FEBRUARY 18, 2001
Five TASC Members To Face Court Yet Again in a
Two-Year Struggle to Demonstrate at Queen's Park Without Facing Arrest
The Queen's Park Five&endash;permanently banned from the Ontario legislative grounds since October 1, 1998&endash; remain a major obsession for the Harris government, which continues spending thousands of taxpayer dollars in an effort to prevent them from peacefully demonstrating on the public grounds.
Stepped-up harassment of the QP5 comes on the heels of a court victory January 30 when the five were acquitted of trespassing charges for publicly and openly defying the ban against them.
In that decision, Justice of the Peace Quon stated, "It would be untenable for the government to use the law of trespass to quell the voices of dissent and the freedom of expression on state-owned property. The government should not wantonly use the law of trespass to evict legitimate peaceful protesters or stop their voices. This form of expression, expressing dissatisfaction with a government policy and publicizing a particular political view while on state-owned property is a value cherished in a democratic society and is protected by section 2(b)[of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms]."
Last Friday, QP5 member Matthew Behrens received a threatening notice stating his assets and/or bank account would be seized by the sheriff if he did not pay the $100 fine he received for the October 1, 1998 anti-homelessness protest in which water-soluble blood was splashed on the walls of the legislature. It was that nonviolent protest&endash;in which no damage was done and the only person hurt was one of the QP 5, Father Robert Holmes, roughed up by Metro Police&endash;which resulted in the issuing of the lifetime bans.
And just today, on Sunday afternoon and evening, Metro Toronto Police made at least two visits to the homes of QP5 members&endash;Behrens and Sandra Lang&endash;delivering notices of appeal from the attorney general's office. The Harris government seeks to overturn the acquittal on trespassing charges which the 5 had won two weeks ago in Provincial Court. The remaining three&endash;mandy hiscocks, Holmes and Donald Johnston&endash;had not been served with notice as of Sunday night.
In stating the government's grounds for appeal, Thomas D. Galligan of the Criminal Crown Law Office of the Ministry of the Attorney General, states clearly that Justice of the Peace Quon "erred in law" by stating "the defendants expressive activity was constitutionally protected." Galligan writes Quon failed to take into consideration the doctrine of "Parliamentary privilege," and that the permanent lifetime ban against the 5 falls within that privilege and is thus "immune from review by the Courts, and/or were not subject to the Charter." In other words, the legislature is the personal fiefdom of the House Speaker, and any dictates of the Speaker need not be consistent with the Canadian Constitution.
The government is seeking a reversal of the acquittal and either a conviction against the 5 or the ordering of a new trial.
"Of course, with the significant problems of homelessness and environmental degradation, cuts to health care and education, it's outrageous that thousands of dollars are yet again going done down a legally sanctioned sinkhole which has nothing to do with the law, and everything to do with a petty sense of vengeance," says TASC's Behrens. "The Harris government does not like to be told when it is violating the law, and whether it relies on the truncheon or the gavel, it will do whatever it can to get its way, even if it means violating cherished Canadian legal principles."
The five will represent themselves at the appeal level, as they have throughout the court process.
"We're not sure if we'll be required to wear those silly robes at the higher court level, but if so, we'll likely have to challenge that too."
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