She’s been called a hero, a troublemaker, and the grandmother of BC’s environmental movement – but now a new label is being applied to 82-year old Betty Krawczyk by Provincial Crown Counsel, as she appeals the 10-month sentence she served several years ago for protesting the desecration of a unique ecosystem in West Vancouver: that of a dangerous criminal, on par with men who rape their own children. In response to her appeal, they want to lock this great grandmother up for the rest for her life, as a “chronic offender” who is a “danger to the community.” It’s so shocking – so offends every fibre of one’s basic sense of human decency – as to be almost unbelievable…Almost. Remember, this is the Campbell Government we’re talking about here.
This Wednesday morning, on the steps of the BC Supreme Court House in Vancouver, citizens gathered to listen to Betty discuss the court hearing she was about to attend, and to honour the memory of her fallen comrade, Squamish First Nation elder Harriet Nahanee. Four years ago the pair were jailed for their roles in legally protesting the destruction of Eagleridge Bluffs for a portion of the Sea to Sky Highway build-out (the construction company, Peter Kiewett and Sons, obtained an injunction from the courts against dozens of protestors – they were arrested not for breaking any law, but for violating that injunction). Betty went on to spend 10 months in prison – adding to some 3 years of jail time for similar acts of environmental protest in BC over the past couple decades – while Harriet, after being incarcerated against her doctor’s strong recommendation, died of pneumonia two weeks later at St. Paul’s Hospital, having been denied proper medical care in jail. Whether Harriet was murdered by our justice system and government is really just a question of degree.
Wednesday’s event featured an emotional testament to Harriet’s life and work by former colleague Laura Holland and rousing statements of support for Betty from Rafe Mair, Greenpeace co-founder Rex Weyler, Deputy Leader of the Green Party of Canada, Adriane Carr, and the attorney who has often represented Betty in her legal travails, Cameron Ward. In court, Crown Counsel was expected to argue that Betty should be incarcerated for the remainder of her life as a “danger to the community.” The precedents the Crown cited in its pre-trial submissions involved two cases of men who raped their own children. This for the woman who was named by the Royal BC Museum as one of the 100 greatest British Columbians in the province’s first 100 years.
After hearing Betty’s arguments, the three-judge appeal panel adjourned with “judgement reserved”, meaning they will deliberate so more before reporting their verdict.