"A society that indulges in the mass arrests of its own citizens may not yet be a dictatorship, but nor is it any longer staunchly democratic. And things are decidedly slipping in the wrong direction — even with Prince Charming wearing the engineer’s hat on our debt-driven gravy train."
Michael Harris foresees a looming battle between ordinary British Columbians and their federal government, one that could see this government resort to force against us.
There is some merit to that. It is true that Ottawa has the legal and constitutional authority to declare any project in the national interest, trumping provincial objections. So far, that is what PM Trudeau has suggested he will do. Besides Trudeau’s declaratory powers, he also holds the enormous lever of the Emergencies Act, should he ever decide to pull it.
All the prime minister would have to do is decide that any public protest against the twinning of this American company’s pipeline across B.C. would be a “breach of the peace”.
Trudeau could also decide that protesters represented a threat to the national security of Canada’s critical infrastructure — whatever that may mean. Does laying down in front of a piece of heavy equipment constitute a threat to national security? Critical infrastructure was always assumed to mean things that were needed in the event of a crisis or war, and certainly not simply for the betterment of shareholders and jobs in swing ridings.
If the Emergencies Act were to be invoked, there would be no protesters on Burnaby Mountain because the government could ban all travel to and from the site. Kinder Morgan’s work site could be completely secured, like a G-20 venue or a military base. And if protesters moved to a new site, public assembly could be banned there too, and so on, and so on….
Six years after 463 Quebecers were arrested on Pierre Trudeau’s orders, the separatist Parti Quebecois scored a landslide victory in Quebec. Almost 20 years later, the PQ very nearly took the province out of Canada in its second referendum.
And it’s not as if there are no heavy hands in Justin Trudeau’s government. Trudeau’s minister of Natural Resources, Jim Carr, mused about sending in the troops to deal with pipeline protesters in British Columbia
Polls have shown that 10 per cent of the population is prepared to engage in “direct action” to stop Kinder Morgan. Direct action is code for doing things that can land one in jail. There are more dedicated environmentalists in B.C. than any other place in the country.
Though Trudeau undeniably has the legal power to suffocate Kinder Morgan protests on Burnaby Mountain, he has lost the social license and moral authority to do so. Here’s why: The prime minister clearly reneged on promises to replace Harper era environmental assessments before allowing major resource projects like Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion to go forward.
Though he was conspicuously, and brilliantly, generous in the recent budget with the re-funding of scientific research in Canada, he has ignored science in the case of Kinder Morgan — or at least he has in the opinion of great scientists like revered ecologist David Schindler.
Trudeau talks a good game when it comes to finding common ground, and sometimes he does, but he has utterly failed to do that on this file.
Some unsolicited advice to the PM: Sucking and blowing is not the best path to political longevity.