|February 13 2020
Attn: The Honourable Bill Blair, PC, COM, MP
2263 Kingston Rd, Scarborough, ON M1N 1T8
|Re: Railroad blockades|
As you are aware, over the past weeks there have been a number of large scale blockades conducted by various groups, often nominally in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.
These blockades have impacted roads, rail, port terminals, downtown streets and legislative offices. They have received a great deal of national and international press.
The blockades often appear to be prima facie illegal. If you are aware of any reason why people can trespass on CN property in the manner they are currently doing near Belleville, Ontario, for instance, and render the rail tracks inoperable by their presence, I would be interested to hear it.
The right to protest is enshrined in the Charter, the supreme law of Canada, and is something that has great value to me, and I think all Canadians. However there are bounds to the way in which protest may be carried out legally. These bounds appear to have been breached.
Across the country people are wondering, ‘why aren’t the police doing anything about these illegal protests?’ We watch police on the sidelines, as the protests cause our railways to shut down, and otherwise disrupt the lives of citizens, including through physical assault. Citizens who pay taxes to use highways, roads, and other public areas. Citizens who expect responsive policing and safety.
In the past I did practice criminal law. I understand that you are in a tough position, having to balance competing interests with limited resources. You cannot arrest and prosecute every jaywalker, so to speak. You must be cautious about public perceptions of your actions in removing protesters, and you must minimize the risk of violence in volatile situations.
I worry that the cost of doing nothing in the face of these protests is becoming larger than the cost of acting. People are asking fundamental questions about the nature of our nation, to what extent we are still a nation of laws.
There are a number of police agencies involved in these protests, including the RCMP including its’ provincial divisions, OPP, and city police agencies. This raises its’ own complexities, however I think the RCMP, with it’s national presence and federal jurisdiction over ports, railways etc., is in a good position to set the tone.
The news broke today that CN Rail was shutting down its’ Eastern Canada rail operations, and Via Rail is shutting down their operations nationwide.
Surely this is a sign that these blockades have gone on too long, and that it is time for the police to act. In your capacity as Minister of Public Safety, responsible for the RCMP, I ask that you please do so.
Sean van der Lee