Betty's final submissions to Madam Justice Brown (Feb. 19) on sentencing:
Madam Justice Brown
The Supreme Court of BC Feb. 19, 2007
At the end of the reading of your judgment convicting me of Criminal Contempt of Court, Your Ladyship and Mr. Brundrett for Crown Counsel, both advised me to seek legal advice, in other words, to get a lawyer. You can see I haven’t done that, for two reasons. One, I think citizens should be able to access the court system without expensive lawyers. After all, citizens pay for the courts. And pay the people who run and work in the courts. And yet, when accused of a crime, fairly or unfairly, where a large corporation or the government is involved, a citizen must find buckets of money to try to actually participate in a trial in BC on an equal footing with corporate or Crown lawyers.
The quest for justice in BC is not cheap. Not when a citizen is up against large corporations and government bodies such as Kietwit and Sons and Gordon Campbell, through the Minister of Transportation of BC, who are locked into an Olympic studded public, private partnership venture that really means the public pays for the private profit of developers. There is a lot of money at stake in these kinds of developments. And as corporations and governments have the required buckets of money, most of it taxpayer’s money and can hire the most experienced lawyers they will, of course, get the most justice.
And yet in spite of lots of evidence that justice in British Columbia is actually for sale when one is up against corporate might, the thought is so depressing to me that when I am in handcuffs and leg irons, yes, leg irons…and I’m sitting on a metal bench in a police crummy on the long haul back to the Women’s prison at Maple Ridge I try to tell myself, no, Betty…justice can’t actually be for sale in British Columbia. It just seems that way. It just looks that way. It just feels that way. But why does it seem, look, and feel that way to so many other people?
And if you will remember, My Lady, I did have a lawyer when this trial started because Your Ladyship kept insisting I get one. But because Your Ladyship would not allow my lawyer, Cameron Ward, to argue the very rulings that I was arrested by, issues that speak to why I am even now standing before this court, my lawyer quit the case saying that he would not lend legitimacy to this trial by his presence because the trial was so unfair.
Mr. Ward and I talked about this before he actually quit my case. My first impulse was to leave myself when he did, just to walk away from the trial and go straight to prison because I have felt that I, too, have lent legitimacy to this trial by staying and going through the motions as though I believed the trial would be fair when I actually believed the opposite, because the charges are inherently unfair. But I have gone through with the defense part of this trial for one reason…to try to bring other people, those that might be interested, along with me.
And I tell people how Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation, better know as SLAPP suits, are the first steps to getting injunctions. And I ask them to consider that name for a moment. Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation. That’s what these lawsuits are called, law suits to keep citizens from participating in public life by direct legal intimidation. And then I go on to explain that when corporations are annoyed with citizens refusal to just hand over some beloved eco system, the corporations don’t ask the police to arrest the people who are bothering them, instead they ask the judges of British Columbia to do it.
And I go on to explain how the courts oblige these requests by turning SLAPP suits into injunctions, and that so far only a handful of judges have questioned this practice. And then I will continue to advise people that of course breaking an injunction by refusing to move when ordered to will lead to contempt of court charges, Rule 56 , civil v criminal contempt of court, questions arising concerning why don’t the police just arrest protesters who are blocking a road instead of waiting for weeks, months, for the judge to do it by injunction, why didn’t Kietwit and Sons ask the court to issue a Mandamus order to make the police arrest if they didn’t want to, why didn’t the Attorney General use Mandamus, how does the Charter of Rights and Freedoms fit into the equation and why when a citizen is arrested under an injunction they cannot in court argue the rightness or wrongness of the use of the injunctions because there is a rule forbidding arguing against injunctions once one is arrested under one.
And these questions have certainly not been answered by my trial and conviction. They’re still hanging out there and are still here in this courtroom as I stand before you this afternoon.
But legal jargon makes these questions difficult to understand by the public, including reporters. Which is why the use of injunctions by the courts is such a smashing success, why the police love injunctions because they don’t have to do anything until they’re told to by the court, why the attorney general loves injunctions because he doesn’t have to do anything even though he is the highest police officer in the land, so to speak, and why the premier also favors injunctions because he gets the results he wants without having to anything when a bitterly contested environmental dispute erupts because of his own mercenary policies. And the corporations, of course, absolutely love injunctions, laughing, as they do, all the way to the bank with largely taxpayer’s money that is being literally siphoned their way through these new public, private partnerships.
And the actions of mine, My Lady that you define as depreciating the authority of the court I define as trying to direct citizens attention toward the reality of how BC courts actually work…how BC courts have facilitated the deforestation of British Columbia by the use of injunctions to stifle citizen protest. People have a right to know about injunctions, how they work in environmental disputes, who they benefit, how injunctions keep citizens from protecting what is rightfully theirs, the public forests, the smaller eco systems like Eagleridge Bluffs, and the streams and waterways of this province.
People have a right to know when courts themselves fracture the law by doing an end run around the criminal code and the Constitution by using an archaic ruling, that of contempt of court, the only ruling that results in imprisonment that is not encoded in the criminal code, to punish citizens who dare to seriously challenge corporate might. I don’t need legal advice to know right from wrong, my Lady, or to know when I am being politically prosecuted as I have been by this court and by Mr. Brundrett and by the Attorney General.
Recently Mr. Wally Opal on CKNW said that anybody in BC facing prison time could have a jury trial. But when I called into the program and advised Mr. Opal that I was facing prison time on a Criminal Contempt of Court charge and wasn’t allowed a jury trial he said well, in my case the judge was quite right not to allow me a jury trial; as I was arrested under civil contempt and that civil contempt did not warrant a jury trial. And yet here I am, once again convicted of Contempt of Court, not Civil, but Criminal, minus a jury trial, or the protections of the Criminal Code. My Lady, the very expediency of this method of depriving citizens of their lawful rights when they seek to protect the environment from corporate predators is quite remarkable. I protest this, My Lady, and will protest it with my dying breath.
And I take issue with Your Ladyships’ contentions that this trial and the other Eagleridge trials were like any other trials, in that the participants could simply be divided into winners and losers. No, My Lady. The difference between this trial along with the other environmental trials and say a corporate scandal trial, or a murder trial, is that there are no winners here. Even the winners are losers. We are all losers. We all have to live on this planet, a planet whose life forms have taken millions of years to evolve but now are in an accelerated process of being cut down, burned out, dug out, or hacked to death for profit, or are in the process of decomposing due to climate change, a change brought about by a corporate mentality that respects nothing but money.
And this decomposing is bringing human diseases, old as well as new diseases, and I would just refer to an article in the Globe and Mail of Feb 10, 2007 about a serious new fungi disease occurring on Vancouver Island and that is now spreading into the city of Vancouver, a disease brought about by deforestation and climate change.
And the cancer epidemic is raging unabated, including the rise in reproductive cancers in young people, the rapid drop in human male sperm count is continuing along with the changing structure of the chromosomes in human sperm. But there is one human health issue that to me and an increasing number of people is so overwhelming that it is painful to even think about… and that is that human breast milk has become the very most polluted human food on this increasingly chemically polluted earth. This is a staggering thought…that the very source of life for infants…a source of life that has been perfected by millions of years of evolution is now the most chemically polluted food on earth. What does that mean for future generations? We should all be screaming in the streets.
That Mr. Campbell has recently announced curbs on greenhouse gases is testimony to one thing…that even Mr. Campbell understands he must make some gesture to the growing public demand for environmental protection, but he will, I feel sure, continue on his road to environmental degradation because of his commitment to turning everything public into private. The public forests that are being logged out under Mr. Campbell’s tenure are in watersheds that will dry out once cut, endangered species like the Spotted Owl and other creatures that only live in old growth will disappear altogether, but even the Arbutus forests destroyed at Eagleridge Bluffs for the Greenest Games Ever, as Mr. Campbell touted, were big enough to act as carbon sinks, the wetlands there wide enough to act as filters, cleaning water and air and preserving red listed species.
My lady, it wasn’t brought to your attention, but I went another time to Eagleridge Bluffs Parking Lot after the injunction just before my third arrest. It was on June 4, 2006. Mrs. Nahanee, the other elder arrested and charged by this court called me on the evening of June 3rd and said she had to go to the Bluffs to say prayers for the dead and dying creatures in the Bluffs due to the logging and blasting up there.
I argued with her about going because I was afraid she would be arrested again and Mrs. Nahanee has severe asthma and a heart condition but she said no, she was determined to go, it was part of her Pacheenacht heritage and that she was obligated to go. I continued to argue with her and then she started talking about the red legged frogs and told me there were red legged frogs in the Bluffs wetlands and she especially had to say prayers for the red legged frogs.
When I asked her why especially the frogs she said that red legged frogs only live in wet lands and they signify life because that’s where we all came from, the wetlands, and so the red legged frogs also signify life to humans, and that in the Pacheenacht belief when the last red legged frog dies all of humanity will also die.
I immediately thought of New Orleans. I’m from that part of the country. I was raised outside Baton Rouge, not far from New Orleans. In those days all of southern Louisiana was bound by wetlands, wetlands literally teeming with life. Sometimes the sky would be black with migrating birds and the fish so numerous there were times when you would almost have to knock the fish out of the way with the poles used to push the little boats that were called peroes through the shallow waterways of the bayous.
But after the Cypress groves were logged and the oak forests cut down and the marshes and bayous were drained and filled in and eventually when only oil rigs and gambling casinos dotted the shoreline of Louisiana instead of marshes and shell fish and pelicans and wild rice and alligators further back in the bayous’ and only then when all of the natural eco systems had been destroyed that served as brakes on storm patterns could something like the New Orleans floods occur after a hurricane. The flooding that brought death and destruction to a famous historical city that will never recover.
And so, remembering New Orleans, I said okay, Harriet, I won’t try to talk you out of going to say the prayers for the dead at Eagleridge anymore. But wait for me. I’m coming with you. So the next day we went into the parking lot at Eagleridge and the police were there, made very nervous by our sudden appearance, but they didn’t try to stop us, but followed as we walked further into the parking lot. And when Mrs. Nahanee stopped and sang the death songs and said prayers the police stood on each side of us but they didn’t try to interrupt.
My Lady, before Mrs. Nahanee was tried by this court I sent Your Ladyship a letter explaining that I was worried about Mrs. Nahanee because she wasn’t well that she had chronic asthma and was left weakened from the flue. But Your Ladyship sentenced Mrs. Nahanee to 14 days at Surrey Pre Trial which is a hell hole, and now Mrs. Nahanee is in hospital with lung infections admitted not even a week after her release from Surrey Pre Trial.
My Lady, in a very real sense this trial is not about me. It’s about an awakening human consciousness, a consciousness that wants to do things differently, that wants to be healthy, and that wants a healthy planet. But we have to fight for that because there is so much money to be made in destroying the natural life support systems of this earth. We have to struggle against our own individual participation in this process but I am confident we can do that and I am made confident by the support I receive from others. I want to read a few lines from some of the many letters of support I have received…
These letters are very kind and I love them, and there are more but there isn’t time. However, some of the letters mention alternatives to going to prison and while I appreciate their concern I would like to speak to this issue before you sentence me.
I won’t do community service should that be part of my sentence. I have done community service all of my life and I have done it for love. I refuse to have community service imposed on me as a punishment. And I won’t pay a fine or allow anyone else to pay a fine for me. I won’t accept any part of electronic monitoring as I would consider that an enforced internalization of a guilt I don’t feel and don’t accept and I refuse to internalize this court’s opinion of me by policing myself. As for apologizing to the court I will not do so except for this personal aside…
My Lady, I come from a backwoods country culture that placed a high value on courtesy and hospitality. I know I have been discourteous to Your Ladyship in this courtroom at times and it grieves me to be in such a contentious situation with another woman. But while the entire court system pretends to be free of sexism it is one of the most sexist places a citizen can find herself in and I object to the sexist language of the court and I object to the general disregard for what has historically been described as women’s values in BC courts regardless of whether the judge is male or female.
But I cannot apologize to this court, even had my trial held some semblances of fairness because it is part of a larger BC court legacy that always sides with the logging, mining, and construction corporations against citizens, corporations who are responsible for the massive deforestation of this province and the massive spraying with Roundup and other chemicals after logging and replanting, chemicals that have cancer causing agents, ones that have polluted this entire province.
And this court is part of a continuing larger court legacy that refuses to change in the face of changing public opinion, BC courts are lagging light years behind the general public who sees the destruction brought by the courts protection of logging and endless highway building and is beginning to demand change in the way the courts think of the environment of BC, including priceless eco-systems like Eagleridge Bluffs. How can I apologize for trying to bring this to public attention, My Lady? Or for tying to change the judicial use of injunctions that allow these crimes to continue? I cannot. Ever. Do with me what you will. I am in your hands.