Lunch Time

Luncheon protest stifled free speech and the right to freely associate

THE ONGOING and relentless campaign against Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline plan skidded around a slippery corner in Terrace June 19 with a protest of a company-sponsored luncheon at Northwest Community College. Up until now, the extraordinarily well-organized opposition to the project has been focused on the project itself.

But this protest had every appearance of straying over the line to become personal. It also breached  principles held dearly in Canada.

Although the luncheon had been billed as a women-only event to discuss the future of the community,  there was more at stake. The gathering, with female Enbridge executives present, was an attempt to build support for Northern Gateway.

The group outside — all-female as well – while not physically blocking access to the event, made it known the event should not be taking place and those inside should not be there. Some of those invited, seeing the protesters, turned around and left.

And that’s where things become a problem. For as much as those who oppose Northern Gateway are committed to their cause, that commitment does not extend to limiting free association and free speech for others. Imagine the outcry if the situation had been reversed.

It’s also worth considering the location for all of this — the college.  Places of higher learning are places where vigorous debate is encouraged and not discouraged.