Victoria Hospital. Team Blue won 15 to 13. Below, Labour Minister Rona Ambrose and Defense Minister Peter MacKay.
Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron MacLean.
Marc Hickox from the TV show Rent-A-Goalie.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, August 6, 2009 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
And the Playboy playmate who sat in Harper’s chair
Jason Kenney moonlights as a hockey coach
Nothing says Calgary Stampede like a lively game of hockey. While the big summer festival was in full steam, Alberta Conservative MP Blake Richards organized the Wild Rose Hockey Challenge charity match between MPs and Alberta MLAs. Environment Minister Jim Prentice played centre. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was one of the coaches. “He was a good motivator,” quips Richards, “not so good on the strategic plays.” The game included NHL pros Dana Tyrell, Zach Boychuk and Jay Rosehill, who just signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Richards says Rosehill was traded from the MPs’ team to the MLAs during the game because the MLAs were doing so poorly. In the end, the MPs won 17 to 13. The event raised $10,000 for victims-of-crime funds in Richards’ riding of Wild Rose. Richards is helping keep up the athletic reputation of the MP he replaced in the last election, Conservative Myron Thompson. “He was quite a ball player,” notes Richards of Thompson’s younger days. “He tried out for the New York Yankees. He could really hit.” Richards, who used to work for Thompson when he was an MP, says his old boss is now selling steel buildings for use in the oil patch and on farms.
Shannon Tweed’s parliamentary tour guide
When celebrity couple Kiss rocker Gene Simmons and former Playboy playmate/actress Shannon Tweed needed a tour of the Parliament Buildings, they were put in touch with Ottawa MP Pierre Poilievre, a 30-year-old conservative Conservative not exactly known for moving in rock-star circles. Tweed, a former Newfoundlander, had contacted Tory supporter and former Ottawa city councillor Linda Davis, a friend from the days when the actress was living in Ottawa. Davis hooked her and Simmons up with Poilievre, who took the couple to the library of Parliament and the House of Commons, where Tweed sat in Stephen Harper’s seat and Simmons sat in Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon’s seat. Later Senator Hugh Segal joined the group and gave them a tour of the Senate. The couple, who were being followed by video cameras for their reality TV show Gene Simmons Family Jewels, were also taken to Senate Speaker Noël Kinsella’s ofﬁce. When Tweed saw the gilded mace, she quipped: “Oh, that’s where I left that.” Simmons thought it looked like “an old club.” Poilievre replied: “The Senate itself is an old club.” Poilievre says he was happy to help boost Ottawa’s tourism appeal by getting the sights of Parliament Hill onto a popular TV show. “I like Gene Simmons,” he says. “He’s a great entrepreneur.” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 10:58 PM - 21 Comments