updated below : Betty's Sept 22 hearing
Something has gone terribly wrong here.
Betty Krawczyk was 65 years old when she went to jail for Clayoquot Sound. It was her first ever time in prison.
She went to jail again at age 78 for standing in front of bulldozers in 2006 to protest the building of the Sea-to-Sky Highway through the Eagleridge Bluffs in West Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics.
"There will be no logging here today," she said.
That time a court injunction also specified that she stay away from the bluffs. She didn't stay away and back into prison she went for another 10 months, this time for disobeying the court.
Somehow, instead of receiving the Order of Canada for her courage, Betty is now up to eight prison sentences - eight! - without this environmental hero and grandmother of eight having ever harmed a single person or piece of logging or construction equipment.
She shows up, she stands up for her beliefs, she gets arrested.
Her real crime in the eyes of the courts is that she challenges the legitimacy of the judicial system to criminalize dissent, to punish protesting :
"I won’t do community service should that be part of my sentence. I have done community service all of my life and I have done it for love. I refuse to have community service imposed on me as a punishment. And I won’t pay a fine or allow anyone else to pay a fine for me. I won’t accept any part of electronic monitoring as I would consider that an enforced internalization of a guilt I don’t feel and don’t accept and I refuse to internalize this court’s opinion of me by policing myself."Back to jail for Betty K.
After serving out her last sentence in full, Betty appealed it on the grounds that the squelching of protest inconvenient to corporations and governments is an illegitimate use of the legal system.
The Attorney General's response to her appeal has been to cite a case ruling for chronic offenders, recommend the court re-sentence her under the rules of "accumulated convictions", and lock her up for life?
"When an accused has been convicted of a serious crime in itself calling for a substantial sentence and when he suffers from some mental or personalty disorder rendering him a danger to the community but not subjecting him to confinement in a mental institution and when it is uncertain when, if ever, the accused will be cured of his affliction, in my opinion the appropriate sentence is one of life."
"A serious crime"? "A mental or personality disorder"? "A danger to the community"?
"Life" ? For an appeal to a sentence she has already served?
Shame on you, Michael Brundrett of the Attorney Generals Office.
It was extraordinary enough that a provincial government now happy to take credit for having "saved" Clayoquot Sound was willing to jail for two and a half years a person prominently responsible for having forced them to do so. It is beyond heinous that they should now attempt to rebrand her fight for social justice and responsible environmental practices some sort of "mental disorder" worthy of a life sentence.
Betty's appeal will be heard this Wednesday Sept 22nd at 10am at the Court House, 800 Smithe St., Vancouver. She is asking for your support at a rally at 9:30am on the back steps of the Court House at Howe and Robson just before the hearing.
Please come. If you can't, write or email a letter to your local paper, your MLA.
Anything will do - the important thing is to let them know you are watching.
Betty is willing to go to prison for her beliefs; please take a few moments to write a letter to stand up for yours.
Update Tuesday Sept 21. Her hearing is tomorrow and still nothing on CBC or in the papers!
Are they going to wait until afterwards again?
Hey, peeps, sound the horns and make a stink out there!
Will update tomorrow after I get back from the hearing.
Sept. 22. 8pm. Hi again.
The good news at Betty's hearing today was that Crown lawyer Brundrett said he is not seeking any increase to her already served 10 month sentence and was merely using the comparison to the 15 and 25 year sentencing of the two pedophile cases he cited to justify the "scope of appropriate sentencing". Sure.
Speaking on her own behalf in court today, Betty took on the unfair use of civil courts to stifle dissent by imposing heavy sentences on peaceful protesters. In a trial by indictment, she would have had access to trial by jury and the Charter of Rights to fight the charges. Instead, Betty got a summary trial, a process peculiar to BC, in which the Crown can use civil court - no jury, no access to the Charter - to do an end run around the usual criminal process.
Consider. You object to the bulldozing of crown land by the government and stand in front of the bulldozer. The bulldozer company gets an injunction to prevent you from obstructing their work.
The next time you stand in front of the bulldozer you are now automatically in contempt of court. Did you disobey the court order to desist? Yes, you did. Guilty. And every time you protest, the length of sentence goes up as the court protects its right to find you in contempt. You appeal your conviction to the Supreme Court but they decline to take the case. So back you go to the BC Court of Appeal to protest your sentence, the only legal avenue left open to you, but now you are operating under rules that only allow you to address the fairness of your sentence, not your original reasons for protesting in the first place.
At no point along the course of this legal nickel and diming did you get to defend your actions on behalf of the environment. Neat trick, eh?
This is exactly what happened to Betty, starting with her arrest at the bulldozing of West Vancouver’s Eagleridge Bluffs for the 2010 Winter Olympics..
Betty's considerable respect for the law and her expectation of the inevitability of serving time for contempt of court is not at issue, as she has said herself repeatedly.
Instead, what she is shining a light on here is a legal chill process which prevents peaceful protesters from getting a fair hearing for the original reasons for their protest.
Damn fine thing to hear an 82 year old great grandmother take this one on.
After Betty and Crown lawyer Brundrett made their submissions, the day ended without resolution and we have to wait for the next as yet unannounced court date to hear the judge's ruling. I am not hopeful that the Appeals Court is either willing or able to address the larger issue of legal chill for protesters that Betty wants to see resolved.
To be continued ....
Great job on this issue today on CBC's The Current, with Anna Maria Tremonti.
ETA : Today's rally outside the courthouse was dedicated to the memory of elder Harriet Nahanee (1935 - 2007), who died after being incarcerated for her protest at the Eagleridge Bluffs. Nahanee also refused to apologize for her "contempt". So should we all.