Christian Peacemaker Teams opposes the Manitoba Government’s Protection of Critical Infrastructure Act (PCIA), an act that will disproportionately target Indigenous Land Defenders and criminalize many forms of peaceful protest. The PCIA is colonial and racist in its intent, and it stands in the way of Indigenous sovereignty and nation-to-nation relationships.
The Protection of Critical Infrastructure Act was introduced in the Manitoba Legislature this past fall in direct response to the protests that followed the RCMP’s invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory in February 2020. Across Turtle Island, blockades were established in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders who were defending their land from the construction of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline. Since then, the province of Alberta passed Bill 1, the Critical Infrastructure Defense Act, which bans blocking many types of infrastructure that have been deemed “critical” in order to suppress unwanted resistance. Manitoba’s similarly-sounding Bill 57 is approaching its second reading this March.
In an undemocratic move, the Manitoban government has chosen not to make the text of Bill 57 available to the public until just before it is voted on. This alone suggests that the government intends not to draw attention to the contents of the bill for fear of public backlash. In reference to Alberta’s Bill 1, former Justice Minister Cliff Cullen has stated that Manitoba’s PCIA will be “similar from a conceptual standpoint.” According to Albertan legislation, individuals can be fined up to $10,000 for a first offence and up to $25,000 and six months of imprisonment for subsequent offences.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees [AUPE] has taken the Albertan Government to court over Bill 1, and legal experts from the University of Calgary have indicated that the bill violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in at least six ways. Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief for Alberta, Marlene Poitras, has stated that Bill 1 will “erode individual rights” and “unfairly target Indigenous Peoples.” Alberta’s bill has also been criticized for its vague and broad definition of “critical infrastructure,” which has the potential to encompass everything from railroads to sidewalks.
“Critical Infrastructure Protection” will undermine Indigenous sovereignty movements and efforts to defend lands and waters from colonial exploitation. It will give the police yet another means to side with the interests of private corporations and resource extraction companies. Bill 57 will become another way for the colonial state to justify the policing of Indigenous movements in the name of economic stability. Any grassroots initiatives – strikes, pickets, rallies, marches – that threaten “critical infrastructure” are in danger of being criminalized.
As an organization committed to human rights and Indigenous solidarity, Christian Peacemaker Teams condemns the PCIA and demands that the Manitoban Government withdraw Bill 57 from the Order Paper before second reading. We call upon:
- The provincial government to withdraw Bill 57 and ensure that Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples across Manitoba are able to enact their rights to peaceful protest
- The Canadian government to recognize the sovereignty and self-determination of Indigenous peoples as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Other organizations, churches, and communities to release similar statements opposing the PCIA