Premier steps over line

The premier of Alberta wants the province’s court system to crack down hard on environmental protesters.

The premier of Alberta wants the province’s court system to crack down hard on environmental protesters.

We know that because after a recent Greenpeace occupation of Shell’s upgrader site in Fort Saskatchewan, Ed Stelmach told reporters that the accused individuals will be punished to the full extent of the law (even though they haven’t yet had their day in court).

He says the justice system is coddling protesters and warned that he will work with legal officials to stop them.

Meanwhile, Fred Lindsay, Alberta’s solicitor general, alluded to using the province’s counter-terrorism provisions against the protesters, although he now says he didn’t mean to imply they are terrorists.

Not surprisingly, many lawyers are outraged at the comments made by Stelmach and Lindsay — noting they can’t the remember the last time they heard of such an obvious instance of political interference in a case before the courts.

“Premier Stelmach’s public suggestion that he will use the force of the law to deal with these people confirms his lack of knowledge of the limits of his authority and the clear rule that our system of justice cannot be interfered with or manipulated for political reasons,” says Brian Beresh, a lawyer representing the recently arrested protesters.

Ironically, the remarks made by Stelmach may provide a defence for the Greenpeace protesters he says he’d like to see treated more harshly.

“You could well say this smacks of political interference,” explains Sanjiv Anand, a law professor at the University of Alberta.

“When you have the premier starting to talk about what approach the government is going to take, it’s pretty easy for people to understand from that, that that’s what the marching orders are going to be that the prosecutors are going to follow,” adds Edmonton lawyer Tom Engel.

“It also has the appearance of (Stelmach) almost being a mouthpiece for the oil industry.”

As the protesters’ case is before the courts, it wouldn’t be appropriate to speculate on their innocence or guilt; however, it is clear that Stelmach and Lindsay are guilty of using poor judgment.

One wonders if Stelmach really has the skills to preside over this province.

He doesn’t seem to understand that global warming is an international issue of concern to both Canadians and people living in other countries.

It seems he just might be bitter that Greenpeace is getting its message out concerning the dirty oil being produced in the Fort McMurray area while his claims that the oil is not dirty are falling on deaf ears.

Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.

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