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Police attempt to intimidate anti-pipeline activists

Extinction Rebellion Vancouver

December 8, 2020

On Monday, CN Police arrested  Extinction Rebellion Vancouver spokesperson, Zain Haq, for alleged criminal contempt of court relating to an anti-pipeline Indigenous solidarity action on November 27th. Haq’s arrest took place in Vancouver while he was present at an Indigenous-led ceremony near CRAB park on Monday. While the VPD was attending the scene to clear the road, a different group of CN police appeared especially to find and arrest him for an alleged offence from over a week before. 

They have also served fines to Haq and fellow spokesperson Maayan Kreitzman for alleged infractions of the Railway Safety Act at an earlier action on November 17th. Both Haq, an undergraduate economics student at SFU, and Kreitzman, a recently-graduated environmental science PhD and former BC Green Party candidate, often speak to the media on behalf of Extinction Rebellion Vancouver. These retroactive punitive measures represent an escalation of tactics on the part of police against peaceful demonstrators.

Police intimidation

“By picking off the more visible people in our group with fines and nonsensical charges, they are trying to intimidate and scare us.” said Kreitzman. “It’s a classic situation where the state tries to suppress anyone pointing to the injustice it is perpetuating. But their intimidation won’t work - we’re just a couple everyday people who happen to be on XR’s media team at the moment, and we’re not going to hide. The group’s ability to function in solidarity with our Indigenous relations and call attention to the climate and ecological crisis doesn’t depend on just us. Building ecocidal fossil fuel infrastructure on unceded land must be prevented.”

"Occupying private and public spaces is an essential step towards truly understanding what a democracy looks like.” said Haq. “CN’s current authority to make arrests as a private corporation should be challenged through mass action. It is impossible to frighten people who have declared a non-violent rebellion against the government."

These examples of delayed targeting of those taking action against the Trans-Mountain (TMX) pipeline are the latest in a troubling trend where protesters are surveilled and targeted after the fact. Contrary to the 5-step arrest process laid out in the TMX injunction, two Indigenous land defenders (Stacy Gallagher and Jim Leyden) were targeted out of a crowd, charged and convicted of criminal contempt of court this year, using only surveillance - neither were arrested on the scene. The rail blockade actions for which the two XR spokespeople are being targeted were both peaceful and ended with no arrests or tickets on the scene.  

Canada on track to increase emissions
The anti-TMX protests, and the severe police response take place as Canada legislates its climate targets this month. According to the UN’s Gap report, published this week, Canada’s proposed policies forecast an increase in oil and gas production and will not align with the Paris Agreement to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees C. The BC and Canadian governments are pushing ahead with construction of both the Coastal GasLink pipeline and the TransMountain Expansion, despite resistance from hereditary leaders and First Nations along both routes and a recent warning from economists that the TransMountain project is no longer financially viable. In November, the Canada Energy Regulator released a report stating that there is no need for any pipeline expansion if Canada takes measures to curb GHGs. Indigenous groups, as well as the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls have pointed out the connection between resource extraction man-camps and violence against Indigenous women.

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