(Garland) — The National Farmers Union (NFU) in Manitoba objects to Bill 57, the Protection of Critical Infrastructure Act on the grounds of both substance and process. In November, the government introduced Bill 57 and passed it at First Reading without revealing its contents. This is unacceptable in a democracy. Not only is the bill’s apparent intent to take away Manitobans’ right to lawful and peaceful protest by impinging on our freedom of association and freedom of expression, but by not disclosing the text of this bill the government is treating Manitobans as subjects to be ruled instead of citizens to whom they are accountable.
Bill 57 was introduced after Alberta passed its Critical Infrastructure Defence Act in 2020 and there is little doubt that it will follow its lead in terms of its content as well. The Alberta law empowers the government to impose punitive fines or imprison protesters for trespass or interference with big business. The Alberta law allows the government to expand what it means by “critical infrastructure” by simply passing a Cabinet order. Alberta’s law protects the interests of large corporations that are wealthy and powerful, and seeks to intimidate or punish citizens and communities who have few means other than peaceful protest to bring attention to their issues and demand a hearing.
There are many examples in Manitoba’s history where the kind of protest Bill 57 seeks to prevent has led to important advances. From the Metis under Riel in 1870, the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, to the Black Lives Matters protests in 2020, Manitoba has been shaped by citizens standing up for their rights. Bill 57 would silence democratic voices and see Manitoba’s future defined by the interests of corporations instead.
The NFU is dedicated to the protection of the lands and waters that sustain Canadian quality of life and stands in solidarity with those engaged in this work. The NFU’s historic successes advancing farmers’ interests are based on the right to peaceful protest. This bill would infringe on our right to continue to do so. Non-violent peaceful protest has been an important means of influence for farmers in Canada, and it is a right of farmers to be able to express their opinions in this way. Our democratic rights are critical to our relationship with governments. This government’s complete disregard for transparency regarding Bill 57 is discouraging and unacceptable in a democracy. For all these reasons, the NFU calls on the Manitoba Government to withdraw Bill 57.
For more information:
Anastasia Fyk, NFU Board Member, Region 5 (MB): email email@example.com