Acquittals quashed in office protest




SaltWire Network


A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge has overturned the acquittal of two protesters who were ticketed after they refused to leave the Halifax office of Natural Resrouces in late 2000. Justice Denise Boudreau handed down her decision May 4 in Halifax. Eleanor Kure and Kevin Smith, members of the group Extinction Rebellion, were removed from the office by police on Nov. 24, 2020, while protesting clearcutting of habitat of the endangered mainland moose near New France, Digby County. They had delivered letters to the office for then-minister Derek Mombourquette, and refused to leave until a meeting was scheduled between a spokesperson for the group and the minister. That's when the deputy minister called police to remove them. An official request for a meeting had been sent from the protesters in Digby County some time before as required but the request was ignored, the group said. They fought the summary offence tickets – which carry a $237 fine under the Protection of Property Act – and won last November when justice of the peace Debbie Bowes ruled the act “specifically states that there is to be no prosecution for peaceful demonstrations in the vicinity to which the public normally has access.” Bowes also said if the legislation was meant to exclude government offices from protest, it should have clearly stated so. But HRM appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, saying Bowes had made an error in law in her decision. Kure and Smith's lawyer, Jamie Simpson, said he was disappointed with the outcome of the appeal. “It's disappointing for Eleanor and Kevin, and it's disappointing for anyone who might want to be peacefully demonstrating on a particular issue,” Simpson said. “There is a history of sit-ins in public areas of ministers' offices, so it's unfortunate that Justice Boudreau came down on that side of the issue.” Simpson said it's up to his clients whether they want to take Boudreau's decision to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. Kure said following the ruling they had been chatting about it “but it's hard to get the personal energy to keep fighting, I have to admit.” “The whole fact that we have to even protest in the first place, it feels like it's simply because government doesn't listen.”