I gave a statement reflecting on the importance of civil disobedience in Canada’s history. As Samuel Freedman, former Chief Justice of the Manitoba Court of Appeal stated: “There have been instances in human history in which disobedience to law has proved a benefit to law and society.”
S. Furstenau: We, as legislators, have complicated and sometimes conflicting roles that we play. On the one hand, as lawmakers, we must be serious about upholding the laws of this province and this country. Yet at the same time, as politicians, we come to this place with a sense of a vision for the future and ideas about which laws need to be reshaped, removed, replaced.
When we look to the history of Canada and the role that civil disobedience has played in that history, we can see that it has helped to move us beyond unjust laws and moved us forward in our efforts to protect fundamental rights and freedoms. From the suffragist movement in the 19th and early 20th centuries to the Vancouver Island coal strike in 1912 to the ongoing Black Lives Matter gatherings and marches last summer, peaceful protests and civil disobedience have shaped and continue to shape our social, political and legal landscapes in B.C. and across Canada.
In his article on civil disobedience in Canada, historian Keith Fleming contends that “socially disruptive actions have become as Canadian as maple syrup.” As the former Chief Justice of the Manitoba Court of Appeal Samuel Freedman stated, “There have been instances in human history in which disobedience to law has proved a benefit to law and society.”
We have also seen an increasing number of Indigenous leaders and communities in recent decades make stands for their territories and rights, from Oka in 1990 to the Wet’suwet’en protests across B.C. and Canada last year. Here in B.C., the largest peaceable disobedience in Canadian history, with 12,000 people who gathered over the summer of 1993 and nearly 900 arrests, began at Kennedy River Bridge in what is known worldwide as the war of the woods in Clayoquot Sound.