Home / BCCLA at United Nations to slam new bill that would turn peaceful protesters into criminals

BCCLA at United Nations to slam new bill that would turn peaceful protesters into criminals

Rights group invited to Bangkok for expert consultation in UN investigation of political rights violations in the context of natural resource development

BANGKOK, Thailand (December 15, 2014) – The BC Civil Liberties Association met with the United Nations today about a new bill introduced in the House of Commons this month that will criminalize many peaceful – and currently lawful – protests, if they interfere even temporarily with the “lawful use, operation and enjoyment” of “critical infrastructure”, which is broadly defined in the bill.

“We are at the United Nations to cry foul on Canada’s latest attempt to criminalize peaceful protest,” said Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, who is in Bangkok to attend meetings at the UN’s Asia-Pacific headquarters. “Now striking flight attendants and kids protesting pipelines on Burnaby Mountain could be considered criminals? Either of these lawful protests could count as a crime under this law if they interfere with something of economic value. That is simply ridiculous and it violates the fundamental freedoms of Canadians.”

The BCCLA has been invited by the United Nations to a special meeting of experts to discuss the treatment of the rights of communities and demonstrators in relation to natural resource development projects around the world. The United Nations Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on the freedom of assembly and association is conducting a global investigation examining how the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association have been violated in order to smooth the path for resource development.

Paterson noted that additional parts of the bill simply duplicate already-existing offences in the Criminal Code, such as destroying or damaging infrastructure: “The parts of the bill that don’t violate people’s rights are just a re-tread of existing criminal offences, and are totally unnecessary.

Private member’s bill C-639 was introduced on December 3 and was endorsed immediately by the federal government. The press release accompanying the bill indicated that it will be debated in the House of Commons in early 2015.

In Bangkok, the BCCLA will also be discussing Canada’s troubled record on respecting the rights of those opposed to resource extraction projects. In recent years, the federal government has labelled people opposed to natural resource projects as radicals, and has made regulatory processes less accessible to public, civil society and First Nations participation. The BCCLA has filed complaints concerning federal government spying on activists, Indigenous communities and community groups, and complaints alleging that the federal government is spying on all protests nationwide through a multi-agency intelligence-gathering operation.

“We are meeting in Bangkok with representatives from non-democratic countries where protest is a serious crime. It is humiliating for Canada to be borrowing tactics from dictatorial governments,” added Paterson. “Canada has not only broken with our own constitution in criminalizing protest, spying on First Nations, and denouncing community groups. It’s also breaking its international commitments to protect the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly of Canadians. We are here to make sure that the global community knows what Canada is up to.”