A. Cameron Ward Barristers and Solicitors
A. Cameron Ward Tel: (604)688-6881
Fax: (604)688-6871
58 Powell Street
Vancouver BC
V6A 1E7
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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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More than 600 people are being detained indefinitely without charge at “Gitmo”, an American military base located in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They were apprehended in Afghanistan in late 2001 or early 2002 by coalition troops fighting the “War on Terror”. They have been denied access to lawyers, consular officials and family members. Twenty-one have attempted to commit suicide.

The continued detention of this group of people, which includes citizens of Great Britain, Australia and Canada, is a gross violation of fundamental human rights and international law. It is appalling and more than a little ironic that the perpetrator of this abuse is the self-proclaimed bastion of liberty and justice, the United States of America.

To take action, call, write or e-mail the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The Hon. Bill Graham can be reached at 613-992-5234 (tel.), 613-996-9607 (fax) or graham.b@parl.gc.ca (e-mail).

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In a strange development, the B.C. Government has determined that the Georgia Straight must pay over a million dollars in taxes, on the basis that the popular weekly publication is not a newspaper.

The Ministry of Provincial Revenue has determined that the Georgia Straight is not entitled to the exemption from social service tax that is available to newspapers despite the fact that it is published on newsprint, is distributed from newsstands and its publisher has won a lifetime achievement award for journalism. The Straight does not share the enthusiasm displayed by Vancouver’s two major dailies for the current provincial government, making the imposition of the tax appear like a hamfisted attempt to muzzle criticism.

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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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