Victory for indigenous and environmental groups protesting a controversial pipeline project

Peaceful Assembly

Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline

Indigenous and environmental groups who have been protesting a controversial pipeline project in British Columbia for years, claimed a victory in their campaign to halt the project. In a unanimous decision, an appeal court overturned the government’s approval of the project. Demonstrations against the Trans Mountain Pipeline project was organised by several First Nations, including the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish and Musqueam. Over the years thousands of people had protested the project, and hundreds of people, including two Ministers of Parliament, were arrested for blocking the roads near the Trans Mountain facility as reported previously by the Monitor.

Challenging government policies and actions

On 6th September 2018, about 300 farmers gathered in Montreal to protest against weakening trade protections on the region’s dairy products in trade talks with the U.S. “Enough is enough. No more concessions,” one farmer said about reducing or removing tariffs on U.S. dairy products entering the country. After a deal between the two countries was announced on 30th September 2018, dairy farmers continued to protest against the new trade rules. 

On 8th September 2018, about 50 people demonstrated outside of the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ office in Toronto to protest a weapons deal between Canada and Saudi Arabia. Representing groups such as the Yemeni Community in Canada and the Canadian Peace Coalition, the protesters demanded the deal to be voided because the Saudis are using the arms in the ongoing war in Yemen. The United Nations has described the situation in Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with at least 16,700 dead and two million displaced.

Residents of Ontario protested Premier Doug Ford’s plan to reduce the size of Toronto's city council from 47 to 25 seats saying the move violates the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ontario residents against the move held rallies and marches and even unfurled an oversized Charter of Rights and Freedoms outside of the Ontario legislature to collect signatures and messages against the decision. Members of the opposition party were removed from the Ontario legislature for protesting the measure during a legislative session. 

Protest against racism and anti-immigrant policies

On 7th October 2018, thousands of people demonstrated in downtown Montreal to march against racism and the anti-immigrant polices of the newly elected Coalition Avenir Quebec government. Many demonstrators carried signs denouncing premier-designate Francois Legault, who has promised to cut immigration and submit new Quebecers to a French and values test within three years of arriving.

Labour rights related protests

On 2nd October 2018, about 50 students and activists demonstrated outside of the Minister of Labour and Higher Education’s office in Nova Scotia for a $15 minimum wage. Protesters held signs in support of a wage increase and heard speeches from community leaders. Nova Scotia has the lowest minimum wage in the country at $11 an hour, according to media sources.

Protests related to LGTBI issues

On 29th September 2018, hundreds of people rallied in front of the British Columbia’s legislature both in support and against changes to the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) policy in area schools. The Canadian Christian Lobby, which has described the policy as “social engineering”, had organised the initial rally to express support for the province’s decision to no longer use SOGI in its schools. A group of students in support of the policy soon formed to counter the original protest. One week prior, students at more than 100 schools in Ontario walked out of class to express their support for reinstating SOGI. The policy updates older sex-education curriculum and includes giving students the right to self-identify using the pronouns of their choosing.

Other protests

The last tent at the Justice for Our Stolen Children camp outside of the Saskatchewan Legislature was taken down days after a 7th September 2018 court order called for clearing the site. People began camping at the site in February 2018 to bring attention to racial injustices and the disproportionate number of indigenous children in foster care. A few protesters were arrested in June but were not charged with any crimes. "The protesters' claim to a right to encamp around the clock, on a permanent or indefinite basis ... is not one that can be endorsed by this court," the judge’s order said.

The hearing of a Syrian refugee accused of murdering a 13-year-old girl prompted protest outside of the Vancouver courtroom on 14th September 2018. Protesters held signs with pictures of the victim and others with messages blaming the Trudeau administration for its immigration and refugee policies. A smaller group of Syrian-Canadians held a candle vigil for the victim. Ibrahim Ali, one of 40,000 Syrian refugees that have been allowed into the country since 2015, is charged with first-degree murder.

Holding signs saying “stop abortion now” and “pray to end abortion”, hundreds of anti-abortion activists protested and prayed on street sidewalks across the country on 30th September 2018. As part of the Life Chain event, activists took to the sidewalks and highways and encouraged drivers to show support by honking their car horns. Anti-abortion activists were met in some cities by small numbers of counterprotesters. In a bizarre incident caught on video, an anti-abortion activist was allegedly kicked by a man who approached her and her friends as they held signs on the sidewalk and filmed him. The unprovoked attack drew widespread attention and police are reportedly investigating the attack.

On 17th September 2018, children from northern Ontario travelled by bus to Ottawa to ask the country’s leaders to build them a new school after their old one was closed due to unsafe conditions. As part of a rally on the steps of Parliament, the children, many of whom belong to the Kashechewan First Nation, gave speeches and held colourful signs to draw attention to their situation. Speaking about the substandard conditions of his old school, one student said, "I am so used to broken portables that I can't even imagine what a real school might be like.” The students were met by the Indigenous Services Minister who promised to help them.

Expression

On 30th August 2018, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced new rules requiring universities to adopt a free speech policy that must meet “a minimum standard specified by the government.” Student groups protesting the decision describe the new rules as unnecessary and say that they could be used to punish students who protest against events and speakers on their campus. The group Socialist Fightback Students created an online petition against the new rules.

In the wake of the sexual assault accusations against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Canadians took to the internet to express solidarity with his accuser and to share their own stories of sexual assault. Among the hundreds of people who posted online using the #WhyIDidntReport and #BelieveSurvivors was former Ontario MPP Cheri DiNovo who said, "I didn't report for the same reasons they don't…How would the justice system help?" Other women took photos of themselves wearing black and posting it online on 24th September 2018 to show support for Christine Blasey Ford. "I have a daughter”, said Nicole Rajakovic, a Toronto resident and survivor. “I want to be able to speak openly about it, to show her how important it is for women to speak up."

Association

Non-union construction workers in British Columbia filed a petition with the province’s Supreme Court arguing that the government's new rules for publicly-funded construction projects are unfair and violate freedom of association rights. According to the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, “anyone working on a provincial government construction project will be forced to join” a union under the new rules. A spokesperson for the group said that, “The choice of which union to join, if any, should be made by the workers through a secret ballot, and should not be imposed by government”.

The government, on the other hand, argued that the aim of the rules is to boost "apprenticeship opportunities and hiring more women, Indigenous people and other under-represented workers".