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IN THE LEDGE – ‘When will the premier do something to end these protests?’

Andrew Wilkinson. (Screenshot, BC Hansard)

Excerpt from Question Period in B.C. Legislature on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020.

A. Wilkinson: Yesterday we saw the Granville Street bridge blocked for a few hours. Thousands of people were marooned downtown, including my own family members, stuck in buildings that they couldn’t exit even through the fire exits. Today we hear that the Attorney General’s office has been occupied on Broadway in Vancouver. We also understand that there’s a complete blockage at UBC where the occupying group has issued a statement that says: “Universities have long served as engines of genocide…producing Eurocentric knowledge and a colonial elite intent on eliminating Indigenous people altogether.” These are the people we’re dealing with who are obstructing our society. The question obviously arises. The Premier has announced that he is sending the Minister for Indigenous Relations up to Smithers or Houston to deal with this. He’s still sitting here in the room. So we wonder what’s actually happened today? It appears to be nothing whatsoever is being done.In the meantime, our infrastructure is being slowly gridlocked and shut down. We’ve also heard that the Premier of Manitoba has taken the initiative to apply for an injunction to clear the rail tracks to let commerce continue in Manitoba. In the face of all this and the stated need to maintain the rule of law, we have an entirely passive approach from the Premier in the face of implacable protesters who are intent on shutting down constituency services, shutting down the university, shutting down our transportation arteries. Will the Premier rise in this House and tell us what he’s going to do that is anything more than passive?

Hon. J. Horgan: I appreciate the Leader of the Opposition wants to highlight the conflict in constituencies. He wants to highlight the conflict across the country. I think that’s what separates me from him. As much as I want to try to address these issues in a thoughtful and compassionate way — not to just be hyperbolic, not to just say that it’s all someone’s fault…. These issues have been emerging over 150 years, and I’m confident the member understands that they won’t be resolved with more force. I believe the vast majority of British Columbians and Canadians agree with me and with him that this is inappropriate behavior, but we can’t just say that that inappropriate behavior should be dealt with by force. It needs to be dealt with by cooperation, by consultation, by discussion so that we can all move forward together. I thought we’d agreed on that with respect to Indigenous rights just last fall.

Mr. Speaker: Leader of the Official Opposition on a supplemental.

A. Wilkinson: Well, with that evasive and conciliatory answer, the Premier neglects the fact that it was him who said a scant two weeks ago that we must maintain the rule of law in this society. That’s what the courts are for, Premier. That’s why Premier Pallister in Manitoba has gone through the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench to get the appropriate injunction. It is incumbent on this government to use the courts where appropriate like infrastructure being blocked, like universities being shut down, like constituency offices being blockaded and occupied. That is the role of the courts. It’s not a matter of some police state where the dictator calls in the police to crack heads. This is a matter of using the vehicles of the courts to maintain the rule of law. Why won’t this Premier obtain injunctions to clear these protests like the Premier of Manitoba?

Hon. J. Horgan: As a learned lawyer, he would know that you don’t need injunctions when unlawful activities are taking place.

Interjections.

Hon. J. Horgan: Law enforcement has appropriate skills and abilities to address these issues. I am dumbfounded that the back bench of the B.C. Liberal Party assumes that law enforcement is not doing their job. Of course they are. What they need is the support of this place, not criticism.

S. Bond: What British Columbians need is a Premier who is going to stand up on behalf of all British Columbians, take some action and actually do something. As the Premier sits here in the Legislature today, British Columbians are watching as ports, bridges and other critical infrastructure is blocked. As we speak, a rail blockade in northern B.C. is stopping companies from shipping their goods, whether it’s lumber, whether it’s grain and other commodities. To quote the president of CN Rail: “The port of Prince Rupert is effectively already shut down.” What do we hear from this Premier? Nothing. There are 6,000 jobs at risk. When will this Premier get up, do his job and seek an injunction to remove the rail blockade?

Hon. J. Horgan: I thank the member for her passion. This is an issue that’s being addressed by CN. It’s also being addressed by the Prime Minister and myself. Both of us have written to the hereditary leadership in the Gitxsan territory and agreed that we would meet with them, send government representatives, at the earliest opportunity. That’s action. But it’s CN’s responsibility to clear unlawful behaviour on their right-of-way, and they’re undertaking that. Again, another former Attorney General — two in a row, back to back, Liberal Attorney Generals— getting up and saying, “Do something,” when they know darn well that we are doing everything that we can to support law enforcement and the right way forward. When the people of British Columbia look at the behaviour on that side of the House, they shake their heads and say: “Thank goodness the erratic people on that side are not trying to move forward in a situation that was not created yesterday, was not created two years ago, was created 150 years ago.”

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. J. Horgan: I thought we had agreed unanimously that we were going to work on these issues together. Apparently, that doesn’t matter to the people on that side of the House.

Mr. Speaker: Member for Prince George–Valemount on a supplemental.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Interjection.

Mr. Speaker: Leader of the Official Opposition, you’re out of order.

S. Bond: The Premier can stand in this House and try passing the buck all he wants, but let’s be clear: the responsibility for upholding the rule of law rests on his shoulders as the Premier of British Columbia, and to suggest he has done everything he can is simply false. Apparently, the Premier of Manitoba has figured out that there’s a tool he can use. Why isn’t our Premier standing up and following that example? Job creators have grave concerns. The Premier knows that. Recently, they said they cannot continue to afford this government’s lack of involvement. In fact, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce appealed on Thursday to all levels of government, including this one, that law enforcement needs to restore rail service by removing the blockades. Industry leaders are concerned. The Premier knows that. British Columbians expect action. The Premier knows that. Will the Premier stand up today and follow the example of the Premier of Manitoba and seek an injunction to end the rail blockade?

Hon. J. Horgan: Again, perhaps the new service isn’t making its way to the basement of the B.C. Liberal caucus. CN has sought an injunction that will be enforced by law. It will be enforced by law enforcement as they are able to do so. Those operational decisions — as, again, she should well know as a former Solicitor General and Attorney General — will be done on their terms, not on terms in this Legislature. I will add that to cast aspersions at the Minister of Reconciliation for sitting here in this House and doing his job is absolutely outrageous. You know full well he was in Wet’suwet’en territory. He has criss-crossed this province building relations with Indigenous people so we can move together in prosperity for all British Columbians, not just the rich friends that back your party.

Source: BC Hansard.

About Mel Rothenburger (7779 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on IN THE LEDGE – ‘When will the premier do something to end these protests?’

  1. I wonder what rock they dragged Wilkinson out from under

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