2009: December 4th Vancouver sit-in
A Canadian Press write-up – “B.C. climate protesters arrested at MP’s office”
A North Shore Outlook write-up – “Five ‘Climate Justice’ protestors arrested at North Van MP’s office”
Rebecca Aldous in North Shore Outlook – “Climate Justice advocate challenges MP Saxton to town hall debate”
Photos have been posted here
CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT CRACKS DOWN ON PEACEFUL PROTESTS PRIOR TO INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE NEGOTIATIONS
15 Year-old boy arrested after criticizing MP Saxton & Conservative climate stance.
Dec 5, 2009 (North Vancouver, BC) — The sixth in a series of peaceful sit-ins, targeting members of The Harper Government, ended dramatically Friday night in North Vancouver. At 11am on the morning of December 4th, 6 concerned Canadians entered the constituency offices of MP Andrew Saxton. They immediately sat down, refusing to leave until their concerns had been heard. They called for the Harper government to immediately commit to world-class, science based GHG emissions targets. They also requested that MP Saxton participate in an on-camera town hall forum with constituents and local youth representatives prior to the end of the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen to explain his party’s stance on climate change.
Cpl. Marlene Morton of North Vancouver RCMP said “The protest was peaceful in nature and the constituency office was allowed to remain open and operated without interference.” According to Laura Yates, a North Vancouver resident and one of the 5 protesters arrested, ”The woman working in the office was extremely polite.”
Mr.Saxton’s staff in the office and in Ottawa claimed that Mr. Saxton could not be reached because he was in China with PM Harper . While Mr. Saxton’s staff admitted that he did have a blackberry they claimed that they had no knowledge of his whereabouts or agenda in China. The protesters found this hard to believe and decided to wait for Mr. Saxton to wake up and answer his phone.
“Mr. Saxton’s staff have a history of making excuses for him when it comes to the climate issue. In August I organized a youth event on climate change with the assistance of Capilano University and the United Nations. We extended an invitation for Mr. Saxton to attend well in advance. After several calls went unanswered, his staff eventually responded to say Mr. Saxton was on a beach and could not be disturbed.” Said Sean Devlin, another one of the arrested.
The scene grew more interesting as word of the protest spread. Supporters showed up outside the office holding banners and started collecting petition signatures in support of the protesters. In less than 6 hours they collected over 145 signatures from North Vancouver residents who supported the protesters demands.
At 4:30pm the RCMP were called in to assist in removing the protesters. In the middle of negotiations between protesters and police 15 year old North Shore resident Taylor Verrall arrived at the office. He had come straight from school after receiving word of the peaceful protest via text message. As his mother watched he entered the office to show solidarity with the protesters. 45 minutes later 5 of the protesters (including young Mr. Verrall) were arrested for “assault by trespass”. The citizens were surprised by the charge, noting the majority of the protesters who had recently occupied Conservative offices had received a ticket or nothing at all. The escalation in charges comes on the eve of the Copenhagen negotiations when protests are expected to grow larger and more frequent.
Pressure has been mounting on the Conservative government in the lead up to the crucial Copenhagen negotiations. Abroad, an international coalition is calling for Canada to be suspended from the Commonwealth for failing to address the climate crisis. Earlier in the week the Government cut the funding of prominent faith based group Kairos, an active critic of their climate policy. On Tuesday citizens gathered in Vancouver to publicly accuse Prime Minister Harper of ‘criminal negligence’. With signs of visible unrest growing across Canada, it seems the Government has decided to discourage protest by making example of the 5 protesters who occupied MP Saxton’s offices.
“This government doesn’t have my best interests at heart” says 15-year old Verrall “My generation has been left with a record high 13 billion dollar economic bill and Environment on the brink of collapse. I’m willing to go to court to stand up against this injustice”.
The group of 5 will have their day in court January 6th, 2009. In the meantime they are planning to hold a fundraiser for legal costs in North Vancouver the week of December 14th, 2009.