News Articles Featured | Mike DeSouza | PostMedia | September 30, 2012
A group of 13 environmentalists has invited a veteran Canadian climate scientist to support them with testimony in court Monday as they contest fines issued for trespassing beyond a temporary police fence on Parliament Hill last year.
The group of environmentalists was detained and banned from returning to the Parliament buildings for a year after the protest on Sept. 26, 2011. The peaceful sit-in targeted federal policies the protesters said would allow dangerous and irresponsible development of the Alberta oilsands industry and expansion of pipelines.
About 100 protesters were detained by police during the event, but most opted to pay their fines.
A spokesman for the other 13 explained that they decided to take their battle to court to protect their right to free speech and the right to publicly challenge policies and decisions adopted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Mark Ertel, an Ottawa lawyer who is representing Saul, agreed that the court battle would give the defendants the chance to publicly explain their actions. He also suggested efforts to restrict people from circulating freely on Parliament Hill were “preposterous.”
“A lot of us are too lazy to go and exercise (the right to walk on the lawn of Parliament Hill), but those people who do go and exercise it – when they’re prevented from doing it – that’s a real prejudice both to them and to the public interest,” Ertel told Postmedia News.
Ertel said he previously won a stay of proceedings in a similar case against protesters who were arrested and faced criminal charges for attempting to deliver a lump of coal to Harper’s residence at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa in December 2007 in protest over his climate-change policies.
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver had defended federal policies following the September 2011 protest, explaining that the government was supporting and protecting economic growth, while describing the participants as “extremists.”
“I certainly take the view that the NDP should stop taking the side of extremists who want to kill Canadian jobs,” Oliver told Postmedia News in an interview last year. “I’m not saying everyone who’s protesting is (an extremist). And everyone who’s protesting has a democratic right to get out there and express their view in the public square. This is Canada. I don’t have any quarrel with that at all.”
Meanwhile, John Stone, a climate scientist in Ottawa, explained he agreed to be called as a witness because he hopes to provide context on what the science says about climate change and the potential impacts of different government policies.
“I’m in new territory here,” said Stone. “I have never been in a court before. I believe these people risked civil disobedience because they wanted to draw attention to the need to take action against the threat of climate change. I do not believe these people were acting frivolously.”