WATCH: Journalist threatened with arrest AGAIN for documenting anti-pipeline protests
A Canadian photojournalist has again been threatened with arrest twice in two days by the RCMP and CP police after attempting to cover the anti-pipeline #ShutDownCanada protests.
On Friday, photojournalist Jesse Winter was threatened for a second time in two days the RCMP and the CP police for doing his job as a journalist. In the video, Winter can be heard criticizing the police for not allowing him to document the protests.
“Are you aware of the amount of criticism the RCMP and the CP police have face this week for exactly this,” asked Winter. The police officer refused to comment on the matter, instead of refusing to allow the photographer access to the site.
Just one day earlier, Winter said on Twitter that a Canadian Pacific police officer threatened to arrest him for documenting the #ShutDownCanada protests that have crippled parts of the country’s infrastructure.
Protests across Canada have sprung up over the last two weeks in reaction to the construction of a pipeline in Northern British Columbia. In Ontario, protestors blocked the tracks at Belleville, stopping all train travel between Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa.
Since the protest began last Thursday, Via Rail has had to cancel 157 trips, leaving at least 24,500 passengers stranded. All freight trains carrying goods across the country are halted as well.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that he would not intervene in any of the #ShutDownCanada protests. Conservative leaders, on the other hand, were outraged by Trudeau’s lack of leadership in dealing with the shutting down of major highways and railways.
In Vancouver Island, protesters erected barricades to stop cars from accessing public highways. In Metro Vancouver, 57 demonstrators were arrested after judges granted an injunction to remove a blockade that had stopped workers from entering the Port of Vancouver.
Likewise, in Toronto, protestors decided to occupy the office of the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations—chanting slogans like, “Canada is an illegitimate, violent, colonialist state.”
The rule of law is one of the most important legal principles on which Canada is based. Along with the supremacy of God, it is mentioned in the very first words of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.”
The rule of law means that we are ruled by laws, not by the whims of a King, or the clamouring of a mob. The rule of law also means that the law applies to everyone, even the King; there can be no exemptions for the King or his favourites.
Countries which practice and uphold the rule of law tend to thrive economically, socially, politically and culturally. Countries which uphold the rule of law become wealthy because people can work, buy, sell and trade in the knowledge that their property and their person are protected by law. Economies thrive when people know that the law will be enforced, and that the law will be applied to everyone, even to the King and his favourites. The rule of law provides investors, foreign and domestic, with confidence to invest their money in business projects.
Conversely, when a country condones law-breaking, investors will put their money elsewhere, and quickly. The world’s poorest and most violent countries are those where politicians are above the law, and the law is not applied equally to all.
The decisions of Canada’s politicians and police to condone–for three weeks or longer–the blockading of railway lines by aggrieved protesters violate the rule of law in at least two ways.
First, our politicians are effectively stating that individuals with strongly held political opinions are entitled to engage in illegal activities, in this case shutting down railway lines. Second, law-breaking is permitted because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other politicians sympathize with the protesters’ ideology and demands: the law does not apply to the King’s favourites.
What if a group of taxpayers, fed up with losing half of their earnings to three levels of government, occupied a federal government building in Ottawa? What if a bunch of pro-lifers interfered with access to an abortion clinic in Toronto? What if a contingent of Western separatists blockaded the Burrard Street Bridge in Vancouver? In all three cases, you can be sure the authorities would very quickly remove the obstructing protesters, even if the protest methods were entirely peaceful. Politicians and police would say: “You have a right to express your opinions, but preventing other people from going about their business is illegal.” Members of these three hypothetical cohorts would be lucky to get off with a warning; the blockading pro-lifers would almost certainly be prosecuted for breaking the law.
Politicians repudiate the rule of law in Canada when they elevate the concerns of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to a superior legal status, as more worthy than the concerns of other Canadians. This is not a comment for or against the legitimacy of the demands of Wet’suwet’en chiefs. Applying the rule of law means that everyone, regardless of political orientation or ideological conviction, must be held to account when breaking the law. Everyone, or almost everyone, has strongly felt moral convictions about various political issues, including taxation, abortion, climate change, and aboriginal rights. Depth of emotion and strength of conviction should not trump the rule of law. If we respect the rule of law, then either everybody is entitled to blockade railway lines, or nobody is.
Yet in Canada the standard is a double one. When inflicting serious damage on thousands of people by blocking railway lines in the name of an aboriginal cause, one can expect to get a phone call from the prime minister, eager to have a conversation. Why? Because of his known sympathy to aboriginal causes. Yet if anti-tax protesters, Western separatists or pro-lifers broke the law, would any of them get invited to tea with the prime minister?
The consequences of repudiating the rule of law are predictable. Rewarding law-breakers with an invitation to discuss their grievances will encourage more law-breaking in future. Investors will stop putting their money into projects and businesses in Canada. Law-abiding citizens will become apathetic and cynical regarding the bias and incompetence of their governments. Failing to enforce laws when they are broken by a politically favoured group will cause all Canadians to have less respect for all laws. Favouring some people because they have the “correct” political convictions is a sure way to destroy social cohesion and incite mistrust amongst citizens.
Upholding the rule of law will certainly result in some negative publicity, when radical or extremist groups distribute video-footage of screaming protesters getting arrested and carried off into paddy wagons. Canada and its police will be denounced aggressively as “fascist” and worse, just for upholding the rule of law. But nothing is free. The long-term costs of repudiating the rule of law are far higher than the short-term costs of some nasty name-calling.
Rita George, a Wet’suwet’en hereditary subchief has decided to come forward to voice her opinion about the anti-pipeline protestors who are not affiliated with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. George is both a band member and part of the hereditary system. She also previously helped translate a major Supreme Court decision that gave greater control to Indigenous communities over their land.
“I want the world to know what’s been happening to us. We are being bullied, it’s so shameful, so hurtful. We are being humiliated.” said George.
George was only a young woman when she was selected by her community for a Wet’suwet’en leadership role. A role that George says she knew she would be fulfilling for the rest of her life.
George was initially very apprehensive about speaking out against what is happening in her community. She didn’t want to cause any further pain surrounding this issue however she said she feels it is also important that the truth be told.
“I want the world to know why I am stepping forward as a matriarch,” spoke George at the Pleasant Valley Cafe in Houston, B.C. “The world thinks the matriarchs are behind all the protests going on and that’s not true. None of the matriarchs were contacted.”
“There is no love, there is no respect. That’s not the way of our ancestors,” Ms. George said, saying she is speaking on behalf of the matriarchs and elders of her community. “If I keep quiet, if I don’t come forward to address our point of view, it will look like we are supporters. We are not.”
George expressed having great difficulty speaking out against some of her own and the unaffiliated anti-pipeline protestors who have turned her community into a battleground over issues of climate change policy. She said even the elders are afraid to voice their concerns.
Ms. George said the current influx of outside protesters who are pushing their own agenda via her community has muddled the exchange of opinions within the Wet’suwet’en community. Instead, George feels it would be much more appropriate if the Wet’suwet’en community had time and the privacy to discuss this important issue.
“It hurts me to see them [pipeline opponents] wearing regalia in the snow and mud and marching in the cities. That’s not right. That’s affecting all of us. Our ancestors would say they are dirtying the names and the regalia.”
As the nation’s economy continues to sputter due to nationwide anti-pipeline protests and blockades, the Trudeau government wants $2.1 billion for Indigenous communities.
That’s approximately 53 percent of the $3.8 billion the government is asking MPs to approve in supplementary spending according to CBC.
The ask comes as companies are turning away from doing business with Canada because of the blockades and protests. One president and CEO referred to the ongoing in Canada as a “ridiculous situation.”
Mohawk protestors have blockaded train tracks in Belleville Ontario for the last 15 days, demanding an end to the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern BC—a project approved by the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.
Conservative Treasury Board Critic Tim Uppal pledged that his party would work to ensure that the money was spent to improve the lives of Indigenous people: “Canada’s Conservatives have long advocated for the federal Liberal government to take more steps to ensure Indigenous peoples across the country are able to more fully participate in Canada’s economy.”
Conservative leadership candidate Peter MacKay is facing some online backlash and general confusion after deleting a tweet supporting fed-up Albertans who tore down a blockade set up by anti-pipeline protestors on an Edmonton railway.
“Glad to see a couple Albertans with a pickup truck can do more for our economy in an afternoon than Justin Trudeau could do in four years,” the tweet read.
The now-deleted tweet referenced a viral confrontation between protestors and counter-protestors which stopped a train in its tracks earlier that day.
Global TV’s Nicole Stillger tweeted “Counter-protestors hauling away the blockade and loading it into this truck.”
There are more and more instances of everyday Canadians confronting blockades throughout Canada.
Earlier today, a Quebec man confronted a group of protestors at a scene which was described as “carnival-like.”
“You are blocking billions of dollars from our economy. A thousand people have just lost their jobs. I don’t care about Legault and Trudeau, what I want is that you leave here safely, that’s all,” said David Skitt to protestors, translated from French.
CN confirmed that it has obtained an injunction to clear blockades on their Saint-Lambert railways.