BCCLA blasts B.C. government for suppression of legislative protests

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is calling on the Liberal government to rescind an injunction it obtained to ban protesters from the legislative grounds.

For the last week, a group protesting against the Liberal government has been camped out in front of the Parliament in Victoria.

Annoyed, the government obtained an order from Justice Bouck of the B.C. Supreme Court which prohibits anyone having notice of the order from camping or sleeping on the legislative grounds. The order also requires anyone receiving notice of the order to “cease to occupy, maintain, use, erect or construct any structure or object on the legislative grounds.”

The order also requires that anyone having notice of the order “immediately remove themselves and their belongings from the legislative grounds.”

Attorney General Geoff Plant has reportedly decided not to enforce the order—at least for now.

According to John Dixon, President of the BCCLA: “Yes, it’s true that the protesters don’t have a legal right to take up residence on the lawn of the legislature… but it is equally true that they have a constitutional right to express themselves on matters of vital, public importance. So it’s a question of balance, and the balance should tip heavily on the side of respecting freedom of speech. “Sometimes the most powerful, non-violent way to communicate political dissent is to turn up and just not go away. Putting your body on the line and keeping it there is a way of giving physical witness to the seriousness of your concern. The government ought to respect that kind of peaceful commitment on the part of the citizens in front of the legislature, and forget about the grass—or the embarrassment or the impact on tourism or whatever else the A.G. imagines is as important as respecting the rights of citizens to give emphatic point to their dissent.”

In obtaining the injunction, the government apparently relied on an obscure regulation entitled the Legislative Grounds Protection Regulation which, among other things, prohibits occupying, using, or constructing anything upon the legislative grounds as well as residing, camping or sleeping on the grounds.

The defendant protesters were not represented by legal counsel at the injunction order hearing.