activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: canada

québec court of appeal refuses to hear case brought against canadian community group

Having identified recurring problems in a landlord’s building, including cockroaches, mold, dirt, and doors that never locked, a Canadian community group called Oeil distributed leaflets to tenants and successfully represented a tenant against the landlord at the rent board. In 2012, the landlord’s family sued Oeil for defamation, seeking $5.6 million. According to yesterday’s CTV News article, two courts have now rejected the lawsuit:

With the help of a social activist lawyer, Oeil managed to have the lawsuit tossed out because it was considered abusive, and meant to ruin the organization with legal fees. It’s commonly called a SLAPP lawsuit. Last month the Quebec court of Appeal also refused to hear the … case.

Oeil is now entitled to reimbursement for its court costs and legal fees from the landlord’s family.

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ontario court orders greenpeace canada to pay legal costs to canada’s largest logging company

Canada’s largest logging company, Resolute Forest Products, filed a $7 million defamation lawsuit against Greenpeace Canada in May 2013. Yesterday an Ontario Divisional Court tribunal ordered Greenpeace Canada to pay $22,000 in legal costs to Resolute. According to Greenpeace Canada,

Resolute, formerly AbitibiBowater, operates and sources from large areas of the Boreal Forest, including in the Montagnes Blanches “Endangered Forest” in Quebec and the Trout Lake-Caribou “Endangered Forest” in Ontario. The company has a long history of unsustainable activities in Canada’s Boreal. It is involved in disputes with First Nations communities for logging in areas without their consent and its operations threaten iconic species such as the woodland caribou.

Legal action of this kind, brought by a corporation against an activist or group opposing the corporation, is referred to as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). Most SLAPPs are legally meritless but still achieve their purpose, which is to chill public debate regarding an issue (e.g., forest destruction). Greenpeace has 10 days to file a response.

machouf-khadir and philippe-beauchamp acquitted of punching a press photographer

At the height of the student strike in Québec in 2012, Yalda Machouf-Khadir and Xavier Philippe-Beauchamp were charged with punching a press photographer during one of Machouf-Khadir’s court appearances. The two were recently acquitted of such charges. The judge could not find enough evidence to find them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Machouf-Khadir, an anarchist and the daughter of a prominent left-wing politician, is one of the protesters the University of Montréal sued in June 2013 for apparently damaging dozens of rooms in April 2012. She will be in court again on December 5 to be sentenced in three other cases related to the student strike. According to a May 21 Montréal Gazette article,

Yalda Machouf-Khadir, 20, pleaded guilty to one count of mischief in relation to a protest at the CEGEP du Vieux Montréal on Feb. 16, 2012 during which she and two other people pushed over a soft drink machine to try to block an entrance with it. She also admitted to conspiring to commit mischief, wearing a disguise while committing a criminal act and break and entry when students forcibly occupied and damaged the main pavilion of the Université de Montréal on April 12 and the office of then-education minister Line Beauchamp on April 13.

student avoids criminal record from occupation of school building during student strike

During the student strike in Québec in 2012, there was only one brief attempt at a lasting occupation of a school building. François Vivier Gagnon, one of approximately 150 people who stormed the school and attempted to barricade themselves inside, was charged with vandalism related to the occupation. As CrimethInc. explains,

On February 17, 2012, the students of Cégep du Vieux Montréal voted to go on strike… The strike vote took place online, but as soon as the results were announced, students voted in a general assembly—held in the cégep’s cafeteria—to occupy the building. … The occupation lasted nine short hours altogether.

Police cleared the school, arresting 30 people. Yet a judge recently gave Vivier Gagnon an absolute discharge, meaning he will not have any criminal record related to the occupation. The judge ordered Vivier Gagnon to pay $650, however, for damage apparently caused by the action.

A couple months after the occupation, Vivier Gagnon allegedly set off smoke bombs in the métro system with two other people. According to CrimethInc., these three people are “the first in history to be charged with a certain provision in Canada’s post–9/11 anti-terrorism legislation that forbids anyone from committing a terrorist hoax, defined as the creation of a situation in which it is reasonable for people to believe that terrorism is occurring or is about to occur.” That case is still pending.

police detain hundreds of people during annual march against police brutality in montréal

Police detained and ticketed 288 protesters yesterday, at $638 apiece, for participating in a march against police brutality. The march apparently violated Montréal’s bylaw P-6, because no one provided the route to police for approval 24 hours in advance. According today’s Montréal Gazette article,

Police gave protesters at the annual demonstration against police brutality just minutes before the riot squad encircled the crowd and detained 288 people on Saturday. … The protesters were charged under municipal bylaw P-6, which requires organizers of a protest to provide their itinerary to police. … The 288 people detained under bylaw P-6 will receive a ticket for participating in an illegal protest.

First introduced in 2001, a new version of bylaw P-6 went into effect in May 2012. Montréal police have consistently used it against protesters. For example, police ticketed approximately 300 protesters on April 5 and 447 protesters on May 1. In addition to prohibiting masks and blunt objects, bylaw P-6 stipulates that any demonstration can be declared illegal if police have reasonable grounds to believe it will cause a “commotion” or endanger public order.

one year after his arrest by federal marshals, joel bitar is sentenced to twenty months in jail

In October 2012, Canadian authorities requested Joel Bitar’s extradition from the U.S. for his alleged involvement in property destruction during the June 2010 G20 protests in Toronto. On February 14, 2013, federal marshals arrested Bitar in New York. Six days after his arrest, he was released from custody on $500,000 bail and transferred to house arrest, on the condition that he wear an electronic monitoring device.

On April 16, Bitar surrendered to Toronto police. Today Bitar, who had no prior criminal record, was sentenced to 20 months in jail. He admitted joining the black bloc and shattering the rear window of a squad car during the G20 protests, but said he didn’t know at the time that there was an officer inside. According to a Toronto Sun article,

Bitar said he was a university student in New York majoring in economics and planning to became a Wall St. tycoon when major events changed his goals. When the large-scale perpetrators of the global financial crisis received federal bailouts while “millions lost their homes,” Bitar said he became an activist for economic reform.

Another G20 protester, Kevin Chianella, was also sentenced today. He received two years in prison. There’s only one remaining 2010 G20 protester from the U.S. whose criminal case has yet to resolve.

iraq war resister kimberly rivera’s application for clemency rejected

Kimberly Rivera, a soldier who fled to Canada in 2007 after becoming disenchanted with the Iraq war, pled guilty to two counts of desertion in April. After receiving two deportation orders, she had presented herself at the U.S. border in September 2012 and was taken into military custody. Rivera was sentenced to 10 months in prison and a bad-conduct discharge.

On Monday, Rivera gave birth to her fifth child, Matthew. On Wednesday, her application for clemency was rejected. According to today’s San Diego Free Press article,

When Fort Carson Senior Commander Brigadier General Michael A. Bills rejected her application for clemency on November 27th, Rivera sustained yet another separation–from her newborn son Matthew, who is being cared for now by his father here in San Diego. Military regulations reportedly include no provision for her to breastfeed her baby while she is in prison.

Rivera is scheduled for release in early January 2014. More than four thousand people have signed a petition to have her released sooner.

dylan powell given thirty days to pay marineland’s court costs

Last week Justice Richard Lococo ordered Dylan Powell, co-founder of Marineland Animal Defense (MAD), to pay Marineland’s court costs related to legal action the theme park brought against Powell in December. The legal action succeeded in limiting MAD’s protest activities, as Lococo imposed new restrictions on MAD in August. Lococo’s August 9 order effectively criminalized leafleting at the Marineland entrance and exit, prevented activists from using megaphones on site, and prohibited signs that included the words “abuse,” “torture,” “criminal,” “animal abuse,” or “arrest John Holer” – the owner of Marineland.

Legal action of this kind, brought by a corporation against an activist or group opposing the corporation, is referred to as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). In this case, Marineland had requested that Lococo order Powell to pay more than $24,000 in fees or costs. In deciding on $10,000 instead, Lococo considered Powell’s lack of wealth.

Powell says he doesn’t have $10,000, so Marineland’s request for court costs may be a pyrrhic victory for the notorious theme park.

activist who revealed psuedonym of undercover officer could face up to six months in jail

Julian Ichim was one of the first people arrested during the June 2010 G20 protests in Toronto, for allegedly masterminding the riots that overtook downtown. The charges against him were dropped fewer than six months later. Yet Ichim was charged again after he violated a “publication ban” by revealing the alias of undercover officer Bindo Showan, who infiltrated activist groups and testified against alleged G20 conspirators.

The maximum punishment for violating a publication ban is six months in jail. But the Crown charged Ichim with violating a court order, a violation carrying a maximum punishment of two years. Yesterday Ontario Superior Court Justice Michael Quigley ruled that the Crown could only charge Ichim with the lesser offense carrying the potential six month sentence.

As a person affiliated with the G20 protests, Ichim contended that he was being prosecuted for political reasons. He is currently suing law enforcement related to infiltration, excessive force, and jail conditions surrounding the G20. According to yesterday’s Toronto Star article,

Ichim is … pursuing a $4-million lawsuit against the undercover officer, the province and the Toronto police force. He alleges that Showan, who he once considered a good friend, crossed a legal line by encouraging criminal acts and driving drunk ahead of the G20 summit. The notice of claim also alleges Ichim was beaten by Toronto police and underwent “cruel and unusual treatment” in the G20 temporary jail.

judge imposes new restrictions on marineland animal defense in niagara falls, ontario

Marineland Animal Defense is a Niagara Animal Defense League campaign with the goal of ending animal captivity at Marineland, a theme park in the city of Niagara Falls, Ontario. On Friday, a judge imposed new restrictions on the campaign, preventing activists from using megaphones on site or signs that include the words “abuse,” “torture,” “criminal,” “animal abuse,” or “arrest John Holer” – the owner of Marineland. The court order also effectively criminalizes leafleting at the Marineland entrance and exit, because it restrains activists from “hindering or impeding any guest of Marineland or anyone entering or exiting Marineland or indicating an intention to enter Marineland.”

As a result of the court order, Marineland Animal Defense canceled a demonstration set for tonight at the Niagara Falls City Council. But a co-founder of the group, Dylan Powell, has made it clear that the campaign will continue. According to his statement regarding the court order,

We knew from the beginning – way back in 2010 – that if we were effective we would face the weight of the legal system as a result. Marineland Canada has a history of being litigious and using the legal system as a weapon. It is now August 2013 and we still have the right to demonstrate on site and we still have the right to continue to raise awareness about this industry with the goal of [its] abolition.

One of the animals confined at Marineland is Kiska, the only remaining orca whale there, who was captured in the wild at age 3. Orcas, also known as killer whales, are used to living in thousands of miles of ocean in long-term social groups called pods. When held in captivity, these highly-intelligent and highly-socialized mammals suffer physical and mental distress, which apparently drives them to aggressive behavior.

Marineland has exhibited 29 orcas since it opened, but 26 of them have died. Of the remaining 3 orcas, 2 were relocated to SeaWorld. Of the 26 deceased orcas, 5 were Kiska’s children, none of whom lived longer than 6 years. The average lifespan for orcas in the wild is 30 years for males and 50 years for females.