Last week, Bill 1: Critical Infrastructure Defence Act passed its third reading in the Legislature. When the bill receives royal assent, it will come into full force. Bill 1 penalizes any person who enters or interferes with what the government declares “essential infrastructure,” which in the bill’s broad definitions includes any street, road, trail, avenue, lane, alley, and even sidewalk “that the public is ordinarily entitled or permitted to use.”
Though the bill claims to be aimed at preventing property damage and economic disruption, its broad language could be used by the government to declare that any peaceful assembly on public property is in violation of this law. Union picketing and demonstrations historically take place on sidewalks, parking lots, and other public places. Under this legislation, individuals found in violation of this law can be arrested and face fines up to $10,000 for the first offence, and organizations can face up to $200,000.
NASA stands against undemocratic moves that infringe on our rights to protest and have our voices heard. These are spaces where workers can advocate for their rights by being visible to the public. Bill 1 threatens to penalize any type of public demonstration at a time where workers need to draw public attention to the impacts of layoffs and budget cuts, including at the University of Alberta. We also question the constitutionality of this legislation, as the Supreme Court of Canada has previously ruled that union picketing is a fundamental right protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We urge our members to contact their MLAs and voice their clear opposition against this bill.