Letter to the Editor: February 13th

Dear Editor,

Canada is a country built on rights and freedoms. Freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly are two examples of rights that are enshrined in our Charter. For the past several months, some members of the Wet’suwet’en nation in British Columbia have been exercising these rights and protesting the approval of a natural gas pipeline.

Canada is also a country of the rule of law. This pipeline was approved only after completing rigorous consultations with stakeholders, eventually securing approval from all 20 of the indigenous communities who would be impacted by construction. The B.C. Supreme Court issued an injunction to prevent further protests from disrupting construction; this was recently enforced by the RCMP.

One may argue that a person’s right to protest trumps the court’s decision, or that injunctions like these should not be enforced. I argue that no one has the constitutional right to physically blockade an approved construction project. You may be surprised to learn that the right to blockade an Ontario railway is also not constitutionally protected.

The blockade of the CN main line in Belleville is illegal. Ontario’s court has ordered the protestors to go home. To me, the lack of enforcement by the OPP is disheartening and sets a poor precedent: unlawful protests that block public infrastructure will be allowed to continue (for 7 days and counting, at the time of writing). The rule of law, seemingly alive and well in BC, appears to be at a crossroads in Ontario.

It is critical that the disruptions to our national economy and passenger transportation networks be resolved expeditiously. Some may say that such a resolution is simple: remove the RCMP enforcement in B.C. and the protestors in Ontario will go home. I believe this action would set an even worse precedent.

The divisions in the Wet’suwet’en nation are certainly complex issues, but seem to be best resolved within the community, through their own processes. The approval process referenced earlier was the time to protest and offer opinions on the merits of the project. A failure by the RCMP to enforce the injunction would have signalled that any minority interest group’s illegal activities can jeopardize an already-approved project. Canada is a democracy and such a precedent is unacceptable.

Failing to resolve these protests may have negative economic consequences. However, lasting implications on Canada’s rule of law are far greater catalysts for immediate action. 

Sincerely,

Adam Drewry

Comm '20

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