Despite several protests opposing the project, Canada to buy Kinder Morgan pipeline
This is outrageous! Despite widespread indigenous-led protests, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just announced that the Canadian government will purchase Kinder Morgan’s highly controversial Trans Mountain pipeline. https://t.co/Y4jWawGqx6— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice) June 1, 2018
Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline
As previously reported by the Monitor, protests against the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline project continued in Canada. Recently, the government’s decision to buy the Kinder Morgan pipeline sparked new protests across the country, with many activists, including prominent indigenous leaders, vowing to continue fighting against the expansion of the project. On 30th May, in Vancouver, more than 1,000 people rallied at a local science center to hear speeches that denounced the Prime Minister’s plan. In Montreal, leaders of three indigenous groups, environmental activists, and union members led hundreds in chants against the pipeline project. The First Nation leaders included Assembly of First Nations regional Chief Ghislain Picard, Mohawk Chief Serge Simon and Innu Chief Jean Charles Pietacho. Simon encouraged protesters to work together and spread their message to different communities. "We have to band together, and we have to force the governments to become a little bolder when it comes to investing in the future," he said.
Challenging government policies and actions
On 15th May, about 50 people took to the streets of Halifax to call on the Canadian government to respond to the violence against Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Protesters, who rallied in front of the Halifax Public Gardens, chanted “Brick by brick, wall by wall, occupation has to fall,” “Gaza Gaza don’t you cry, Palestine will never die.” The protest, which marked the 70th anniversary of the year when many Palestinians were forced from their homes, came one day after Israeli troops gunned down 59 Palestinians in Gaza who had been protesting the U.S. embassy move.
On 9th June, protesters marched in the streets of Quebec City to denounce the Group of Seven (G7) summit and President Trump’s policies. Tensions flared when police wearing anti-riot gear cleared out about 100 protesters who had blocked a road leading to the town where the summit was being held. The Montreal Gazette reported that 13 people were arrested, but there “were no injuries and not a single act of vandalism was reported.” However, there were widespread complaints that the security environment, including a massive police presence and the construction of large fences to keep protesters away from the summit, had been too restrictive and limited protest activities.
On 15th June, the Regina police tore down a protest camp that had been erected outside of the Saskatchewan legislature for over 100 days. According to the media, many people were still sleeping in their tents when the demolition began, but there were no reports of violence or arrests. Protesters had set up tents as part of a makeshift camp outside of the government building to call attention to racial injustice in Canadian courts. The government had served an eviction notice to the camp residents on 5th June, saying that the protesters were violating a ban on overnight camping and other minor offenses. Despite the tear down, some of the camps’ residents have vowed to stay.
Immigration related issues
On 19th May, an anti-immigrant rally was held at a Quebec town on the border where asylum seekers are known to be entering the country. Members of Storm Alliance demonstrated and protested against immigration saying that terrorists were exploiting the open borders to enter the country, the CBC reported. The protest was met by counter protesters which forced the police to close the crossing for two hours. A similar protest, a few days earlier, organised by the Storm Alliance in Lacolle attracted 250 participants.
On 10th May, thousands or people participated in the March for Life in downtown Ottawa calling on the government to ban abortions. Billed as the largest anti-abortion rally in the country, the rally attracted several prominent religious and political leaders including Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast and MP Harold Albrecht. Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins told attendees that it is important to speak out. “We have a right to a place at the democratic table,” he said. A smaller counter-protest of nearly a 100 was staged along the march route.
On 9th June, protesters temporarily blocked the Edmonton Pride parade over an agreement that permitted plain clothed police to participate in the event. The demonstrators stopped the parade and distributed flyers that called for excluding police and military personnel from marching in future Pride parades. After two hours, the parade resumed when the parade organisers agreed to the demands of the protesters. Police and military personnel had requested to participate in the march but were only granted permission by parade organisers after agreeing not to wear their uniforms in order to maintain an inclusive environment.
On 14th June, Taiwanese-Canadians waved flags and chanted outside of Air Canada’s headquarters in Montreal to protest the company’s decision to list Taiwan as part of China on its website. Over 15,000 people have signed an online petition to denounce the move and called on the airline to reconsider. “We have to defend Canada’s values like freedom, free speech, and also democracy and human rights,” said Edward Chung.
As reported in the Monitor, a law to create a 'buffer zone' around abortion clinics was under consideration in Alberta's government.On 30th May, the Alberta legislature passed a bill that bans protesters from standing or demonstrating within 50 meters of an abortion clinic, triggering outrage from conservative lawmakers who say it infringes on their right to free speech. Persons violating the bill can face up to one year in jail or a $10,0000 fine.
On 15th May, a bill was introduced in the British Columbia legislature that aims to discourage punitive lawsuits that are used to silence individuals and groups from speaking out on environmental and other public issues. The Protection of Public Participation Act would reduce an aggressive legal tactic, commonly called strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs), often used by powerful and wealthy entities to intimidate individuals and activist groups from speaking out. The new law would allow a defendant to have an “expedited process” to have a lawsuit dismissed on the basis that it interferes with free speech. “These suits often serve to stifle criticism or opposition on matters of public interest through exhausting and potentially costly legal action,” BC Attorney General David Eby said. “By addressing this abuse of the legal system, we are taking steps to protect the rights of British Columbians to share their views freely.”
In May, the country’s privacy commissioner released a draft policy position on proposals that would give citizens the ability to challenge and have information removed that they no longer want available online. The draft policy position proposes offering citizens the “right to ask search engines to de-index web pages that contain inaccurate, incomplete or outdated information; removal or amendment of information at the source; and education to help develop responsible, informed online citizens.” Critics of the proposal says it fails basic free speech tests and inadequately distinguishes between public figures and private citizens. According to the Financial Post, “The paper says that an individual’s status as a public figure is but one factor to consider in determining whether it is in the public interest for a search result to remain online.” Critics also say the measure lacks details on how the process for removal would work between search engine companies, websites and the government.
Lawmakers are considering an elections reform bill that would place new rules on certain political campaign spending. Bill C-76: An Act to Amend the Canada’s Elections Act includes new reporting requirements and spending limits for third party groups and political parties during the period before an election is officially announced. Specifically, it requires third party groups spending $500 or more on ads to register with Elections Canada, and that most political ads will require identifying information so voters know who paid for the advertising. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has warned that the bill overreaches with its new rules on political spending and doesn’t do enough to address how political parties collect and store voters’ personal information. The organisation stated:
"Restrictions on core political speech should not be imposed absent evidence that the restrictions are necessary and proportionate. This evidence has not been produced in relation to the existing third party advertising regime in the Canada Elections Act, nor with respect to the changes proposed by Bill C-76."
Another bill that would limit campaign expenses on advertising is being debated by lawmakers in Prince Edward Island. Bill 38, the Electoral System Referendum Act, “would limit groups and individuals to spending no more than $500 on referendum advertising unless they register with government, in which case they would be permitted to spend a share of $75,000 in taxpayer funding,” according to the CBC. Proponents of the bill says it will keep the influence from outside groups in check while its opponents say it limits free speech.
On 23rd May, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that will test the ability of journalists to keep their sources and materials private when law enforcement requests the information for their investigations. At the center of the case is Vice Media reporter Ben Makuch who is challenging an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that he must give the Royal Canadian Mounted Police background materials he used for stories on an accused terrorist. Lawyers for Makuch say journalists are not an investigative arm of the police, while the government argued that the country’s nine point “balance test” is sufficient for determining if there is good reason to have access to a reporter’s information. Lawyers for Vice Media argued that lower courts have repeatedly failed to apply the tests correctly. A recent poll found that 67% of Canadians believe that journalists should not be required to provide police with their source material.
On 23rd May, six masked men reportedly entered the Vice Media office in Montreal to intimidate reporters after the outlet had publishing a story about the far-right group Atalante Québec. Supporters of the group, known for its anti-immigrant positions, mockingly awarded the story’s author a trophy for “garbage media” and “dumped leaflets and clown noses” in the newsroom, according to The Star. The police reportedly said that there would be no arrests because no one was injured and no crimes were committed.