Tag Archives: Civil Liberties

Mainstream Media Paying Attention to “Occupy Wall Street/Bay Street” – Great Story in the Globe and Mail


Read this excellent summary of the growing “Occupy Wall Street” in the Globe and Mail – a sign that the mainstream media is beginning to pay attention to this citizen movement.

“Occupy Wall Street has grown exponentially since its inception on Sept.
17. And now that the story has belatedly exploded in the news media,
everyone is paying attention. Inspired in part by the Arab Spring, the
movement is defined by leaderless, participatory democratic action and
nonviolent civil disobedience…Canadians should welcome this collective protest against concentrated
corporate power when the occupation comes to Canada on Oct. 15. As long
as the protests remain peaceful, we all have much to gain from an open,
democratic dialogue about the ways that our government privileges
corporate profits over the public good.” (October 12, 2011)



What happened at the g20?


One year later, and still the question stands. What answers we have offer an incomplete image of an event that spanned the largest city in Canada, and directly affected the businesses, homes, and lives of thousands of people in and around Toronto at that time.

The constructed space between those ‘for’ and those ‘against’ the g20 summit left little room for understanding; and the violence, looting, vandalism, and indiscriminate arrests that ultimately occurred only increased the anger and strong emotions on all sides.

In response Ouboum is publishing a collection of articles and artwork from passers-by, politicians, police, protesters — people, whose experiences will paint a more accurate picture of the summit.

This publication responds to the concern that only a handful of perspectives on the g20 have been given due consideration in public discourse, and that these few were presented only in opposition to one another. The narrative that remains is one of protestors and proponents – suggesting that anyone else would have remained quietly at home, away from the site of the event.

But the site of the event was downtown Toronto – home to some 2.5 million people whose experiences may not conform to the language of the media. The purpose of this publication is to document the wide range of perspectives held by participants on all sides of the g20 by providing a space where people can tell their own stories on their own terms and in their own language.

Ouboum is a Toronto-based collective of independent writers, artists and publishers inviting individuals, groups and organizations to share their experience of the g20 for publication in a forthcoming journal of social discourse. They are now accepting for publication any form of written, photographic or artistic representation of the individual’s experience of the 2010 g20 summit in Toronto.

For more information please visit www.ouboum.ca


The Liberal government versus Betty Krawczyk


Posting on Murray Dobbin’s Blog. Betty Krawczyk: “The Attorney General has accomplished two things; first, equated my repeated infractions of the law in defence of the environment for future generations to the diseased minds of pedophiles who rape their very young children …and invited the Court to consider because I am a repeat offender that I should also be declared a dangerous offender and possibly be put away for life.” Read article


Betty & Harriet – Heroic Grandmothers Treated as Criminals and Rapists by Campbell Government


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.

Story by Rafe Mair: Campbell’s Injustice Toward Betty Krawczyk a Catalyst for BC Environmental Movement


Campbell’s Injustice Toward Krawczyk a Catalyst for BC Environmentalists


Betty Krawczyk is a protester at the tender age of 82. Not long ago she was released from prison after serving 10 months for disobeying a court order.

How did this happen?

Through an abuse of power arising out of the government decision to take the Sea-to-Sky Highway over the top of Eagleridge Bluffs, a move bitterly fought by residents to no avail. Betty was sent to prison for defying a court injunction to stay away from the area which was being bulldozed to widen the highway ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Here’s how the system “works”. Betty, standing on public land, blocked machinery being used by Peter Kiewit & Sons, the huge construction company that for some reason does nearly all the government’s construction projects, so Kiewit went to court to get an injunction ordering Betty to stay away. Here’s the flim flam: this is a civil dispute but as soon as Betty disobeyed the injunction she was hauled before the Beak for criminal contempt of court. Betty was never permitted to discuss the merits of the construction decision by the Campbell government – the only issue is whether or not she disobeyed the court order.

All of a sudden Kiewit – and by extension the Campbell government – turned a civil dispute into a criminal case and this 79 year old (at the time) great grandmother was in the slammer for 10 months!

When Betty was finally released she launched an appeal because she thought the principle so important that she had to do so.

This past Wednesday her appeal was heard and the three judges concluded the proceedings with “judgement reserved” – meaning we will have to wait a little while longer to hear their verdict.

The Crown, on the instructions of the Campbell government cross-appealed and asked the court to follow two cases, both concerning repeated violent pedophiles who raped their own children. One case is entitled Regina v. C.A.M and the other is R.v. M (in the BC Court of Appeal).

Betty Krawczyk is to be compared to serious and violent pedophiles and dealt with accordingly!

In R.v.M. one judge’s opinion on the sentencing principle was:

“When an accused has been convicted of a serious crime in itself calling for a substantial sentence and when he suffers from some mental or personality disorder rendering him a danger to the community but not subjecting him to confinement in a mental institution and when it is uncertain when, if ever, the accused will be cured of his affliction, in my opinion the appropriate sentence is one of life.”

Can you believe it? Based on brutal pedophilia cases Gordon Campbell and his Attorney-General have asked the court to raise Betty’s sentence to LIFE IMPRISONMENT!!!

Nobody can be in any doubt as to the message here. This is intended to cow environmentalists into behaving themselves. Beware those who think they can speak freely and protest openly and effectively – we’ve a place for you and it’s called jail. And if you really make a nuisance of yourselves jail can be forever. So, be warned!

This will have precisely the opposite effect. It will galvanize the environmental movement into a unity of purpose that will mean that activism will mean just that – supporting Betty and, more importantly, following her example.

Let me pause here and explain what I mean by the environmental “movement”. It’s far more than tree huggers – though society owes them a huge debt of gratitude. It’s becoming mainstream British Columbians who, after a decade of being pushed around and lied to by the Pinocchio Campbell bunch, are fed up. It’s the jammed high school gymnasium in Pitt Meadows to protest the proposed damming of the Pitt River’s tributaries. It’s the town of Kaslo who had more people turn up to protest a government/industry so-called hearing than there were people living in the town! There is a sea change in the making here – the egregious environmental sins of this government are now becoming more and more apparent to people, good people, who want to trust their elected representatives but have been made fools of by doing it.

The job of education is scarcely over and this for a rather strange reason. The Campbell government’s policies are so outrageously bad that people think you’re kidding when you tell them about them.

After all, who would believe that a government would force BC Hydro to pay twice what the power is worth to private companies, that power being surplus to the needs of BC Hydro who must buy it anyway and then sell it at a huge loss? That’s loony tunes stuff! You are either kidding or telling a whopper!

Except it’s true. When I tell people that BC Hydro is on a fast track to suicide, assisted mightily by the Campbell crowd, no one can believe it! What sort of fools would do this?

C’mon, Rafe, give us a break! Get real!

Well, in fact it’s worse than that: BC Hydro, no longer making a profit so that they can pay their huge dividend to the BC treasury, will still pay that dividend.

How in hell can it pay a dividend when it’s losing money?

Easy. Simply raise the electricity rates to industry and the public then pay it back to them as a dividend!

What Betty Krawczyk has done is show this government for what it is – arrogant and utterly dishonest. Her courage is a prism through which ordinary citizens can see the reality of the Campbell crowd. Those who doubted or didn’t want to know what sort people these Liberals really are, look at them trying to throw an old lady in jail for life and all of a sudden what the environmental movement has been saying comes clearly into focus as the obvious truth.

This government’s attitude, so incredible as to be unbelievable has, because of the courage of this incredibly gutsy lady, is now there for all to see.

What we must now do is very difficult but it will be done. We must all unite in a political action group as is common in The United States. I’m not talking about a coalition – that’s impossible and not even a good idea. Each environmental group has its own special interest and that’s how it should be.

What must happen is all these groups, very much including The Common Sense Canadian, must present a united – and there’s no other honest word for it – attack on this government and make it clear that we will support no leader, no party, no candidate that will not express and put into action the ideals that we all believe in.

This cannot be simply a get rid of Campbell exercise – though that’s a hell of a good beginning – but a force to ensure that whoever replaces them clearly understands what the people of BC expect: the end of fish farms in our oceans, the end of paving over our farmland and wildlife preserves, the end of the destruction of our rivers and the end of killing the Fraser River because it’s cheaper to get gravel there than mine it safely and ship it to where it’s needed.

In short, Betty’s courage is the catalyst by which British Columbians can take back their province, restore what can be restored, and leave the rest intact for those yet to come.

oil painting by Auguste Millière

Canadian Civil Liberties: What Would Thomas Paine Think?


by Dr. Chris Shaw

It seems fitting with the launch of The Common Sense Canadian that we ponder Tom Paine and the Current State of Canadian Civil Liberties. What he man who used the term “Common Sense” as the title of his revolutionary pamphlet on freedom and revolution might make out of the current state of Canadian “civil rights”.

As problematic as it can be to reach back 200 years to interrogate the long departed, Paine’s writings offer some clues how he would answer. Paine would be utterly disgusted at the travesty of faux civil liberties we so blithely assume shield us all and would be shocked at how casually our elected officials to withhold information and misuse our legislative institutions. Sadly, he’d hardly be surprised by either.
Paine was not a fan of governments in general and bitterly opposed in particular to monarchy. In Paine’s view, governments were innately prone to abuse power.

“Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher. Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise.” [italics his]

Paine’s later The Rights of Man was written in defense of the French Revolution. Like Thomas Jefferson in the American Declaration of Independence, Paine would lay stress on natural rights as “inalienable”, essentially a gift from a higher power to all humans derived solely from the very fact of humanness. Following on the Enlightenment concept of “natural law”, natural rights did not depend on the validation of any government or social structure, they simply existed. Governments could – and often would – try to suppress natural rights, but could neither create nor extinguish them.

In contrast, civil and political rights were those bestowed by the state and designed to protect the individual from excesses of power and to enable people to exercise some level of political control. Civil rights are those that guarantee the safety of the individual and protect against discrimination. Political rights the freedoms we often take for granted: assembly, speech, religion, the press, suffrage, due process in law, etc.

Civil and political rights –lumped together as “legal rights”- are rarely given voluntarily by the state, but usually have to be fought. The fight always comes with a significant price tag, since freedom is rarely free. The fight for legal rights can be extremely violent as the American and other revolutions show. In less extreme cases, legal rights can arise relatively peaceful: women’s suffrage, for example.

Paine, viewing 2010 Canada through the prism of history would see what? He would have no doubts that Canadians were functionally bereft of civil liberties in all but name – mirage like, but insubstantial. At the federal level, Paine would note the arbitrary nature of a minority ruling party more than willing to dismiss Parliament at whim. He would find in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms the gaping libertarian hole of Section 33, the so-called “Notwithstanding” Clause. Essentially a political compromise to of the most callous order, the clause allows the federal and provincial governments to opt out of pretty much any of the civil rights provisions of the Charter that they don’t like. Paine would wonder at the ingenuity of politicians who could so casually create a Charter of Rights and include within the same document the means to deny its very provisions.

Paine would watch with dismay the lack of transparency by the government. The clear parallels to his own day would be starkly revealed in the way it deliberately ignores the will of Parliament by denying basic information on the handling of Afghan prisoners.

Paine would have watched agents of the federal government in the guise of the 2010 Integrated Security Unit (ISU) conduct round the clock surveillance of Olympic political dissidents who had committed no crime apart from holding contrary views and harassing and intimidating individuals while tracking down their friends, families and neighbors to probe for incriminating information in the absence of the slightest evidence that such information even existed. Paine would have appreciated the irony of three levels of government applauding ISU for providing a “safe and secure Olympic Games” by trampling the Charter thoroughly underfoot.

Here, to British Columbia, the self-touted “best place on Earth”, Paine could hardly have failed to see the same arrogant misuse of power: Legislation passed at provincial and municipal levels that sought to curtail freedom of speech and assembly on behalf commercial agreements with a private entity called the International Olympic Committee. The City of Vancouver’s and BC’s signage laws made fundamental compromises to civil liberties while trying to pretend that it was all fine since it was only “temporary”. The Assistance to Shelter Act would have caught Paine’s notice with its egregious provisions that made individuals doing no harm to themselves or anyone else subject to removal on the whim of police officers.

Paine would have watched the cavalier destruction of the wild salmon fishery and the expansion of private power projects by a government with no respect whatsoever for the concerns of the citizenry. Paine surely would have wondered how an apparently simple conflict of interest case such as the Railgate scandal could still be shrouded in secrecy even years after the initial disclosure.

In Common Sense, Paine enumerated many of the abuses that had led Americans to rebel: arbitrary misuse of power, abrogation of “English” common law civil rights of the day, violence and harassment directed against its own citizens, and, in the end, the lack of any functional means for redress leaving only surrender. This constellation of abuses left no recourse besides rebellion.

For Paine, an illusion of rights in the absence of their reality was more obscene than an honest denial of the same could ever be. In our own day, despotic regimes around the world, unlike Canada, make no pretense to honouring human rights. Despicable, perhaps, but at least not bearing the sin of hypocrisy.

Paine’s conclusions for Canadians might have come to him in a burst of déjà vu: Your governments have actually become your enemies and serve interests not your own. You would be better off without them. Common sense dictates that you take action to reform or remove such governments; how you do so is up to you.

What Paine would not know how to address would be the question about how we create necessary reforms and generate truly representative government when so much of the public is totally apathetic and/or has been brainwashed by the mainstream media and governments themselves on the mantra of “peace, order and good government”?

This last remains the challenge for our own day.

Dr. Christopher A. Shaw was one of the most outspoken opponents of Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics and wrote a book chronicling Vancouver’s Games, Five Ring Circus.