Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party announced a new bill in Tuesday’s throne speech that is designed to put a stop to what he calls “illegal blockades.”
Kenney told reporters gathered at the Alberta legislature that blockades across Canada and Alberta have hurt the economies of every province.
“I have spoken to major player investors who have withdrawn or canceled multibillion dollar projected investments in Canada, in part because of an appearance of inability for Canada to govern itself along our critical infrastructure in particular,” Kenney said.
Kenney didn’t name any of the investors he spoke with.
He said the blockading of what he calls “critical infrastructure” is illegal and needs to stop.
“This is not legitimate and lawful protest. Albertans and Canadians respect our constitutionally protected freedoms of expression of assembly and to protest, but blocking railways, roadways ,commuter trains and critical infrastructure is simply and plainly illegal,” he said.
Kenney says his government will be introducing a bill to prevent blockades in the province.
“That is why today, the government of Alberta has introduced in the legislature, Bill number one, the Critical Infrastructure Defense Act, which imposes stiff new penalties on lawbreakers who purposefully block critical essential infrastructure, such as railways, roadways, telecommunication lines, utilities, oil and gas production and refinery sites, pipelines and related infrastructure.”
Kenney said penalties will include daily fines for individuals of up to ten thousand dollars, or a six month prison sentence. or both. with each day of protest, a new charge and fine.
It will also be an offense to aid, council or direct the commission of an offense, such as a blockade or protest on critical infrastructure.
Supporters of the Wet’suwet’en set up a blockade on a CN rail line on the edge of Edmonton last week.
(Wet’suwet’en supporters block the tracks near Edmonton. Photo: Chris Stewart/APTN)
And police from coast to coast are dealing with, or have dealt with a number of protests and blockades since the Feb. 6 raid on Wet’suwet’en territory by the RCMP.
That included one in Ontario two hours west of Toronto where Mohawks of Tyendinaga in support of the Wet’suwet’en set up a protest by the side of a CN rail line connecting Canada’s biggest city to the east.
That was partially dismantled Monday morning after the Ontario Provincial Police arrested 10 people at the site – but now more are now popping up in support of the Mohawks.
Alberta’s justice minister Doug Schweitzer wants similar legislation enacted across the country.
“We are calling on justice ministers across this country to take a new approach to justice,” he said. “To make sure they are vocal in their displeasure with these type of protests and hopefully they interact similar legislation from coast to coast.”