An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
CONFRONTATION AND ARRESTS are now a common part of public protests rather than an unintended by-product. High-profile interactions between police and protesters bolster publicity and gain support for whatever cause is in play but it should never come to that.
Twenty-nine people, including two journalists, were arrested last Friday and Saturday at a work site for the Coastal GasLink pipeline project west of Prince George. The arrest of the freelance journalists has been condemned by media, and press freedom is certainly a legitimate worry.
The blockades had stranded 500 workers behind the lines, causing concerns about food and water shortages and lack of medical help if it became needed.
A few days earlier, B.C.’s Court of Appeal reserved decision on a new injunction against old-growth logging protests in the Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island. In the meantime, an existing injunction remains in place. Previously, dozens of protesters had been arrested.
In Blue River, the Tiny House Warriors continue their protest encampment against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, with several arrests and convictions for intimidation and other charges.
Nobody denies the right to protest. We have the privilege in our democracy of objecting to decisions made by government. We can silently picket or we can take to the streets with placards and bull horns and be as loud as we want, as long as we don’t break the law or interfere with the rights of others.
That’s what peaceful protest is about. Defying injunctions almost inevitably results in police action because that’s their job. And when police become involved, confrontations escalate and people on both sides don’t always act with impeccable manners. People can get hurt.
In this country, the rule of law co-exists with the right of freedom of expression, and the latter is protected within limits. But the law must be enforced, and that includes protests, no matter which side of an issue we’re on.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.