Oppose Alberta Bill 1: "Critical Infrastructure Defence Act"

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Bill 1 (aka the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act), was passed on May 28th 2020. This bill is designed to make it illegal to protest what the government calls essential infrastructure under the critical infrastructure defence act.

THE PROBLEMS THAT ARISE:

  1. This bill is in direct violation of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  2. The bill directly benefits the oil and gas sectors and other industries in Alberta for which the Kenney government has personal and professional interest in.
  3. This bill is a step away from a free and democratic province where citizens can express themselves and their beliefs speak their voices, and is a step towards a police state.
  4. This Bill comes not too long after a protest against a pipeline to be built on land owned by Indigenous peoples which led to blockades being built across railways and highways.

CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS:

This bill directly goes against the following human rights:

Section 2 (b): freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication

Section 2 (c): freedom of peaceful assembly

Section 2 (d): freedom of association

Section 7: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice

Section 9: Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned

Section 15 (2): Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

WHY WE CARE

So, the bill lists 16 kinds of infrastructure as essential:

  1. Controlled area, installation, manufacturing plant, marketing plant, pipeline, processing plant, refinery, road or road allowance as defined in the Pipeline Act
  2. Heavy oil site, mine, oil production site, oil sands site, pit, private utility, privately owned development, quarry, storm drainage system, telecommunication line, transmission line, waste management facility, wastewater system, watercourse or waterworks system as defined in the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act
  3. Provincial highway, transportation facility, transportation system or urban rail transit system as defined in the Highways Development and Protection Act
  4. Railway, structural facility or track as defined in the Railway (Alberta) Act
  5. Hydro development or power plant as defined in the Hydro and Electric Energy Act
  6. Agricultural operation as defined in the Agricultural Operation Practices Act
  7. Highway as defined in the Traffic Safety Act
  8. Facility as defined in the Oil and Gas Conservation Act
  9. Public utility as defined in the Public Utilities Act
  10. Electric utility as defined in the Electric Utilities Act
  11. Gas utility as defined in the Gas Utilities Act
  12. Coal processing plant as defined in the Coal Conservation Act
  13. Oil sands processing plant as defined in section 2(2)(pp) of the Activities Designation Regulation (AR 276/2003)
  14. Radio apparatus as defined in the Radiocommunication Act (Canada), including its antenna systems
  15. Dam as defined in the Water (Ministerial) Regulation (AR 205/98)16.
  16. Building, structure, device or other thing prescribed by the regulations

Keep in mind, however, that not all definitions are self-explanatory.

Take highways, for example. It’s not what we typically think of when we hear the word. The Traffic Safety Act defines highway as:

"any thoroughfare, street, road, trail, avenue, parkway, driveway, viaduct, lane, alley, square, bridge, causeway, trestleway, or other place or any part of any of them, whether publicly or privately owned, that the public is ordinarily entitled or permitted to use for the passage or parking of vehicles"

It’s pretty expansive and includes city streets, not just rural highways.

Taking away the right for people to protest and making it illegal, and/ or harder to obtain rights to protest just brings to the table more possibilities for an abuse of power by the government and police departments. 

This law destroys our individual rights to peacefully protest, and unfairly targets indigenous peoples and their land, and other minorities and organizations, and should have no place in a democratic society.

Gill McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said “The UCP is trying to frame Bill 1 as a patriotic defence of our oil and gas industry, but if you are patriotic, this is actually the last piece of legislation you should be supporting because it is fundamentally undemocratic.”

Bill 1 according to union presidents “will limit freedom of assembly and freedom of expression for workers, as well as environmentalists and indigenous peoples.”

Bill 1 seems to encourage police to arrest and charge people and have them punished for standing up for ideals that are important to them. Union picketing is generally limited to public spaces next to the private property of an employer - a sidewalk, boulevard, ditch or parking lot. With Bill 1, these places - trails, roads, alleys, squares sidewalks, boulevards, ditches - will be deemed “essential infrastructure” where legal picketing could be punishable by fines and jail time.

This is a bill designed to punish the perceived enemies of conservative governments.

While the Charter protects many of the rights that are crucial to effective protest, laws limit this right in very real ways. Protesters have been arrested for breaching the peace and unlawful assembly. Provincial legislation may restrict blockades on public roadways and assemblies on certain pieces of public property. Finally, municipal by-laws often limit how, when, and where, protests can be held. 

If we allow too many restrictions on the fundamental right to protest, we silence the voices of many in our society, particularly those who may have limited other means for making their views known. 

It’s worth remembering that protests are intended to cause disruption and this is protected activity in a democracy. Strong protections for the right to protest are essential to meaningful and informed political debate and discussion. A democratic society welcomes debate and disagreement on the key issues of the day, and protest is a big part of this process.  Protests can be messy and disruptive, but they are also crucial to our well-being as a society.  We only have the right to vote every few years, but protests provide opportunities to express our views and grievances at any time.

This bill is a clear violation of our human rights, AND our Canadian rights.

THE RIGHT TO PROTEST IS CRUCIAL TO A FREE DEMOCRACY AND IMPORTANT TO CREATING A MORE EQUITABLE SOCIETY.

 

References:

https://kimsiever.ca/2020/05/30/the-ucp-government-passed-bill-1-is-protest-illegal/