MLA REPORT: Ferry terminal protest divides community

MLA Adam Olsen says Wet’suwet’en supporters have democratic right to protest

By Adam Olsen

MLA Saanich North and the Islands

This week I saw my riding grapple with mixed emotions to the protesters who blocked the Swartz Bay ferry terminal for two hours in what they said was an act of solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who are opposed to the Coastal Gas Link pipeline currently being constructed in their territory.

Living in this vibrant democracy is not easy. We all recognize the constitutionally protected right to protest, but when these acts of democratic engagement impact our daily lives, it can be hard to stand behind those foundational principles. Things are often easier in theory than in practice.

But nothing worth doing ever does come easy. The very freedoms and rights we enjoy today as Canadians have not come easily and protecting them today requires every one of us to remain diligent and engaged.

While I must defend the right for people to peacefully demonstrate it is also important to publicly encourage people to use tactics that advance the interests that they are demonstrating for, tactics that nurture relationships not deepen divisions. Not all peaceful tactics help build constituencies of support and unfortunately shutting down a major ferry terminal is not an action that builds goodwill even though it may be peaceful and nonviolent.

RELATED: One-sailing wait from Swartz Bay ferry terminal after morning protest

The challenges in front of us requires patience, compassion, and a constant reminder that we are all ultimately on the same side. We all want the best for our families and our province.

As the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands I am acutely aware of the impact delays on the BC Ferries service has on constituents and all islanders. Indeed, issues with BC Ferries are among the most common concerns raised by constituents in our communities, important issues I continue to advocate for. The ferries are not just there for the convenience of travellers.

Islanders rely on ferries as a lifeline for medical appointments, food, jobs… everything. This past week’s protest that blocked the Pat Bay Highway at the Swartz Bay ferry terminal, was thankfully peaceful and limited to a few hours, but it would have been respectful if the organizers provided some warning and given people the opportunity to adjust and plan.

But it is important for me to be clear: I support the right of the citizens of Canada and British Columbia to peaceful, nonviolent demonstration. It is a constitutionally protected right and an important part of our democracy.

I want to be just as clear that this and other acts are a direct reflection of governments failing to address the deep division in our society that has evolved over generations. I am committed to my part in mending these relationships. That means navigating the turbulence created by these issues with humility and self-reflection and yet remaining resolute that we cannot afford to have our constitutionally protected rights diminished.

Adam Olsen is MLA Saanich North and the Islands.

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