Greenpeace activists have been fined for rappelling from the top of the Calgary Tower and hanging a banner saying “Separate Oil and State”, and the organization has filed complaints of mistreatment relating to the arrests.
Seven activists, aged 22 to 36, left court on Friday with criminal records for their actions at the tower last summer. They were also fined $2,300 each.
They had earlier entered guilty pleas to mischief for wilfully obstructing, interrupting or interfering with the lawful use of property.
“I am completely satisfied the defendants knew what they were doing was a violation of the law and they were of the view that the making of their political statement was more important to them than the consequences,” the Globe and Mail reported that Judge Allan Fradsham wrote in his ruling.
“The defendants made a conscious decision to violate the law knowing that breaking the law carries with it consequences.”
He said they put their safety, as well as that of police and firefighter authorities, at risk.
Mike Hudema, who oversees the organization’s climate and energy campaigns, said it is important to remember that it had been a peaceful activity.
"We’re definitely disappointed that the court would prosecute individuals that are courageous enough to stand up to this government, that are courageous enough to stand up to these tar sands giants that are actively destroying our environment,” the Globe and Mail quoted him as saying.
Isabelle Charlebois, 25, of Montreal was one of those who took part in the event.
"I believe it was a peaceful protest and we shouldn't be having a criminal record for that," the Edmonton Journal quoted her as saying. "I understand and I took full responsibility for what I did, but I believe it's too harsh. I think the real criminals are the tarsands industry and the people of the government who have too cosy a relationship with them."
Greenpeace has now filed complaints with the Alberta Human Rights Commission and with the head of the remand centre regarding the treatment of the activists by correctional officers.
Nine activists were arrested in August 2010.
“Corrections officers in the Calgary Remand Centre used threats of rape and beatings to intimidate peaceful activists who were being processed for release from detention,” said Hudema in a Greenpeace press release. “They conducted multiple, aggressive strip searches as a punitive measure and hurled an anti-French slur against one activist. This behaviour is an affront to the Canadian Charter of Rights, our justice system and every citizen who values our democracy. It is unacceptable behaviour from public servants and we think an investigation will show criminal charges should be filed.”
Their complaints include being threatened by corrections officers with having their bones broken, being subjected to degrading and unconstitutional strip searches, being threatened with attack from dogs, being yelled at for asserting their right to remain silent and being threatened with being locked up with inmates who would rape them.
In the remand centre they were strip-searched for no clear reason, other than for the purpose of degradation and humiliation," the Calgary Herald quoted Hudema as saying. "In some cases, the strip searches were quite invasive, with rough searching of anal areas and grabbing of genital areas."
Six of the protesters who ended up with criminal records were Canadian and one was from Belgium.