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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Is Anyone Out there

out there
out there
out there?

This week, west coast environmental activist Betty Krawczyk was sentenced to 10 months in Jail, by so-called Madan Justice Brenda Brown of the Supreme Court of BC. She was sentenced for protesting against the Eagle Bluffs highway expansion in West Vancouver, as part of the construction project in advance of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

Betty Krawczyk if a grandmother, and the harshness of the sentence is generally viewed, and certainly by myself, as a message that is being sent to all those many citizens from many walks of life and social classes, not only opposed for social and economic reasons to these games, as a huge expenditure of capital that could be better spent in more socially useful ways (low income housing, day care etc.), but also to such destruction of the environment as that at Eagle Bluffs, in order to facilitate the games and move more polluting vehicular traffic. The message being, behave your fucking selves, don't interfere with the Big Money dreams of the Howe St. Big Boys at the Chamber of Commerce and the Vancouver Club. Tend to your goddamn knitting instead, Granny.

The viewpoint below is that of one of her friends and fellow activists, currently being widely circulated, and stands on its own merit.

For myself however, I would say that what has happened to Betty is part of the price that is going to have to be paid by far, far greater numbers of citizens, unfortunately, fed to the teeth with the neo-conservative ruling class agenda, driving not only these Winter Games but the general deterioration of such limited democracy as has only ever been in place at the best of times, the sell-out of the country, its people and resources to a likewise 2010 North American Union, already likewise apparently signed, sealed and just waiting to be finally delivered.

There are too few people yet, likewise unfortunately, possessed of the qualities of this woman of courage, prepared to make the sacrifice and engage in a struggle with the system. And until there is such a movement with more breadth and depth, the social retreat and rise of this more aggressive ruling class right, armed with its Madam Justices and Courts will continue to hold sway over all our lives.

The tip of my hat to ya, good woman. Takes me back to my own arrest and trial for blocking the Naval Dockyard in Victoria, years ago, during the Vietnam War, protesting the presence of US warships there. (I was hardly out of the navy myself, as I recall. :-)

Why I ask is I often wonder at the general unawareness on a subject that concerns each and every citizen and affects our lives on a daily basis. Canada is a democratic nation governed by the rule of law. This may sound like a rather simplistic statement of fact. However, many confuse justice, ethical and moral rightness with law and continue to labour under the delusion that because a certain subject matter is morally right and ethical it is enshrined in secular law.

I am a firm believer in the necessity of the Rule of Law as a tool (as slow and as cumbersome as the mechanics of it are) that offers recourse and protection for average citizens. However, I am not naïve enough to think there is justice apart from appropriately written, people-oriented law. There is NO justice, without the appropriate law, only law. Period. And, as soon as people who are fighting for the protection of citizens such as Betty Krawczyk, for example, realize this, the sooner positive steps may be taken to change, write or amend laws through legislation to further protect the rights of citizens.

Much more could be said about the process but I do not want to get bogged down in detail.

Recently there was an online suggestion to write letters of support for Betty Krawczyk and forward them along to Madam Justice Brown prior to sentencing Betty for contempt of court.

While I fully support environmental activists, being one myself, I do not support writing letters to any judge prior to sentencing on a contempt of court charge. I feel this is not a good idea and may do a lot of damage to defendants, perhaps even resulting in heavier sentences and the increase of jail time.

Pertaining to Madam Justice Brenda Brown (1), she was the judge who, in an unprecedented move, froze the assets of the BC Teachers Federation stopping the BCTF from (direct quote) “using their assets to further the breach of court order”.

Madam Justice Brown stressed emphatically in her ruling that it is (direct quote) “imperative that all citizens obey orders of the court”. She also used the term “immanent attribute”, which implies orders of the court as being (according to Webster’s New World College dictionary) “inherent” or “ without question”and to stress the seriousness, “present throughout the universe; distinguished from transcendent”. (2)

There is no doubt in my mind that Justice Brown would ever change her judgment as to the “immanent attribute” of court orders. Therefore, all the letter writing in the world, would neither budge nor influence this judge in lightening her sentencing. (3) The opposite may very well be true.

I am also reminded of the last court case I witnessed wherein the man accused was initially protecting his property and water source from being poisoned and was given advice from counsel prior to his sentencing. The lawyer told the man that when the judge asked, “Do you have anything to say in your defense”, to reply “No” and leave it at that. Why? Because, as the lawyer explained, too many people take this opportunity, rattle on as to the reasons why they did what they did, and all it does is annoy the judge and he has seen too many sentences come down harder because of it.

Likewise with letter writing judges in support of defendants prior to sentencing…bad idea…why run the risk of annoying the judge and making it harder on the defendant?

I would hope that supporters and/or advocates of those charged with contempt of court take this suggestion seriously. The criminal contempt of court charge is not about protecting the environment; it is about flying in the face of the rule of law by deliberately defying a judge’s order. There’s nothing like pissing off a judge!

It is wisdom on the part of citizens to gain accurate knowledge of the legal system under which we live and function, for to naively think that justice will prevail based solely on natural laws plus ethical and moral rightness leaves people vulnerable and open to all sorts of bitter disappointments, not to mention jail time.

What does the Rule of Law mean? “It means that everyone is subject to the law; that no one, no matter how important or powerful, is above the law…” it also means that, “If anyone were above the law, none of our liberties would be safe.” (4)

The time to lobby for people-oriented regulations and laws is well prior to the fact, not after it. Otherwise, the tune as sung by the Bobby Fuller Four, “I fought the law and the law won” could well become a jailhouse lament.

(1) http://www.justice.gc.ca/en/news/ja/2002/doc_30272.html

(2) http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/Jdb-txt/SC/05/14/2005BCSC1443.htm

(3) http://weblogs.elearning.ubc.ca/workplace/archives/018631.php

(4) http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/library/idb/forsey/rule_of_law_print-e.asp



bear said...

Hey Coyote,

I am so glad you wrote about this brave lady 'Yote, as there is nary a day goes by without my thought s of her and her honorable efforts...

Interesting comments on why not "annoy" the judge. I can see how this would work, after all they are only human, and one never knows what they are going through in their lives and as to the effect it could have on their decisions of the day. And yeah, if we were to personally annoy them in any way, the effect might be catastrophic for the defendant in the end. Thanks for your sage words on this issue.

I also appreciate what you said here: " I would say that what has happened to Betty is part of the price that is going to have to be paid by far, far greater numbers of citizens,..."

Indeed this I fully agree with bud... A saying that has kinda made me laugh over the years relative to demonstrations is "Don't just stand there...get arrested..." hummmmm... Demonstrating has always been a part of the democratic process, and because people have been apathetic (maybe that is where apathysux's name came from aha)that is why the corruption has seeped into our government imo. We will have to get active to be sure...

Anyways, the world isn't what it appears to be, the future will look quite different than it does now imo. I believe we need to get ready for what’s to come, as it will challenge us to the fullest in many, many ways.

(Ranting again...:-\)

Thanks again "Yote, and Peace Betty's way, and Peace to you and your lady... :-)


Coyote said...

Hear ya, Bear.

Though there is really one big issue I neglect in this piece, and that is the issue of the problems in the way, especially of civil disobedience in defiance of the law, where there is the serious risk of arrest and incarceration, such as Betty has done. And the special problem there exists for people working, with family and other obligations, which is a real problem. These folks are going to have to find other forms of resistance, by and large, is my view-, and there are many such useful contributions, limited only by the imagination.

The civil disobedience and arrest risk is, unfortunately, likely going to have to be taken by both the very young, with yet themselves only at risk, and the old, such as Betty and myself, who likewise have only ourselves to put at risk.

What Betty has done isn't easy or useful even, for many people-, at least until, when and if there are such sufficient masses of folks that it is simply impossible for the ruling class courts to catch, haul away, process and jail us all.

While I admire Betty's gutsiness, and it points to the future, most folks are simply not going to be able to go there without putting obligations and families at really serious risk. There is still a broad front nonetheless at which such folks can and will be needed no less, to engage the system.

The really big job that still needs to done, more practically for most folks right now, is "educating" other ordinary folks and the community about the issues and underlying causes driving the current destructive social and enviromental behaviours of "the system", and how it diminishes the prospects and quality of people's lives.. In my opinion,as much as I admire what Betty has done, and those as can should certainly be prepared to join her, it's that more practical and achievable work for most folks that is the more important groundwork that really needs to be going on now.

It's going to take a whole lot more complex struggle than going to jail, in and of itself, to change the prospects for the environment and ordinary people's lives. (Which doesn't diminish what Betty is doing, 'cause no doubt she is successfully drawing attention and educating too.) It's just that it is also true, that if we all wind up in jail, once we are there, you've pretty well been decommissioned for that period of time too-, and radical numbers are yet pretty goddamn small. :-)

My view anyway.

Larry Gambone said...

I think the judge should be held personally accountable for the death of Harriet Nahanee (See Tyee article) And I agree Bear, these servants of power should be annoyed. They should be remined that we will never forget their crimes against the people.

bear said...

Yup Coyote and Larry, there are many ways of skinning a c...opps, I don't like that saying, I should say there are many ways to get the job done :-) In this, I agree. We can come together with all our strengths to promote the environmental and social justices we all want to see exist. We can uniquely use our strengths, whatever they may be. And an imagination is necessary in this regard for sure 'Yote. Again, sage words.

And yes Coyote, I would gladly "annoy" if good results were assured, but if "annoy" costs more than it gives, than I would refrain to be sure.

Coyote said: "The really big job that still needs to done, more practically for most folks right now, is "educating" other ordinary folks and the community about the issues and underlying causes driving the current destructive social and environmental behaviors of "the system", and how it diminishes the prospects and quality of people's lives.."

Wonderfully put Coyote :-) Absolutely, as "a mind stretched is never the same"...

Coyote said: "It's going to take a whole lot more complex struggle than going to jail,..."

I agree totally bud :-)

Larry said: "I think the judge should be held personally accountable for the death of Harriet Nahanee"

I agree Larry, and in this way, I HOPE it annoys this particular judge a lot :-)

Peace friends,


Coyote said...

My babe and I are off the see the movie, "Breach".

Probably just another Hollywood piece of shit, but I'm really needing a popcorn and big screen fix.

I'll let ya's know tomorrow how it was.

Mmmmm, I made some pan fry potatoes and pork tenderloin scallopine, dipped in egg, then in mozzarella and breadcrumbs, covered with butter sauteed onion and mushrooms tonight. With just a simple side of peas. It's a really simple and quick meal that yet sets so good in the tummy. (The scallopine is a recipe I originally lifted from Jaques Pepin-, who used to cook a lot with Julia Childs.)

A good night folks. Spring continues to unfold. Love it.

Larry Gambone said...

Counterpunch has a good article today on Betty K. See

The Sentinel said...
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