Press Statement on Bill 1 tabled by Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Government in Alberta
From Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras
On Tuesday, Jason Kenny’s United Conservative government in Alberta tabled Bill 1, the Critical Infrastructure Defense Act. Under this Act, individuals could face fines of up to $10,000 and $25,000 for first and subsequent offences, as well as possible prison time of up to six months. Corporations involved in protests could face fines of up to $200,000.
“Allowing the Bill to pass will serve to erode individual rights, unfairly target Indigenous Peoples, and has no place in a democratic society, and I urge Premier Kenney to rescind it,” stated Marlene Poitras, Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief for Alberta.
In Canada, people have a right to peaceful protest. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms legally enshrines the right to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. These freedoms are “guaranteed” in s. 1 of the Charter.
Under the Canadian Criminal Code, peaceful protest is currently allowed to block transportation routes. First Nations people across the land are using peaceful protest to support the Wet’suwet’en, recognizing that their laws give hereditary chiefs authority over their lands.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde stated:
“People should never be criminalized for standing up for their rights. The use of force against peaceful people is a violation of human rights, First Nations’ rights and our rights under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our goal, and the goal of all governments, should be reconciliation using the UN Declaration and the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as our paths forward. We will never achieve reconciliation through force.”
Regional Chief Poitras also stated, “It is important that Canadians understand the past and ongoing injustices that have led us to this point in time. The only way we can truly reconcile past and ongoing injustices is by all of us, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, working together to find a way forward.
“Here in Alberta, Treaty 6,7, and 8 First Nations are sovereign peoples and nations. Treaty was signed to allow us to share the land and allow for peaceful coexistence. What they were not is an agreement by First Nations to give up their sovereignty, laws, forms of governance or right to self-determination over their lands and their people.
“First Nations inherent and Treaty rights are affirmed in the Constitution. Though they’ve never been properly implemented, Treaties are still in effect and form Canada’s legal foundations. Many First Nations are calling on Canada to implement the relationship that is understood through our oral history — sharing the land, working together to care for it, and respecting each other’s autonomy.”
Said Chief Stan Grier, Piikani First Nation: “I caution Premier Kenney against this type of action. He is using the recent public announcement by Teck Resources to cancel their project in Alberta to substantiate the need for this Act. However, Teck’s announcement highlights shifting global markets and the need for environmental regulatory frameworks that reconcile resource development and climate change, something that is now lacking in Alberta. The only path forward is through peaceful dialogue and mutual respect.”