Largely peaceful protests prove effective for activists on environmental and social justice issues

Peaceful Assembly

After months of legal proceedings and failed talks, the British Colombia Supreme Court on 10th August ordered all structures to be removed from a protest campsite near the Kinder Morgan terminal in Burnaby. While most protesters left without incident, at least five protesters were arrested while police and other city officials removed all of the tents and structures from Camp Cloud, including a two-story wooden house and a fire that protesters describe as sacred and ceremonial. People continue to protest on the site and are permitted to do so as long as they do not build structures. On 20th August 2018, five people were arrested in a related protest led by doctors who also oppose the pipeline expansion project. More than 200 people have been arrested in connection with anti-Kinder Morgan demonstrations since March. Environmentalists and indigenous communities vow to continue to their protest even as penalties for civil disobedience are on the rise.

After months of protesters camping outside of the Saskatchewan legislature, on 3rd July government officials met with members of The Justice for Our Stolen Children camp to discuss the treatment of indigenous children in the foster care system and other issues of racial injustice. The meeting came just days after the protest camp was ordered to clear out. In June, six protesters were arrested for failing to follow the eviction notice, however many believe the arrests were unwarranted.

On 6th July 2018, almost a thousand people gathered on the waterfront in Pictou to protest a proposed plan to dump waste from a pulp mill into the Northumberland Strait. Protesters, who came from several provinces across northeast Canada, say the mill owner’s claim that pipeline will result in more “treated effluent” in the waterway, but they believe the industrial waste will jeopardize local fishing jobs and a popular tourist attraction that supports several coastal communities. More than 150 fishing boats filled the harbor as part of the protest, many with signs saying “#NO Pipe”.

On 6th July 2018, a former flight attendant protesting sexual harassment at the Vancouver International airport was told by airport officials that she was infringing on airport policy and had to leave. According to The Star, Mandalena Lewis was standing near the international departure gates wearing a sign, handing out pamphlets, and promoting #youcrewmetoo, her campaign to prevent sexual harassment in the airline industry, when Vancouver Airport Authority officials asked her to stop. It’s unclear what policy she violated and she plans to continue her protest to help protect airline employees.

On 11th August 2018, supporters and opponents chanted and argued as a statue of John Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, was removed from its position outside of Victoria’s city hall. A crowd of people gathered in the capital city of British Columbia to either protest or cheer the statue’s removal, with no reports of any major incidents between the two sides. The decision to remove the statue was made by city councilors and First Nations representatives who met over the past year as part of a reconciliation process.

On 19th August 2018, about 80 counter-protesters peacefully stopped an anti-immigrant rally in Dartmouth near Halifax before it could start. According to CTV Atlantic, counter-protesters chanted “NCA go away” toward five members of the National Citizens Alliance, a group that had posted an online message that invited “all Canadians” to rally against "extreme multiculturalism". Police reported no incidents.

Expression

An internet watchdog group says software developed by a Canadian company is being used by governments around the world to block access to independent media outlets, certain religious and political viewpoints, and LGBTI related content. Citizen Lab, a University of Toronto-based organisation that monitors technology, says “internet filtering technology” developed by Netsweeper Inc. is being used in at least 10 countries where the group identified “a pattern of mischaracterization and/or over blocking involving the use of Netsweeper’s systems that may have serious human rights implications”. Canadian civil society groups criticised the use of the technology to restrict free speech. "We strongly support democracy and the right to freedom of expression, including an open internet. Canada believes that all individuals, including LGBTI persons, should be able to harness the positive potential digital technologies have to offer,” John Babcock, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said.

On 11th August 2018, a Toronto Sun photographer was attacked while covering a rally and counter-protest outside of Toronto’s city hall. Stan Behal says a protester lunged at him and hit him in the head, leaving him with a concussion. Police later arrested a man and charged him with assault. Behal said he believes the attack was motivated by a growing anti-media sentiment. "The public is getting the message that you can get away with this, especially when someone as high-profile as the President of the United States says that we're the 'enemy of the people,' Behal said. "That's scary. That really makes what we do very difficult". The rally was organised by a group called World Coalition Against Islam.

Association

On 16th August 2018, the federal government filed an appeal to an Ontario Superior Court decision that found restrictions on the political activities of charities are an “unjustified infringement of freedom of expression”. The court’s ruling found the restrictions on “political activities” were arbitrary and against the freedoms laid out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, Canada Without Poverty, an Ottawa-based charity, brought the original case after a political activity audit by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) determined that the charity had spent more than 10 percent of its budget on political activities and thus had violated its charter. The CRA defines political activity as any activity that seeks to change, oppose or retain laws or policies. The Superior Court ruling effectively ended the 10 percent rule, but the government’s appeal offers a way to have it restored.