Great-Grandmother Gets Ten Months for Protest

Mon, 5 Mar 2007
Betty Krawczyk
Betty Krawczyk

Vancouver – A BC Supreme Court justice today sentenced Betty Krawczyk, age 78, to ten months in jail for protesting the destruction of a wetlands near Vancouver, BC last year. News outlets report that a dozen of Betty’s supporters have taken over the lobby of the Supreme Court building in downtown Vancouver at this hour, chanting “Shame, shame” and beating drums. Sheriffs are standing by and more arrests may be imminent.

Krawczyk pitched a tent in the path of bulldozers building a highway bypass in West Vancouver last spring, defying a court order banning protestors from the area. She was arrested and carried away by police, but returned to the blockade site twice more and later refused to apologize to the court for her actions. After her third arrest last July, Krawczyk was held in jail for two months “to protect the public,” the judge said at the time. She will not be credited for time served.

Justice Brenda Brown handed down the sentence for criminal contempt of court in a high-security courtroom this morning. She described Krawczyk’s breach of the court order as “open, flagrant and continuing.” Krawczyk had told the judge she would not accept probation or house arrest, stating she would not participate in her own punishment. Krawczyk has already spent two years in jail for logging blockades on the BC coast.

In May 2006, Police arrested Krawczyk along with two dozen others, including Harriet Nahanee, a First Nations elder who died last week after her release from jail. In January, Justice Brown gave Nahanee, age 71, two weeks in Surrey Pre-Trial Centre. She was hospitalized a week after completing her sentence, and a few days later she died of pneumonia complicated by a previously undiagnosed lung cancer.

Krawczyk represented herself at her trial after her lawyer, Cameron Ward, withdrew from the case.

“The Crown is using this (sentence) as a way of keeping any sort of publicity away from issues about the way we do business in BC, and about the way the Attorney General instructs the police to arrest people,” Krawczyk told Justice Brown last July. “I really resent being arrested under the auspices of a corporation that’s destroying a precious bio-system – an American company – under the BC courts.”

Krawczyk’s supporters are angry about the long sentence and the heavy-handed security at the courtroom. The hearing was held in a special courtroom with bulletproof barriers, and everyone who wanted to attend was searched.

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