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Preventative Justice

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Section: Accounts Geography: Quebec Montreal Topics: police, NOII, Harper

November 29, 2006

Preventative Justice

Activist Jaggi Singh is arrested for what he might do and threatened with six months in detention

by Jaggi Singh

JaggiArrest_web.jpg
Singh was attending a press conference by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and was arrested before he could even stand up and ask a question.photo: CMAQ
As spoken by Jaggi Singh, member of Block the Empire and No One Is Illegal, at Rivière-des-Prairies detention centre, by phone to allies on Sunday November 26.

Tomorrow, I will be facing a bail hearing that will determine whether or not I will spend the next six months in preventative custody. The Crown – encouraged no doubt by the Montreal police and the RCMP – is objecting to my release, arguing that I am a threat to public security. Let me explain what brings me to this position, and readers can decide for themselves who's the real threat to public security...

On Friday, I joined with at least two dozen other anti-war activists in attending an action, organized in less than 36 hours, at a press conference by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Effective action doesn't mean sitting through stage-managed photo-ops, it means standing up and holding decision-makers directly accountable for their policies. That is exactly what we, members of grassroots groups like Block the Empire, No One Is Illegal and others, intended to do.

Before we could even stand up and ask a question, the RCMP unilaterally decided to remove me from the event, not based on what I had done, but based on what I might do. When I refused, I was subsequently arrested and now find myself facing up to six months in detention. If I had the chance, I would have denounced Stephen Harper's partnership with George Bush's disastrous "war on terror." Canadian troops are in Afghanistan to allow more American troops to kill in Iraq. Moreover, the direct words of Major-General Andrew Leslie – Canada's commanding general in Afghanistan – prove the nonsensical logic of Canada's policy. Speaking at a conference in 2005, Leslie stated: "Afghanistan is a 20-year venture. There are things worth fighting for. There are things worth dying for. There are things worth killing for." In the same speech, he said: "Every time you kill an angry young man overseas, you're creating 15 more who will come after you." This is a made-in-Canada plan for disaster on the backs of Afghani civilians.

But Stephen Harper's complicity with US imperialism goes beyond Afghanistan and Iraq. When the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) attacked civilians and civilian infrastructure in Lebanon and Occupied Palestinian Territories – actions widely recognized as war crimes – Harper expressed his unconditional support for Israel. Disgustingly, even after a Montreal family was massacred in their own home in Southern Lebanon, Harper continued to describe Israel's actions as "justified and measured."

Occupations abroad are rooted in occupation at home. One of Stephen Harper's closest advisors and mentors is Calgary neo-conservative Tom Flanagan. His writings provide the ideological underpinnings for the Harper government's assimilationist policies vis-à-vis aboriginal peoples. In the context of continued self-determination struggles at Six Nations, Sun Peaks, Grassy Narrows and elsewhere, the Harper Conservative position amounts to genocide.

Ostensibly, Stephen Harper was in Montreal on Friday to announce more funding for cancer research. Meanwhile, the Harper Conservatives continue to attack publicly-funded healthcare and have deepened Liberal cutbacks to social programs, undermining services to women, the poor, immigrants, indigenous peoples and queers. Harper announced some $200 million for cancer research, while the Canadian government is spending upwards of $3 billion for Canada's intervention in Afghanistan. Everyone knows someone affected by cancer, including the demonstrators who protested Harper's press conference on Friday. The substantive point is that the general well-being of society comes not just from initiatives to fight cancer, but fundamentally from eliminating poverty and oppression. The Harper government policies in their totality are disastrous for the health of the poor, the indigenous and Canadians in general and his support of the "war on terror" fundamentally destroys the health of average Lebanese, Palestinians, Iraqis and Afghanis.

Many are uncomfortable with the idea of getting in the face of the decision-makers. But when those decision-makers are ideologically deaf to dissenting points of view, disruption and impolite protests are necessary. That's why others and I similarly confronted Immigration Minister Monte Solberg in Ottawa this past May to oppose the government's continued deportation and detention policies. These policies, under the Conservatives, have resulted in the arrest of children in schools, raids at workplaces and general insecurity and fear among Canada's non-status immigrant population. Moreover, others and I picketed Afghan puppet Hamid Karzai in September of this year and during that picket, I tried to speak directly to Michael Fortier, Stephen Harper's right-hand man in Quebec. On each of those occasions – against Monte Solberg, against Michael Fortier, and then against Stephen Harper – I was arrested and charged with public order offenses. I haven't been convicted of anything and going by past personal experience, I might very likely be acquitted of everything. My and others' desire to continue to protest even to the point of trying directly to reach decision-makers puts me in the position that I might face at least the next 6 months in prison. I don't regret any of my previous actions and I intend to defend myself vigorously at the upcoming trials. I only regret that I, along with others, can't do more to oppose policies that are not just misguided, but murderous and genocidal.

I certainly don't expect that everyone or a majority of readers to agree with my political point of view. But what's at stake at tomorrow's bail hearing is whether or not someone who actively dissents deserves to be locked up for at least six months before being convicted of anything. Either way, I'm prepared to live with the consequences of my actions, knowing that they occur in the context of movements that are uncompromisingly fighting for justice and dignity, whether at home or abroad.

On November 27, Jaggi Singh was released on a $2000 bail, money that was collected by his supporters who numbered close to one hundred at the hearing.

In addition to bail, a condition was also attached to the release; Singh is not allowed to partake in any demonstration which is illegal or non-peaceful.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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