At a media conference on the steps of the Alberta Legislature this afternoon, lawyer Brian Beresh raised concerns that comments by Premier Ed Stelmach and Solicitor General Fred Lindsay could constitute political interference in Alberta’s judicial system. Beresh, who is representing Greenpeace activists recently arrested in Fort Saskatchewan and Fort McMurray, told reporters that he was stunned by Stelmach’s comments that protesters who trespass at oil and gas facilities should face harsher punishments and Lindsay’s musing about using the province’s counter-terrorism provisions against protesters.
With no evidence that the legal system is not working as it should be, it is being suggested by some legal experts that Stelmach’s comments may have hurt the prosecution’s case in court. In a media release, Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema was quoted stating that “most of us learned in Grade 5 that it is fundamental to our legal system that there must be a separation between the premier and the judicial process.” Beresh noted that the tone of the bail negotiations changed after Premier Stelmach’s public comments, implying that the release of the activists in Fort Saskatchewan was made more difficult because of the Premier.
Special penalties for protesting is tantamount to suppressing free speech. Punish trespassing, not dissent.