CANADA: Parents defend children's act of civil disobedience in environmental protest

[2 December 2014] - Premier Christy Clark is ripping two Burnaby families after their 11-year-old daughters crossed police lines at the Burnaby Mountain pipeline protest.Kate Fink-Jensen and her friend, Naomi Cech, both in Grade 6, crossed the line 23 November. Kate’s mom, Kim, also crossed the police barricade. They were all quickly released and not charged. Now the premier is taking the girls’ parents to task.

“They’re 11 years old, for heaven’s sakes,” Clark railed in an interview. “Teaching your kids that it’s OK for them to break the law when they’re 11 years old isn’t OK. I think we all as parents would ask ourselves, ‘What kind of message are we sending to our kids?’”

But the parents of Kate and Naomi fired back at the premier. “She doesn’t know my family or my daughter,” said Peter Cech, who was arrested himself at the protest the day before Naomi crossed the line. “Our daughter stands up for her beliefs. It feels very unfair to hear criticism like this from someone who knows nothing about us." Kim Fink-Jensen said her daughter had been protesting the Kinder Morgan pipeline since August and wanted to do something to make her voice heard.

“She feels the pipeline is very wrong because this is where she lives, it’s the park where she plays, those are the trails where we walk our dog,” Kim said. “Finally she said, ‘Mom, I’m not old enough to vote and people don’t listen to kids. The strongest statement I can make is crossing that line.’ So I told her, ‘If you’re really that brave, and this is truly what you want to do, I will support you, I will go with you and I will make sure you’re safe.’”

She wasn’t impressed with Clark’s attack. “It’s kind of interesting to hear her comment on my parenting skills when she doesn’t even know me. She has no idea how long we talked about this as a family, how carefully we considered it. “I had many long talks with Kate about what non-violent civil disobedience is, the difference between breaking the law and breaking a civil injunction. She’s a very intelligent young woman and, in the end, it was her decision.”

Police arrested more than 120 people on the mountain since 20 November. They were protesting plans by Houston-based Kinder Morgan to expand its existing pipeline to pump additional heavy crude from the Alberta oilsands to the B.C. coast for export by tanker ships. The company finished test drilling Saturday. Contempt charges against the protesters were thrown out after a judge ruled the company provided incorrect GPS co-ordinates in its injunction application. Clark said she supports the right of the protesters to make their voices heard, but draws the line when it involves kids. “When adults knowingly break the law, it’s different from a child being encouraged to break the law,” Clark said. “I think it’s a very different thing for an adult than for an 11-year-old. I don’t think it’s OK for parents to support that for their own children.”

Clark has been criticized for her own parenting decisions in the past. She was slammed last year for running a red light while driving her son, Hamish, to hockey practice. And Clark’s taxpayer-financed Christmas cards feature a picture of her and her son, leaving Kim Fink-Jensen to wonder whether it was fair for her to criticise the participation of kids in political demonstrations. “I don’t know if her son was given a choice about that (the Christmas card), but I do know it was my daughter’s choice to do what she did and I completely support her. She’s the one who will inherit this planet from the adults.”

But Clark said it’s different when it comes to kids breaking the law. “I think most of us would say, ‘If my child broke the law, purposefully or not, there would be some punishment for that’ — whether or not I thought they were doing it for a greater cause. “Civil society depends on all of us deciding we’re all going to abide by the same laws.”


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