Sunday, September 19, 2010

Life sentence for Betty Krawczyk? Really?

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?
Good God.
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.

Thank you.
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.


Boris said...

Wow, has Betty been found to suffer from a mental disorder by a person qualified to make that assessment or is the AGO pulling shit out of its own ass?

If I were anywhere near there, I'd stand at the court house.

Orwell's Bastard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beijing York said...

This is just such an injustice. I will make an effort to send a letter to my MP and the Winnipeg Free Press and hope it helps.

I will also be with Betty in spirit on September 22nd.

Anonymous said...

What an outrage. The case cited by Brundrett that you quote from concerns a pedophile who raped his own children.
What kind of moral idiot equates environmental activism with pedophilia?
I second your recommendation, Orwell's Bastard.


Anonymous said...

The Federal crown in Niagara recently tried to use the rape shield law to avoid disclosing damaging (to their case) documents about the medical marijuana program. Nothing really surprised me any more, since they work for the BAR, not us.

double nickel said...

Her blog says Wednesday Nov. 22nd. I'm assuming that's a mistake, since Nov. 22nd is a Monday.

Anonymous said...

The second line of her blog says :
(forgive me, first poste said Nov.22, a terrible error when asking people to come support you, but it is Sept. 22)


Daniel Johnson said...

I've been spreading this story around as far and wide as I can. This has ominous consequences for every activist who uses or endorses non-violent civil disobedience, not only for little old ladies who sit in front of bulldozers, but people organizing pot rallies or challenging censorship.

Dana said...

So I guess you got arrested and now are facing life in prison. Is that right?

Alison said...

Dana : You wish ;-) See update above.

Kudos to all who wrote letters and turned up at the rally and hearing today in person and in spirit.

This is part of the larger criminalization of dissent we have recently seen at the G20 police riots and Friday's arrest of a Toronto G20 activist for a bogus bail violation because the police argued that being on a panel for 25 minutes at a public university was taking part in a demonstration!

If you think this is just about Betty K, you're nuts.

Kim said...

This is about the closing of our rights to Freedom of Expression, Freedom of the Press... Everything we hold dear.

Harriet Nahanee will not be forgotten, as we prepare the greatest environmental defence in the history of BC. I'm talking Enbridge, Tanker traffic off Haida Gwaii, Site C, Marine Harvest, Tesako.

Thanks Alison, keep us informed.

Polyorchnid Octopunch said...

Re: your update today. I can tell you what happened. The crown got called into the judge's office, and got told that if he pulled that kind of crap again he'd void the conviction and let Betty K. sue the Crown for defamation for making that odious comparison... and offered him a face-saving way out. I'd love to have a photo or video of his face when he had to spout the BS.

Mario Azzopardi said...

My email to Brundrett:
This is to vehemently protest the BC government’s legal action against Betty Krawczyk. I am ashamed of you in particular, and in moments like this, I am ashamed be a Canadian. This heartfelt shame which now borders on anger and frustration, is exacerbated by the very fact that you sir, represent a new and dangerous path which Canada is unhappily pursuing. You are changing my Canada into an unjust, greedy, corporate ass-buffing country, so eager and so set in becoming the mediocre charlatanistic copy-cat of our neighbours to the south. You are nothing but yet another pawn in the attempt to divest the people from their right to govern. You sir, I must remind you are a public servant and therefore must serve and uphold the will of the people. Alas you think the opposite is true. You are nothing but the very blind new doomed aristocracy that needs to be woken up to the fact that when enough becomes enough, the will of the people will always prevail. Let Betty go.
Mario Azzopardi

Orwell's Bastard said...

Sorry, Blogger hiccup.

I was nominating the Crown guy for Little Eichmann of the Day.

Alison said...

Thanks, OB. It was up here for a bit:
Little Eichmann of the Day

and I added it on when I crossposted at Dr. Dawg's.

Betty Krawczyk said...

Thank you for the article and all those who have expressed their support.

I'd like to include this photo in my next book titled: "This Dangerous Place: Between the Passions of the Living and the Dead" and need to give a credit to the photographer.

Could you please provide me with a name?

- Betty Krawczyk

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