Good Sunday Morning – April 28

Good Sunday morning!

I have been immersed in plastic – sorry for that terrible image! The efforts to negotiate a treaty to end plastic pollution, with a focus on the marine environment, are being held this week in Ottawa under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme. We are supposed to wrap on Monday with the fifth session and more negotiations to resume in Korea in late November. I expect that Monday will extend into Tuesday morning. I will share more next Sunday. Pivotal fourth session of negotiations on a global plastics treaty opens in Ottawa.

This letter will focus on that part of my brain that was shaped by going to law school. I often hear echoes of that long ago TV show “Paper Chase” in which venerable actor John Houseman intoned “you come here with minds full of mush … and leave thinking like lawyers!” It is commonly asserted that too many politicians are lawyers. I now wish there were more lawyers in elected positions and fewer people willing to chant rhyming slogans like “Jail not Bail”, grabbing their pitchforks and torches on the way to the next “FREEDOM” rally.

This was brought into sharp relief for me this week as two cases grabbed media attention.

I am sure you know that my dear friend and courageous indigenous defender of ancient forests, Green Deputy Leader Rainbow Eyes, Angela Sue Davidson, was sentenced to 60 days incarceration for nonviolent civil disobedience at Fairy Creek, less 12 days for time served. More on her case below.

Hitting some of the same chords was the shocking case of Umar Zameer, the totally innocent man charged with first-degree murder of a Toronto police officer. As the facts came out, I felt the same way as I did when reading the Mass Casualty Report on the April 2020 killing of 22 people in Nova Scotia. The police have not faced any accountability for protecting the man who killed those innocent people, for refusing over more than a decade to believe or act on complaints against him. The local RCMP contributed to many deaths over the dreadful 18 hours, through incompetence and an inexplicable failure to warn the public, but the real culpability was for officers who for many years chose the killers version of events without any investigation. As I told the Minister for Public Safety this week, it cannot end here.

Nor can Mr. Zameer’s wrongful arrest, imprisonment, and public vilification end here.

After the jury acquitted him, Ontario Superior Court Justice Anne Malloy made a personal and heartfelt apology to the man decried and denounced as a “cop killer”. “My deepest apologies for what you’ve been through” she said. Charged and arrested on trumped up charges in 2021, he is only free now in 2024. And even after that from the judge, Toronto’s chief of police Myron Demkiw told the media “while we respect the judicial process and appreciate the work of everyone involved in this very difficult case, I share feelings of our members, who were hoping for a different outcome.”

Do the Toronto police really want the public to know they regret that an innocent man is now free to be with his family? He lost his job, his home, and while in jail had to leave his wife alone for the birth of their second child. Is very clear now that he should never have been charged with first-degree murder. A charge of manslaughter could be defensible, but first-degree murder was never remotely supported by the evidence. The death of the Toronto officer was a tragic accident. The attempt to send Mr. Zameer to a lifetime in prison was a result of reckless, dangerous, fraudulent and racist actions by the police in deciding the “brown skinned” man they were looking for over an unrelated incident might be Mr. Zameer. In plain clothes and not identifying themselves as police, they banged the windows and roof of the car, terrifying the family. The other officers involved cooked up a shared false narrative of the events to buttress the lie that the officer had been deliberately targeted and killed. The security camera videos from the parking garage belied the officers’ shared story. The jury saw it, the judge saw it. But the prosecution continued to demand a guilty verdict and imprisonment.

When Zameer was released on bail, politicians keen to score cheap shots stoked fires of public rage. Premier Doug Ford said, “It’s completely unacceptable that the person charged for this heinous crime is now out on bail.”

Former Toronto Mayor John Tory, meanwhile, said it was “almost impossible to imagine a circumstance which an accused of first-degree murder would be granted bail.” Brampton mayor Patrick Brown also tweeted at the time, saying in part, “This is disgusting. It is very disturbing that the person charged for this heinous crime is now out on bail.” Brown actually went to law school so his mind full of mush must have emerged from law school unaffected. All politicians need a primer on our system of justice.

The presumption of innocence matters. An accused is innocent until proven guilty. How a bunch of politicians could adopt the Alice in Wonderland, Queen of Hearts approach “Sentence first! Verdict afterward!” is deeply disturbing.

Zameer’s lawyer Nader Hasan was also subjected to hate and abuse for even taking the case. “That hatred had been stoked by elected officials and by the chief of police himself,” Hasan said. James Ramer, who was chief of Toronto police at the time of Zameer’s arrest, initially called the death an “intentional and deliberate act”– something the jury rejected over the weekend.

If we are to protect the very foundations of our criminal justice system, we need to push back on the political rage farming for harsher laws tough on crime. Lord Blackstone wrote in 1760 that the British system of criminal law rests on the principle that ”it is better than ten guilty persons escape than that that one innocent suffer.”

Thank heavens Zameer had a good lawyer. Thank heavens he got a fair trial, but the Torontoprosecutors and the officers who lied under oath must be held accountable.

Meanwhile, we turn to Rainbow Eyes, and the weird little area of law created by discretionary remedy of conjunctions. Rainbow Eyes has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment for violating the injunction logging company Teal Jones obtained from the BC courts. There’s nothing “criminal”, as the term is understood by laypeople, about her conduct. She has not violated any section of the criminal code. Even after going to jail she will not have a criminal record.

The government and industry can boot up a charge from “civil” to “criminal” contempt of an injunction at whim. I was arrested at the gates of Kinder Morgan on Burnaby Mountain for civil contempt. Then the government and pipeline company decided my actions constituted criminal contempt because they seemed to think we got too much media coverage and that I was encouraging others to get arrested, even though I did not issue any media release or advisory. The judge gave me a harsher sentence than fellow MP Kennedy Stewart because the judge said I was a person of influence seems rather harsh to dismiss the influence of Kennedy who is running for Vancouver Mayor at the time. So I got twice as large a fine but no jail time.

What was Rainbow Eyes’ grave sin? She went into the disputed area violating the injunction and had multiple arrests. But the judge added days to her sentence for incidents not driven by protest but for care and concern for others. She went in to help find a member of the Fairy Creek community, nicknamed “Bear”, who had been missing for weeks and possibly in danger somewhere back in the forest. So, her repeated transgressions were not for protest but for care and rescue.

The judge made it clear in his ruling he wanted to make an example of Rainbow Eyes to discourage people, particularly indigenous people, from violating injunctions. Injunctive relief is a discretionary remedy. It can be granted to people trying to stop action that threatens a community, as when in 1982 to a group of us on Cape Breton Island got a temporary injunction to stop the aerial spraying of Agent Orange. I was still in law school at the time and that case consumed my life for years. We had a month-long trial and ultimately were denied the permanent injunction. That fight cost my family 80 acres of land, and we were punished financially by a giant Swedish multinational. I did not realize at the time how rarely environmentalists and indigenous peoples are granted an injunction. Overwhelmingly it is extracted industries that obtain injunctions.

A 2019 study by the Toronto Yellowhead Institute found that corporations were successful 76% of the time when filing for injunctions against first Nations opposition.

Once a company like Kinder Morgan, Teal Jones or Coastal Gas Link obtains an injunction the entire criminal justice system and policing are put at the service of that multinational corporation. We do not hear much debate about why the BC public has had to pay tens of

millions to the RCMP to arrest, and in many cases to abuse the civil liberties of Indigenous land defenders and environmentalists.

This CBC article put the cost $50 million for a specialized para-military group with in the RCMP Community-Industry Response Group (C– IRG) for policing pipeline and logging protests in BC.

But while Rainbow Eyes’ actions did violate the injunction, she broke no laws.The RCMP’s unilateral application of what it calls “exclusion zones”, adding vast additional areas to the courts’ described injunction area for the purpose of keeping journalists away from witnessing RCMP physical abuse of land offenders and their property for violating the rights of those trying to protect a land as well as violating Charter protected rights of freedom of the press.

The RCMP has not been held to account for its repeated violations. So every time Rainbow Eyes went into “NoGo” areas to get groceries for elders or to search for a missing friend, her jail time was increased at sentencing to deter others. But for the far more serious offense of violating the Constitution of Canada, the national police face no punishment at all. Only briefly did a BC judge refused to extend the injunction because RCMP actions were damaging the reputation of the BC system of justice. Within months a different judge reversed the decision because of “economic harm.”

One last update: Rainbow Eyes is launching an appeal of her 60 days sentence. I am hoping this may spark a larger societal discussion about the whole area of injunction law and increased demands that respect for the law include that our state police must respect the charter! While BC Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson who sentenced Rainbow Eyes warned that ignoring the injunction could lead to a state of lawlessness as the rule of law breaks down to anarchy, Rainbow Eyes is not a threat compared to a lawless arme

I will continue to push for reform to injunction law. While the RCMP is a federal agency, once converted to the private cops of industry, the decision to send them in is 100% provincial. I have discussed this with the justice ministry for years. Reforms take place provincially.

Apologies that this letter is so long this Sunday morning. Please do go to the House of Commons website and sign this petition to ensure indigenous rights are respected regarding the disposal of nuclear waste. Time is running out on getting signatures and I only recently learned of its existence! Deadline is May 3!!

More on Global Greens and our work on plastic pollution:

“And there are familiar adversaries that must be taken on. Of course, a big oil is the root of plastic production and we just discovered that just 60 multinationals are responsible for half of plastic production. Now INC-4 is well underway, lobbyists have flooded in with their tried and tested tactics of misdirecting, watering down and undermining proceedings in multinational forum. But there are Greens on the ground in Ottawa.

And lastly, please double check that you are a member in good standing of the Green party of Canada to be able to participate in a very important general meeting on zoom – June 23, 2024, to vote on code-leadership!

Have a great week until I record again to welcome the first Sunday of May!

Much love,


P.S. Just for fun, here is my performance last Saturday night at the annual press gallery dinner. Enjoy!