Three people who participated in the climate change protest that shut down the Macdonald Bridge in 2019 received a fine of $237 each last week.
On Oct. 7, 2019, 18 people were arrested during the protest on the Dartmouth side of the bridge, which prompted a heavy police presence and led officers to block off all entry points.
The demonstration was organized by Extinction Rebellion Nova Scotia. The group’s plan was to block access to the structure through a bridge takeover in an effort to “raise awareness about the climate crisis.”
Extinction Rebellion Nova Scotia is part of an international movement that started in the U.K. in 2018 and has been established in more than 56 countries. The organization aims to use non-violent civil disobedience to force governments to address and cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to avert a climate crisis.
“The defendants argued that their actions were justified to avert a greater emergency — the climate crisis,” the group stated.
“Taking the stand in turns, they spoke to the scientific consensus on humanity’s current course: unprecedented and catastrophic mega-storms, wildfires, floods, droughts, famines, and quite possibly societal collapse, resulting in millions or billions of deaths.”
The group explained that this kind of legal defence, known as the “necessity defence,” is normally available in cases of emergencies. However, the court found that the climate crisis does not qualify as an emergency for the purposes of the necessity defence.
A spokesperson for the group, Patrick Yancey, said to deal with COVID-19, the government “upended society, shut down industries, supported regular folks, and had experts brief the public daily, flanked by our political leaders instructing people to listen.”
“The pandemic, it seems, is the right kind of emergency to act on: one where the wealthy, well-connected decision-makers face immediate fallout, and cannot foist the consequences of inaction onto the future. When a crisis affects them, clearly they can act on it,” he added.
Yancey said that due to the summary nature of the offence, the defendants were not represented by an attorney in court on Feb. 9, “but consulted informally with several individually.”
–With files from Graeme Benjamin and Jesse Thomas