Thursday 6.6.2019 in Latest Developments in Canada Country Page
Challenging government policies and actions
People protesting energy projects continue to be targeted for their activism. For example, on 30th April 2019, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested a 71-year-old man for allegedly defying a court order that prohibits demonstrations within five meters of a pipeline site for climbing a tree near the site. Terry Christenson, who was arrested last year for a similar violation, says he will continue to oppose the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline near Vancouver. In a separate incident, three women were arrested by RCMP on 10th April 2019 for allegedly failing to leave their protest camp following a court order to do so. The women were part of large group who had been camping on the site near a natural gas project at Fort Ellis, N.S. for almost two years. RCMP also prevented other protesters from visiting the protest camp site. “We know that we are right, this is our treaty right, this is our inherent right and it should be all Nova Scotians rights to stand and protect their water,” said Dorene Bernard, a member of the Sipekne'katik First Nation who live in the area.
On 14th April 2019, at least four people were arrested in Halifax for allegedly failing to follow police officers’ orders to disperse and causing property damage at a protest sponsored by Extinction Rebellion Nova Scotia.
On 3rd May 2019, thousands of Edmonton-area students walked out of class to protest newly elected Premier Jason Kenney’s plans to overturn a law that prohibits schools from telling parents when their child joins a gay-straight alliance. Carrying signs with messages like "Hey, Kenney, leave us alone: The Gays" and "Are your tax cuts more important than queer youth?", student-led protests took place at about 90 schools across the province. LGBTQ rights advocates say the risk of students being outed to their parents would deter kids from joining clubs and finding support.
On 5th May 2019, hundreds of people marched in Montreal to protest a bill that would ban public employees from wearing religious symbols while at work. It was one of many protests held across the province in opposition of a bill that would apply to hijabs worn by Muslims, Sikh turbans, Christian jewelry and Jewish kippahs. “It’s suppression and oppression,” Canadian Council of Muslim Women spokesperson Shaheen Ashraf said at the march. At least two people were arrested the day before when a small number of people held a rally in support of the measure and were met by counter-protesters. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticised the bill, saying, “It's unthinkable to me that in a free society we would legitimise discrimination against citizens based on their religion.”
Environmental related protests
Earth Day events and student-led protests designed to bring attention to the climate crisis were held in cities across the country. In Victoria, about 100 people belonging to or supporting groups such as Rise and Resist and Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island participated in an event described as a "theatrical street procession" to call on banks to divest from fossil fuels. "We join a growing movement of people who are choosing to move their money from banks into credit unions that aren’t investing in fossil fuels,” said Antonia Paquin, one of the event’s organisers. Other protests in Victoria drew even larger crowds. "We should be filling the streets today. There should be thousands and thousands," said one activist. For 14 Fridays in a row, thousands of students in Montreal have gathered outside of the offices of prominent government officials or marched in the streets to demand the government take action on the environment.
On 28th April 2019, at least one person was arrested while protesting at a hog farm in British Colombia following the release of a video showing sick and dead pigs being packed into cramped crates. Over 200 people participated in the protest, with many wearing shirts saying, "Meat the Victims.” According to reports, police officers arrested one person for “mischief and break and enter” after about 50 people went into a barn on the farm’s property. "This is a peaceful protest and people have the right to protest," said one of the officers on the scene. "However, we also recognise the fact that this is private property."
Labour rights related protests
On 17th April 2019, the New Brunswick Court of Appeals announced that it would wait before making a decision whether a union representing nursing home employees in the province is permitted to strike. A lower court had ruled that the union was allowed to strike, but the province argued that the court had overstepped its jurisdiction. The union, representing more than 4,000 employees, is seeking an increase in pay and other benefits, but the province says a strike would leave elderly clients without adequate care. “We’re stalled again, waiting and waiting, adding to the months we already have waited,” said Sharon Teare, president of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions
In response to several U.S. states passing or introducing legislation outlawing abortion six weeks after conception, people rallied outside of Montreal’s City Hall on 26th May 2019 in support of women’s rights. While abortion is legal in the country, many activists say issues remain including access to healthcare, and have said they will not be silenced. “The fight to be able to do what you want with your body, not being pressured,” one woman at the rally said.
On 8th May 2019, about 300 people rallied outside of a Calgary office where federal Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi was making a speech in support of clean energy projects. Organised by Canada Action, the pro-pipeline protestors chanted "build that pipe" and carried signs that called on the federal government to withdraw its support for legislation (Bill C-69) that they say would make it more difficult to conduct large energy projects in western Canada.
Targeting fake news and hate speech online, Prime Minister Trudeau introduced in May 2019, the country’s new Digital Charter to protect its citizens online and enforce rules governing social media platforms. According to media reports, the charter says, in part, "the Government of Canada will defend freedom of expression and protect against online threats and disinformation designed to undermine the integrity of elections and democratic institutions.” It identifies 10 guiding principles, including, “freedom from hate and violent extremism” and “strong enforcement and real accountability”. The launch of the charter follows Canada’s recent signing of the Christchurch Call, a plan to prevent terrorists from uploading extremist content online, following the March 2019 terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand.
In April 2019, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has filed a lawsuit over plans to build a high-tech neighborhood in downtown Toronto that would be equipped to collect multiple kinds of data on people living there or visiting. Sidewalk Labs, a Google company, plans to insert high-tech sensors to track and collect information throughout a waterfront neighborhood. The suit alleges that “the rights to privacy under section eight of the charter, as well as freedom of assembly, of expression and thought under section two of the charter” could be violated if the project is allowed to continue as proposed. A spokesperson for the mayor of Toronto said that Sidewalk Lab’s final plan will go through “full public scrutiny” and the project cannot proceed unless approved by the federal, provincial and municipal governments.
CCLA Commences Proceedings Against Waterfront Toronto - Canadian Civil Liberties Association https://t.co/9vs9jGVvgb— Neve Peric (@neve_peric) April 16, 2019
Ontario professors say a proposed amendment to cut the salary of older teachers who also draw pensions is unfair and violates collectively bargained agreements between the government and faculty. The Ford administration says part of its budget trimming plan includes eliminating the salaries of professors who continue to work beyond traditional retirement age from collecting a salary and pension at the same time. “Our number one concern is the power this gives the minister to reach into collective agreements and change the terms,” said Gyllian Phillips, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). According to media reports, more than 1,200 full-time university faculty are 66 and older.