The First Time is Scary
It’s true. Doing something important the first time is scary, whether it’s sex, inviting the boss for dinner, getting behind the wheel of a car, or committing your very first act of civil disobedience.
But hold on, you may say. The first three instances are legal, right? As long as it’s non coercive and between consenting adults? Civil disobedience is another matter. Besides having a bad reputation, civil disobedience is against the law, right?
Not exactly. There is no law against civil disobedience as such. However, many different actions of civil disobedience are described in law books as obstructions of one kind of another that citizens might indulge in when they get fed up with business as usual. Which is exactly what happened at Eagleridge Bluffs. Gordon Campbell’s promise of “The Greenest Olympics Ever” while he was in the very act of blasting Eagle Ridge Bluffs to bits was just too galling.
Nobody wants to find themselves afoul of the law. Nobody wants to stand before the icy stare of a judge who is displeased with them. It’s not comfortable. But let’s look at the big picture. When citizens are willing to take the responsibility of civil disobedience, civil disobedience evolves into the body of law. Instead of civil disobedience threatening the structure of law, it actually strengthens it.
How’s that? Civil disobedience strengthens the law? Yes. The history of the evolution of law that governs human rights is primarily the history of civil disobedience. It is citizens, by their actions, who turn unjust laws into just ones, not the courts or the legislatures. In Louisiana (raised there) I witnessed how civil disobedience of the black people morphed into laws of equality for all races. And I’ve studied the history of the WOBBLYS (our first unionists) who were jailed and even killed for trying to legalize unions. And along with these pioneers were all the women who resorted to civil disobedience in order to gain the vote, or even be considered persons under the law. First Nations? Look at their history of trying to regain some of their ancestral lands in BC. Civil disobedience is huge for them. In some areas it is the only way First Nations have made any gains.
In fact, every law and ruling in the criminal code and the charter dealing with the humane treatment of citizens is either the direct result of, or has been heavily influenced, by some group of citizen’s previous civil disobedience. And because of this sensitivity to the evolution of law (never seriously taught in history books, or even in law schools for that matter) I actually love the law. And because I love and respect the law, I want its language to reflect an accurate description of what I did at Eagleridge Bluffs.
I blockaded a roadway. I want to be charged for blockading a roadway, which is covered under the criminal code and the Highways Act. I did not blockade the court. I did not feel contempt for the court. I did feel contempt for Gordon Campbell’s lying promises (still do) and his utter lack of respect for Canadian (BC) sovereignty, and contempt for Kiewit and Sons, a US firm who doesn’t even mention the environment in their braggadocio and who wants BC citizens to pay for their court costs, I also feel a healthy contempt for the way Sgt. Almas arrested me and others, waiting for a foreign company to order our arrest rather than arresting immediately, if he thought we were breaking the law. And Attorney General Wally Oppal? He is the one who instructs police on how they should arrest, and why is he under the control of a foreign company?
In spite of this stacked deck (alliance between courts, police, Kiewit and Sons and Gordon Campbell) we accused have a right in court to declare that we are not guilty of the charge of contempt of court. We all have the right to say that section fifteen of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees everybody equality under the law and that when the contempt of court charge (which stands outside the Charter and the criminal code) is used to place us into a special category where there is no defense, then that’s wrong.
We also have the right to use section 2b of the charter, which protects the right of citizens who attempt to give meaning to others when involved in protests. Certainly, all of the Eagleridge protectors were trying to convey meaning that is, trying to make sense out of a mercenary provincial premier using the Olympic banner to hide eventual multi billion dollar deals with private foreign contractors.
We, as citizens, have a right to fight for our rights under the charter, and for our complaints to be taken seriously. All of us arrested at Eagleridge Bluffs, have an absolute right to plead NOT GUILTY in the courtroom. We have a right to ague that we shouldn’t even be accused of contempt of court, that the charge itself is wrong. And in this process we may be influencing the law, even nudging it forward. Anything is possible. Betty Krawczyk 604-255-4427