Bill 1 could spell jail time, huge fines for Alberta activists caught blocking critical infrastructure

CALGARY (NEWS 1130) – Opposition to Coastal GasLink’s pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory continues despite arrests across the country.

But now, Alberta politicians are striking back by proposing harsher penalties for protesters. The first bill of that province’s spring session is called the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, and is aimed at helping the government get one step ahead.

“[Bill 1] imposes stiff new penalties on law breakers who purposefully block critical, essential infrastructure, such as railways, roadways, telecommunication lines, utilities, oil and gas production and refinery sites, pipelines, and related infrastructure,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said.

Individuals could face fines of $10,000 for a first offence, $25,000 for a subsequent offence, and up to six months in jail.

“These railways have been the backbone of our economy for over 140 years. Their impairment means that billions of dollars of products are backing up, our ports on both the east and west coats are virtually immobilized, shippers are moving from Canadian ports to U.S. ports,” he said, adding if the situation carries on, the impacts on both Alberta and Canada’s economies will be “devastating.”

Kenney has called the country-wide demonstrations “the appearance of anarchy,” and blamed protesters for the loss of an oil sands mega project planned by Teck resources.

Bill 1’s introduction comes after weeks of blockades along rail lines across the country, resulting in reported losses to many industries.

“Albertans will not tolerate this kind of lawless mockery of our democratic principles and this attack on our nation’s and our province’s prosperity,” Kenney said.

In recent days, there have been a number of arrests across the country, as well as some clashes between police and protesters as injunctions were enforced.

In B.C., several demonstrators were arrested on Tuesday after they refused to leave the main entrance to the Port of Vancouver and two people were arrested at a blockade in Chase, near Kamloops.

Related video: How rail blockades are impacting Canadian economy

There were no protests planned on the Lower Mainland region on Wednesday as of the morning, however, Indigenous youth have planned a rally at the Legislature in Victoria.

Protesters have been standing in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders who oppose a natural gas pipeline through their territory. The demonstrations country-wide have since grown to include Indigenous rights protests with signs spotted at local protests reading “Reconciliation is dead.”

Bill 1: The Critical Infrastructure Defence Act

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