Lawyers for two organizers of a protest group that resumed blockading B.C. highways and bridges on June 13 say their clients are not guilty of mischief from an October protest in Richmond and want to stand trial.
Muhammad Zain Ul Haq and Timothy Christopher Brazier were among 18 people arrested Oct. 25, 2021 when Extinction Rebellion members filled an intersection near Vancouver International Airport. During the pre-trial hearing on June 10 at Richmond Provincial Court, a lawyer for a third protester, Kathleen Elisabeth Higgins, said she would present novel arguments at trial that her client is not guilty on constitutional grounds.
A trial date is to be determined, but the court heard that the Crown case is expected to last five days. As many as 14 police officers could be called to testify and there are four hours of video evidence.
Lawyers for two other protesters, Shy-Anne Gunville and Patti Lula Hirschberg, also appeared, but their clients have not decided their next steps.
Earlier this year, Haq, a student from Pakistan, and Brazier, a website and clothing designer from England, formed the Extinction Rebellion splinter group Save Old Growth that demands the NDP government ban all old-growth logging.
Federal records show Haq and Brazier federally incorporated a not-for-profit company called Eco-Mobilization Canada on Jan. 27 with fellow protesters Ian Shigeaki Weber, Hannah Campbell and Olivia Mary Howe. They finance their activities by crowdfunding and grants from the U.S.-based Climate Emergency Fund (CEF), which has doled-out $1.7 million to 23 groups in 2022. CEF co-founder Trevor Neilson of Beverly Hills, Calif. is the chair and CEO of Wasteful, which converts trash and agricultural waste to fuel. The board includes documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, daughter of Robert Kennedy, and Aileen Getty, daughter of oil baron Jean Paul Getty II.
Save Old Growth’s highway and bridge blockade tactics, that are intended to disrupt the economy, have angered commuters throughout the Lower Mainland and Southern Vancouver Island and led to numerous arrests and mischief charges. The group has also been involved in hunger strikes, threatened a citizen’s arrest of NDP Forests Minister Katrine Conroy, dumped manure at Premier John Horgan’s Langford riding office and sent a topless protester to attach herself to goalposts at B.C. Place Stadium during Canada’s men’s soccer match with Curaçao.
The group predicts environmental breakdown will occur in March 2025.
A member of an associated campaign in Ontario, Stop the Project, recently threw buckets of paint on the exterior of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office in Ottawa.
On Feb. 15 in B.C. Supreme Court, Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick sentenced Haq to 14 days in jail for contempt after his September 2021 arrest for blocking tree-clearing for the construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.
Fitzpatrick acknowledged Haq said members of Extinction Rebellion are non-violent, but she said aspects relating to Haq were “concerning,” including comments he made to the Vancouver Sun about the potential for violence stemming from the pipeline.
“He refers to ‘forcing government change’. He refers to the government actions as being ‘treason’. These are very troubling comments, in my view,” Fitzpatrick said.
Haq was released after nine days from the North Fraser Pretrial Centre and joked in an Instagram video outside the facility about spending his time watching Seinfeld reruns in jail.
Meanwhile, a campaign backed by the pro-development Resource Works Society is urging British Columbians affected by Save Old Growth roadblocks to gather evidence and join a proposed class-action lawsuit.
Tamara Meggitt of Clear the Road cited the successful court action by Ottawa residents against the so-called freedom convoy trucker blockades earlier this year.
“Freedom of expression is protected by Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but expressing a point of view about an issue does not confer the right to commit criminal acts,” Meggitt said in a news release.