Protester arrested during federal conservation announcement in Oak Bay

WatchFederal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna greeted by protester ahead of the announcement in Oak Bay.

One protester was arrested ahead of a federal government announcement in Oak Bay Monday morning.

Howard Breen with Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island was at Cattle Point, calling for the citizen’s arrest of Canada’s Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, before Breen was arrested himself.

“When are you going to stop squandering our precious time,” Breen was heard calling out. Other protesters also repeated the question.

Oak Bay Police Deputy Chief Ray Bernoties said officers had a chance to meet with the protesters before the event and the conversations were respectful and cordial.

“There was one individual who stated his intention to possibly perform his own arrest today. We respectfully advised him that wouldn’t be a good idea. But he continued on that path and eventually we did take him away and arrest him. He had some zap straps in his hand,” Bernoties said.

Police will assess with Crown about whether there will be any charges but Bernoties doesn’t expect any to be put forth.

McKenna was in Oak Bay to announce $4.3 million in funding for 49 conservation projects across Canada over the next three years. She was joined by Lisa Helps.

Three local conservation projects were part of the announcement, including over $108,000 for the District of Oak Bay for conservation and recovery of 14 at-risk plant species in Uplands Park. Uplands Park was also appointed a national historic site by McKenna.

“When we designate national historic sites, it’s to recognize incredible history here, the original landscape and of course the First Nation histories, telling the story of the Songhees First Nation,” McKenna said.

Former Environment Minister David Anderson was among the crowd thrilled about the new recognition of Uplands Parks.

“Very much a happy day as it’s recognized as something rather special about Victoria which is a unique area,” Anderson said.

Anderson had been working with a small committee lobbying for Uplands Park to become a national historic site for the past two years.

Other protesters from Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island were also seen prior to and during the announcement. One was seen holding a sign saying “Climate Criminal.”

Before his arrest, Breen also spoke about the controversy over partisan campaign rhetoric.

Elections Canada is trying to end confusion among third parties that has arisen recently about what they can and cannot do or say both before and during the federal election campaign. The issue went viral yesterday after some environment groups said they were warned any advertising they do that calls climate change an emergency might be considered partisan. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he will look very closely at what Elections Canada has said but that he trusts them to make decisions about the Canada Elections Act independently.

“It is not partisan to talk about climate science. It is not partisan, Elections Canada, to talk about Indigenous rights. It is not partisan, Elections Canada, to expect that the people aren’t fed up with the lack of inaction on the climate issue, on the biodiversity issue, on our social justice issues,” Breen said.

With files from The Canadian Press


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