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A new bill tabled by Jason Kenney and the UCP government proposes protestors that block rail lines and highways in Alberta face fines of up to $25,000, according to the Edmonton Journal.
With the introduction of Bill 1, the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, police and prosecutors would have the ability to enforce more provincial penalties.
“Apparently those disincentives haven’t been strong enough for some people,” said Jason Kenney. “Albertans and Canadians respect our constitutionally protected freedoms of expression, of assembly, and to protest but blocking railways, roadways, and commuter trains and critical infrastructure is simply and plainly illegal.”
Kenney again suggested that Sunday’s withdrawal of the Teck Frontier mine was partly caused by protestors against the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern BC.
“If this carries on it will have devastating impacts on our economy here in Alberta and in the rest of the country. Albertans will not tolerate this kind of lawless mockery of our democratic principles and this attack on our nations and our province’s prosperity,” he said.
Bill 1 adds to the legislation introduced by the UCP in the fall which heightens maximum trespassing penalties.
If the Bill passes it would introduce larger fines as well as prison terms reaching up to six months. Bill 1 would also introduce fines that could be added on to initial fines each day that protests continue.
Some of the “essential infrastructure” that the bill would apply to includes oil and gas sites, water utilities and dams and telephone lines.
Justice minister Doug Schweitzer said, “Each day that (this) goes on, it would be a new offence, so the fines would compound over time … We want to send a clear signal that this will not be tolerated.”
Initial fines would begin at $1,000 and reach up to $25,000 by just the second day of a blockade. Corporations that aid or direct blockades could see fines as large as $200,000.
Schweitzer noted that the onsite police would have to power to decide whether or not the law would be applied to these protests.
The bill was criticized by NDP leader, Rachel Notley who said that the bill could potentially be used to shut down other types of protests that the government disagrees with such as teacher’s protests.
“Bill 1 should have been completely focused on jobs, and as we know when it comes to protesters that this premier claims to be concerned about, the law already prohibited that kind of work and the law already allowed for them to be arrested,” Notley said.
Schweitzer told the federal government to follow their lead and take a similar approach with their legislative action.