The student who leads a network of protest groups notorious for blocking B.C. highways and bridges pleaded guilty in Vancouver provincial court Tuesday to mischief under $5,000 and breach of a release order.
Muhammad Zain Ul Haq was scheduled to go on trial for his role in Extinction Rebellion’s March 27, 2021, protest against old-growth logging that blocked the Cambie Bridge. He was also charged for failure to comply with bail conditions after Stop Fracking Around’s anti-pipeline protest blocked Cambie Bridge traffic on Aug. 15.
Judge Jennifer Oulton asked Haq if he was aware he was giving up his right to a trial. He agreed and answered “guilty” to both charges.
Haq’s defence lawyer, Abdul Abdulmalik, asked for a pre-sentence report. Prosecutor Ellen Leno said two or more hours would be needed for a sentencing hearing and that date could be decided next week.
Haq’s appearance came, coincidentally, the day after a new survey released by the University of Pennsylvania that found non-violent roadblock and art vandalism protests backfired.
Shawn Patterson Jr. and Michael Mann of the Center for Science, Sustainability and the Media found the public generally disapproves of such tactics.
“A plurality (46%) report that such efforts decrease their support for their cause,” the survey found. “However, these efforts have minimal effects on people’s perceptions of the dangers of climate change.”
Last January, Haq and four others incorporated Eco-Mobilization Canada, a federal not-for-profit behind Extinction Rebellion splinter group Save Old Growth.
In the most-recent SOG protest, five people were arrested Oct. 20 for blocking the Lions Gate Bridge. They timed the protest for the morning after the NDP disqualified environmentalist Anjali Appadurai and and made former Attorney General David Eby the successor to Premier John Horgan.
SOG’s website says the group receives most of its funding for recruitment, training, capacity building and education from the Climate Emergency Fund (CEF). The California-based charity’s board includes an heiress to the Getty oil fortune and was co-founded by the chairman of natural gas-from-trash and agricultural waste marketer WasteFuel.
The New York Times quoted Haq saying that SOG had received US$170,000 in CEF grants.
Last February, Haq spent nine days in jail for contempt of court for blocking a Trans Mountain Pipeline construction site in September 2021 in his role as the national action and strategy coordinator for Extinction Rebellion.
Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick expressed concern about Haq’s comments in the media 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.
In an Instagram video shot outside the North Fraser Pretrial Centre after his release, Haq joked about spending his time in jail watching Seinfeld reruns. He also suggested Prime Minister Justin Trudeau be tried and sentenced for crimes against humanity.
In June, Canada Border Services Agency held Haq in custody for violating the terms of his student visa. Neither CBSA nor the Immigration and Refugee Board commented after Haq’s closed-door hearing. Haq resurfaced in August as the central coordinator of Stop Fracking Around.
Two members of the group splashed maple syrup on an Emily Carr painting and glued their hands to the wall in the Vancouver Art Gallery last Saturday. One of those who took responsibility, Erin Fletcher, also hurled buckets of black paint last May on the exterior of the Prime Minister’s Office on Parliament Hill. The incident was part of the Haq-involved Stop the Project campaign to demand a ban on new offshore oil projects.