Shutdown Canada Day Feb. 13 Fredericton, Moncton NB

12 02 2015

Bracing for Shutdown Canada Day in Fredericton, Moncton

JOHN CHILIBECK LEGISLATURE BUREAU

FREDERICTON • The province’s public safety minister says people don’t need to fear protests being organized this Friday in Fredericton and Moncton as part of Shutdown Canada Day.   Stephen Horsman, who is also the deputy premier and a retired Fredericton police officer, played down suggestions from the Tory Opposition on Wednesday about the possible threat of violence.   “I don’t think the public should be worried about this protest,” he said outside the legislature building. “As long as our police are aware of it and maintain public order, everything should be fine.”   Shutdown Canada is reminiscent of many grassroots protests that have taken place across the country in recent years, including Idle No More and the Occupy movement.   In this particular case, a group calling itself Solidarity with Land Defenders began promoting the idea of shutting down Canada for one day to protest the Conservative federal government on a number of issues, including its decision not to hold a public inquiry into the high number of murdered and missing aboriginal women.   They are advocating using a variety of tactics to cause disruptions – including blockading railways, ports and highways. They’re also calling on people not to buy anything, fly, go to work or attend school on Friday, Feb. 13.   The movement has spread through social media and includes 10 cities in Canada. Fredericton and Moncton are on the list.   Tory MLA Bruce Northrup brought up the planned protests in question period on Wednesday, asking the public safety minister if police were prepared.   “I know what can happen with demonstrations,”Northrup said afterwards. He was public safety minister under the previous Tory government.   “We saw what happened in Rexton, with the $1.3 million in damage there, so it’s concerning what this government is looking at this Friday. It’s concerning if they are trying to shut down Canada.”   The protests in eastern New Brunswick in October 2013 were over SWN Resources’ exploration for shale gas deposits. A minority of the anti-shale gas demonstrators attacked police and reporters. No one was hurt, but several RCMP vehicles were torched.   In the case of Shutdown Canada, the Facebook pages put up by local activists don’t threaten violence or shutdowns.   Sorcha Beirne, a Fredericton teen activist who recently received the YMCA Peace Medallion, hopes to attend at least part of Friday’s protest.   “My understanding is it’s just going to be a peaceful protest. I don’t think it’s going to be violent or aggressive at all,”she said.   Beirne wants to go because she feels the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women is important.   “An inquiry is needed. We also need more education on the issue and further investigation on individual cases. It’s a big issue to tackle.”   On Wednesday, the Fredericton Facebook page said 108 followers were going to the event at Kings Place mall downtown.   “Looking for protesters to join at Kings Place with signs to raise awareness of #ShutDownCanada. Seeking citizens who are against the harmful choices the Canadian government is making without Canadian’s consent!” the Facebook page says.   The Hub City version, hosted by Moncton Anti-Fracking, is just as non-threatening.   “Bring your good spirits, your love, and your creative artwork and messages and join us at city hall on Friday,” it states.“There are no speakers, and there are no leaders. There are only people who care about future generations, and how we can make their futures brighter. Let us brighten the day of those heading to the office for a day of drudgery, offer them a smile, a nod, something to help them remember what matters in life, feelings, and not money.”   Forty-six followers said they would go to the Moncton City Hall protest on Friday.   Horsman said these people have a right to make their voices heard.   “They’re trying a little bit of disruption,” the public safety minister said.   “Everybody has the right to protest as long as it’s peaceful. Our police agencies in the cities are aware of this, which is important. I don’t think it’s going to be too, too bad. I understand their point and what they are trying to accomplish, to make sure that people are aware of the issues of native women in Canada, which we fully understand.”   The Tory critic was less sympathetic.   “This group doesn’t seem to be happy with the way Canada should be run,” Northrup said. “There’s a proper way of doing things. If they have a beef with someone, they should deal with those people directly. But the way social media has been going the last couple of years, it’s very easy to go on there and say what you’re going to do. When they get there this Friday, I just want to make sure the municipal police and RCMP are ready for them.”

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