Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Langford to sue highway protesters

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Vancouver Sun

A Vancouver Island community plans to sue a group of protesters to recover the costs of their interference in construction of a new Trans-Canada Highway interchange, says its mayor.

“It’s trying to get money out of people who can’t rub two nickels together, but we have to go after some of them,” Langford Mayor Stew Young said Monday.

So as long as you are penniless you can protest with impunity. But if you have any assets, and dare to oppose people who you think are abusing a pretty thin excuse of a “process”, then expect to lose everything.

“You may not be criminal, but if you put masks on and you block our surveyors and impede us . . . then we can sue you for our costs. They may not be criminally charged by the RCMP, but we’re going to now go after damages,” Young said.

Which is exactly what Betty Krawczyk has been complaining about. The law is open to everyone – just like the Ritz Hotel. All kinds of torts go unpunished because the legal costs of getting redress are ludicrous. Indeed, if there is a low probability of recovery, maybe the citizens of Langford might ask their Mayor is he is not just throwing more money away. Maybe he might consider actually listening to what people have to say next time, instead of just allowing developers to do what they like. Why do people feel the need to protest? The media love to dismiss protesters and paint them as antisocial malcontents, but there is a real issue here. And the decision making process is far from adequate in terms of satisfying people that their legitimate concerns are being addressed. In general, elected municipal politicians are seen to be far too closely allied with developers. That perception may or may not be correct, but action like this does nothing to dispel it.

And the basic principles of freedom of speech, or the need to protect our environment, simply do not get a look in.

Young said he understands that people might think the municipality is trying to intimidate protesters, but that is not the case.

“You might think that. You might very well think that. I could not possibly comment.”

Written by Stephen Rees

February 26, 2008 at 8:13 am

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