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Demonstrators face trial

November 28, 2003 in News

On Monday, December 1, 2003, six local activists will be in Provincial Court at 222 Main Street in Vancouver to face a series of allegations arising from a demonstration in October, 2002. A crowd had gathered at the Britannia Community Centre on Vancouver’s east side to protest Premier Gordon Campbell’s planned attendance there. The police responded with force and arrested a total of eight people, including two juveniles.

Some of the accused will allege that their constitutional rights were violated by the police actions. According to the contents of a formal complaint filed with the Vancouver Police Department, the police transported the activists to a private parking lot on commercial property, opened the paddy wagon doors, and threatened to assault them. (This occurred about three months before the notorious Stanley Park assaults). Later, the activists were strip-searched and detained for up to 27 hours before being released.

The Court file number is 138904.

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After describing herself as a ‘political prisoner’, Betty Krawczyk concluded her sentencing submissions with the words ‘lock me up or let me go’.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Harvey chose the former, sentencing the 75 year old environmental activist to six more months in jail for criminal contempt of court. The judge declined to give Ms. Krawczyk credit for the 4 1/2 months she had already served in jail.

Imediately after the sentencing hearing, a group of her supporters blocked traffic at the intersection of Hornby and Nelson streets in downtown Vancouver. After a few minutes, police arrived and arrested and removed six persons. Charges of mischief under the Criminal Code are apparently pending. Ironically, Ms. Krawczyk had argued that her conduct in blocking a public forestry road should have attracted an arrest on mischief charges, rather than contempt of court proceedings.

Ms. Krawczyk was arrested on May 8, 2003 after refusing to move off a public logging road in the Walbran Valley, contrary to the terms of a court order made in a civil lawsuit brought by a Weyerhaeuser subcontractor. In British Columbia, political demonstrators are usually dealt with pursuant to the Attorney General’s policy of encouraging companies to seek civil remedies, which can then be escalated into contempt proceedings. By proceeding in this fashion, the criminal law safeguards of the Criminal Code do not apply and there are no statutory sentencing guidelines.

Several judges of the British Columbia Supreme Court and Court of Appeal have criticized the Attorney General for its ‘officially induced abuse of process’, but the criticism has not yet been heeded.

Ms. Krawczyk has appealed her conviction to the Court of Appeal. No hearing date has yet been set.

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Betty Krawczyk was transported from Burnaby Correctional Centre for Women to the Law Courts in Vancouver for a brief appearance today in B.C. Supreme Court. Mr. Justice Harvey indicated that his calendar was too full this week to accommodate Ms. Krawczyk’s sentencing hearing and the matter was adjourned to Tuesday, October 14, 2003 at 10:00 a.m. Ms. Krawczyk was then transported back to the BCCW to continue serving her 128th day in custody.

Ms. Krawczyk was convicted of criminal contempt of court on September 19, 2003 for disobeying an injunction order made in a civil lawsuit commenced by Hayes Forest Services Ltd. Hayes, a Weyerhaeuser contractor, has given no indication it plans to proceed with the lawsuit, which was apparently commenced for the sole purpose of having Ms. Krawczyk arrested and imprisoned. Crown Counsel appointed by the Attorney General of British Columbia will be making submissions on the appropriate punishment.

As a result of the Attorney General’s policy on ‘civil disobedience’, political protesters are frequently the subject of private injunctions and contempt of court proceedings. When this approach is used, the Attorney General can seek substantial jail sentences for people who engage in acts of passive dissent. In another recent case, the B.C. Supreme Court called the use of the injunction/contempt power as ‘officially induced abuse of process’:

Read the judgement

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Betty Krawczyk, the seventy-five year old environmental activist who was recently convicted of criminal contempt of court after she refused to obey a civil court injunction order, is apparently going to be sentenced on October 8, 2003. A hearing has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, but neither Ms. Krawczyk nor her lawyer have received confirmation that the sentencing will take place then.

Ms. Krawczyk, who has appealed her conviction, is being held in custody at the Burnaby Correctional Centre for Women.

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A Coroner’s Inquest will be held during the week of January 12-16, 2004 into the circumstances surrounding the death of Thomas Evon Stevenson. Mr. Stevenson was shot and killed by two members of the Vancouver Police Department on December 7, 2002 as he sat inside a disabled vehicle on East Pender Street in Vancouver. Mr. Stevenson’s family welcomes this development and looks forward to obtaining some answers into how the incident occurred.

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