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Thursday, 11 Jun 2020

One of the primary tenets of a fair and democratic society is its right to peacefully assemble.

The Alberta Government's Bill One is a blatant attack on our charter-protected rights and freedoms.

On May 28, Bill 1, the “Critical Infrastructure Defense Act,” passed third reading in the Alberta legislature. While its title suggests the bill is nothing more than a common-sense approach to protecting the province’s critical infrastructure such as pipelines, refineries and electrical substations, this is far from its intent and certainly its consequences. In fact, Bill 1 does more to eliminate an individual Albertan’s right to assemble and be heard than it does to protect infrastructure.

Alberta Legislature Grounds: Budget Day February 27th, 2020

How? Firstly, the definition of “critical infrastructure” is broad and open to the whims of cabinet to designate as they see fit. Noted in the Bill are a “highway” or “proposed highway,”transportation facility,” or “urban rail transit system.” In other words, roads.

Black Lives Matter Rally: Olympic Plaza Calgary June 6th, 2020

The Black Lives Matter rallies that took place in Calgary and Edmonton recently are, under this Bill, illegal. In fact, it’s now illegal to “aid, counsel or direct another person to commit an offense” under this act. How do these marches get set in motion? They get life from people and groups posting the when and where of such an event on social media. This is now illegal in Jason Kenney’s Alberta.

What are the consequences in Alberta for exercising your Charter right to peaceful assembly? First offence is $1000 to $10,000 fine and/or 6 months in jail. Second offence is $1000 to $25,000 fine and/or 6 months in jail. This Bill criminalizes our Charter rights of freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression and, as noted, peaceful assembly.

How Bill One Goes Against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Section 2 b: freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication
Section 2 c: freedom of peaceful assembly
Section 2 d: freedom of association
Section 7: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice
Section 9: Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned
Section 15 (2): Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

What's at Stake?

As citizens, we should be very concerned about any government taking away our right to express ourselves, in a peaceful manner, about anything that infringes on us or that we feel passionate about. As Albertans, we should be embarrassed that we have a government that thinks it’s okay to act in such a draconian fashion without blinking an eye. Ironically, it is now illegal to protest Bill 1.

Alberta Legislature Grounds: Budget Day February 27th, 2020

This Bill could, however, could go beyond marches and protests. This could impact a union’s ability to walk a picket line when on strike or locked out. It could limit First Nation’s from hunting and fishing on their own land. We live in a democracy. That means we get to vote for who we want to represent us in legislatures across the country. Once that’s completed, however, there are few ways to exercise your democratic right and affect change, but peaceful protests do, and always have, play a significant role in democracies. Sign the Petition to Oppose Alberta Bill 1: "Critical Infrastructure Defence Act"

With Bill 1 and the earlier Bill 10: “Alberta Personal Income Tax Amendment Act,” which gave the government sweeping powers to make legislative changes outside of the legislature, the UCP have made themselves unaccountable until the provincial election of 2023.

It will be interesting to see just how far Kenney takes both these bills; however, it is clear that Bill 1 is unconstitutional and will face a charter challenge at some point. For all the posturing Albertans do around our motto fortis et libre, Kenney has made us the least free citizens in the country. Let’s remember that in 2023.
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