I have great respect for the law. My great-great-grandfather was Justice Tyrwhitt-Drake one of the first supreme court judges in the new colony of British Columbia. His picture is hanging just outside the courtroom. My cousin, also Justice Tyrwhitt-Drake, was one of the judges for the Clayoquot Sound trials in 1993 and prepared decisions that are being used for these trials. In fact it was a recommendation from those very judgements that I took to heart when Justice Bouck (also presiding over Clayoquot) told the arrestees
“Standing on the side-lines and complaining about government policy is no test of character. Neither does it take much to go and sit on a road, block traffic and ask to be carried away by the police. What really shows a commitment to this country and to an idea is persistent involvement in the political process, listening to opposing points of view, fashioning reasonable replies and persuading others. That is difficult and time-consuming work. But it is what democracy is all about.”
I took to heart these recommendations, and embarked on “the difficult and time-consuming” work of politics while raising a family, lecturing at the University of Victoria and working in independent media. I took to heart his interpretation that the civil disobedience practiced by Gandhi in the colonial state of India could not be compared to Canada because, he said, we had an opportunity as Canadians to change the laws democratically. In 2008, I ran as a federal Liberal candidate in Saanich and the Gulf Islands on the platform of electoral reform and upholding three international conventions on climate change, biodiversity and indigenous rights.
What ensued was not a fair election—an essential element of democracy. We were subjected to unprecedented electoral fraud involving robocalls and third party financing. If we had had a fair election, I would not be standing before you today. Under oath, in the Supreme Court of Canada, Senator Mike Duffy admitted to his party’s involvement in the fraud. Strangely, no charges were ever laid because the elections act had been gutted and rendered toothless—and remains that way. The assurance of fair elections does not exist in Canada, so it can be argued that power does not reside with voters but with those that know how to, can afford to, and are allowed to—manipulate the voter and government policies.
Since the 2008 election, I have still continued to respect the law and work politically. I’ve spent the last decade investigating and revealing the links between the deregulation of electoral laws, the influence of oil corporations on elections, the inability of citizens to control what Judge Bouck called “the levers of power” and the unprecedented risk to our national interest from climate change and loss of biological and cultural diversity.
When Prime Minister Trudeau failed in his promises to bring procedural fairness to the environmental review process, failed to respect indigenous rights for this project, failed to reform and close the loopholes of the elections act, failed to honour those three international conventions with the greenlighting of the pipeline, I felt I had no choice but to stand in front of the gates of Kinder Morgan. I do not believe it is possible for the major political parties to participate in elections that are free of interference from powerful special interest groups like these oil corporations.
Although I plead guilty to contempt of court, it is a court in which the laws to protect democracy and the planet have been weakened. To strengthen the laws, I wonder, My Lord, what course of action you would recommend to the scientists, politicians, engineers, ecologists, first nations, farmers, professors, alternative energy entrepreneurs, young people, grandmothers and other arrestees standing here now, since the essential prerequisites for democracy assumed by Justice Bouck a quarter of a century ago have been stripped from our lawbooks.