STRAIGHT TALK

FEDS WON’T RULE OUT PIPE­LINE SOL­DIERS IN B.C.

The Georgia Straight - - Contents - > BY TRAVIS LUPICK AND CARLITO PABLO

This year’s DTES march for ac­tion on over­dose deaths will fo­cus on de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion of drugs; also, Ot­tawa won’t prom­ise a lo­cal MP that the Kin­der Mor­gan pipe­line will be sol­dier-free in B.C.

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A B.C. MP has dared Lib­eral min­is­ters to guar­an­tee that the mil­i­tary and po­lice will not be used against op­po­nents of Kin­der Mor­gan’s pipe­line-ex­pan­sion project.

Burn­aby South MP Kennedy Ste­wart is­sued the chal­lenge as Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has pledged that the $7.4-bil­lion twin­ning of the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line will be com­pleted.

Ste­wart first hurled the ques­tion at Min­is­ter of Nat­u­ral Re­sources Jim Carr dur­ing de­bates in the House of Com­mons last Mon­day (Fe­bru­ary 12).

“Will he stand in the House to­day and say that he will never do this, that it would never be con­sid­ered, that he would not use the army and the po­lice forces against British Columbians in their own com­mu­ni­ties, on the re­serves, and in their mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties?” Ste­wart asked.

Ste­wart pref­aced his ques­tion by not­ing that Carr told busi­ness lead­ers in the past that “he would use mil­i­tary de­fence and po­lice forces to push this pipe­line through.”

The Burn­aby South MP was re­fer­ring to a De­cem­ber 1, 2016, com­ment by Carr in Ed­mon­ton about the mil­i­tary and po­lice deal­ing with non­peace­ful protests, for which he later apol­o­gized.

Re­spond­ing to Ste­wart, the Lib­eral min­is­ter said he was “dis­ap­pointed” that the is­sue was be­ing brought up again.

“Within a few days of hav­ing said it, I re­al­ized it would in­voke im­ages that were not healthy to the de­bate, and I apol­o­gized to Indige­nous lead­ers,” Carr said. “I will say again, as I have said many times over many months, that I apol­o­gized and mis­spoke.”

At an­other point dur­ing the de­bates, Ste­wart made the same chal­lenge to Min­is­ter of In­fra­struc­ture and Com­mu­ni­ties Amar­jeet Sohi.

“Will he guar­an­tee British Columbians that he will not use the mil­i­tary or po­lice forces to ram this pipe­line through our beau­ti­ful prov­ince?” Ste­wart asked.

Sohi replied that the pipe­line ex­pan­sion will “go ahead, be­cause this project will cre­ate thou­sands of jobs for Al­berta fam­i­lies as well as for British Columbian and Cana­dian fam­i­lies”.

Ste­wart was not sat­is­fied with the re­sponses he got from Carr and Sohi, which he later de­scribed as “dis­turb­ing”.

The ex­pan­sion of the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line, which runs from Ed­mon­ton to Burn­aby, will triple daily ca­pac­ity to 890,000 bar­rels and lead to a sev­en­fold in­crease in tanker traf­fic on the West Coast. One of the largest demon­stra­tions to march through the Down­town East­side in re­cent years oc­curred in Fe­bru­ary 2017, when hun­dreds of peo­ple called for gov­ern­ment ac­tion on over­dose deaths.

The crowd was mo­ti­vated by an un­prece­dented num­ber of fa­tal over­doses, from 518 in 2015 to 993 in 2016. Since then, the climb has con­tin­ued, to 1,422 last year.

Jor­dan West­fall, pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Peo­ple Who Use Drugs (CAPUD), told the Straight that or­ga­niz­ers ex­pect an even big­ger turnout this Tues­day (Fe­bru­ary 20).

“The last few years, thou­sands of peo­ple have died of an over­dose,” he said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. “We tack­led the pu­bic-health as­pect of that last year with the na­tional day of ac­tion. This year, we want to change the fo­cus to the Min­istry of Jus­tice.”

Specif­i­cally, West­fall said that drug users are call­ing for de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion: for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to re­move crim­i­nal penal­ties for the per­sonal pos­ses­sion of all il­le­gal nar­cotics.

“Crim­i­nal­iza­tion im­pacts ev­ery as­pect of a per­son us­ing drugs,” he said. “Crim­i­nal­iza­tion pushes peo­ple into the shad­ows, into the dark­ness, where they don’t dis­close their drug use.…it makes it much more dif­fi­cult to ac­cess ser­vices.”

The idea might once have sounded im­pos­si­bly rad­i­cal. But last Septem­ber, Jag­meet Singh, leader of the fed­eral NDP, said his party sup­ports de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion be­cause mem­bers be­lieve it will help re­duce over­dose deaths. Then, on Fe­bru­ary 2, Don Davies, NDP MP for Van­cou­ver Kingsway, for­mally raised the pro­posal in the House of Com­mons and asked the Lib­er­als: “When will this gov­ern­ment aban­don the failed war on drugs and adopt a health-based ap­proach to ad­dic­tion and drug use?”

De­crim­i­nal­iza­tion likely won’t come be­fore a change in gov­ern­ment. Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has re­peat­edly said his gov­ern­ment will not dis­cuss the idea.

In the im­me­di­ate term, West­fall said demon­stra­tors will also call for an end to so-called red-zon­ing, a term that refers to when some­one has been charged with an of­fence and not yet con­victed but is re­leased with strict rules about where they are not al­lowed to travel.

An Oc­to­ber 2017 study by re­searchers with Simon Fraser Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa found that red-zon­ing of­ten equates to a de­nial of so­cial ser­vices. “We’ve found peo­ple be­ing ex­cluded from safe-in­jec­tion sites, mak­ing it harder for them to ac­cess clean nee­dles, which then places them in greater risk of neg­a­tive health out­comes,” SFU’S Nick Blom­ley told the Straight then.

West­fall ar­gued that in the mid­dle of an over­dose epi­demic, red zones are killing peo­ple. He said peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ing in the na­tional day of ac­tion are there­fore asked to wear red on Fe­bru­ary 20. “In Ot­tawa, they’re go­ing to wear red to the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice, the min­is­ter of jus­tice’s of­fice, and red­zone it,” he added.

Van­cou­ver’s march for Canada’s na­tional day of ac­tion on over­dose deaths will be­gin on Fe­bru­ary 20 at 12:30 p.m. at Vic­tory Square (West Hast­ings and Cam­bie streets). Ral­lies are also planned for Vic­to­ria, Prince Ge­orge, and, across Canada, Toronto, Ot­tawa, and Mon­treal.

NDP MP Kennedy Ste­wart won­ders if the mil­i­tary will quell pipe­line protests.

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