Carol Linnitt Fairy Creek

A Conservative election campaign proposal is raising alarm bells

Erin O’Toole’s party is bringing back talk of protecting ‘critical’ infrastructure for the 2021 federal election. The pledge is sparking concerns about the right to freely protest
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AUG. 19, 2021

A Conservative proposal is raising alarm bells

Erin O’Toole’s party is bringing back talk of protecting ‘critical’ infrastructure. The election pledge is sparking concerns about the right to freely protest

Protesters and police at the Fairy Creek blockades
Between the droughts and the wildfires and the heat dome and just the general sense that the world is melting right now, there seems to be an all-around heightened tenor to conversations about climate change.

Add in the devastating warning issued last week from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and suddenly all those sit-ins and demonstrations and marches don’t feel like a fringe reflection of eco-extremists, but instead what people who care about the future of the planet might want to do in their spare time.

Just as the need to address climate change is growing more urgent, though, the very act of protest in Canada could become a lot more risky. In fact, a plan to prevent the very kind of protest we’ve seen around energy infrastructure and Indigenous land rights is part and parcel of the election platform of the Conservative Party of Canada.

“Peaceful protest is a fundamental right in Canada, but respect for the rule of law means that illegal blockades that shut down critical infrastructure, threaten access to vital supplies, or endanger lives cannot be tolerated,” reads the proposal, which cites the 2020 rail protests tied to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project.

It would have been easy to miss the mention of the “Critical Infrastructure Protection Act” in the 160-page Conservative platform, but thankfully it didn’t escape the attention of reporter Fatima Syed, who dug into all the details for this story in The Narwhal.

The Conservatives declined to share any further details on the legislation, promising to offer more information at some point in this election campaign.

But those who did comment expressed concern about what it could mean for Indigenous land defenders and others seeking to advocate for robust responses to the climate crisis. Some also noted that it appears to be political posturing at a time when we need it least.

“The proposal really seems to be focused on trying to divide, when what we really need to be doing is putting in place laws and policies that inspire us and empower people to come together and confront the climate crisis,” said Tony Mass, director of legislative affairs at Ecojustice.

(Interestingly, Alberta enacted legislation targeting those who protest along “critical” infrastructure like pipelines and rail lines last year in a law that is now facing a constitutional challenge.) 

So how exactly should our leaders be tackling the climate crisis? And what issues would you like to see The Narwhal zoom in on during this federal campaign? Drop us a line to let us know. We’ve got plenty of more election coverage in the, ahem, pipes.

Take care and stay aware,

Arik Ligeti
Audience engagement editor
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