Halifax - On Thursday, April 5th,at 9:00am, MLA Gary Burrill (Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley) presented thousands of signatures from concerned Nova Scotians to the NS House of Assembly, calling for a ban on fracking. This process took about 30 seconds and discussion did not continue further.
This was to be expected by a small group of concerned people who were in attendance, and who were not going to let the issue of fracking go unnoticed in the House. After the petition was presented, the House of Assembly went into their regular routine.
It was actually very hard to follow what the MLAs were talking about, and as someone who participates in many meetings and General Assemblies, in which there is a process and order, I was shocked. In the house of assembly anyone is allowed to shout out at anytime, heckling their opposition as they speak. They bang their desks, yell and shout to show their support and the loudest team gets the most attention. When most of them speak they attack the person they are speaking to, rather than discussing their idea and having a critical discussion.
As the MLAs have the right to speak out whenever they want, this anonymous group of people decided they should also have this right. After one of the MLAs turn was up and they were moving onto the next, a person from the the gallery stood up.
“Excuse me!...Excuse me!” they proclaimed from the gallery. The person held a piece of paper, which they continued to read.
“When will you discuss the petition on Hydraulic Fracturing?”
“When will you discuss the ecological impacts of oil and gas drilling?”
“The threat to to our ground, water, Human health, economies and communities?"
“Well if you won't discuss it, we will will discuss it, right now”
As they continued to read from a script, very loudly, they were escorted out of the second floor gallery by the House's security. The person continued to speak, reading facts about the process of Hydraulic Fracturing. This person was then escorted out of the room. The MLA's probably thought the demonstration was now over. But as soon as the first person was escorted out, another continued where they left off, using the same script.
The person continued to read facts about the harmful effects and potential contamination to our ground water. This person was also escorted out.
But wait, across the room there is a third who continues. They only get a couple sentences in before, you guessed it, they are escorted out by security.
Yet another person is there with the script. They are now listing the harmful effects fracking chemicals can have on the human body. At this point, all the security guards are busy taking care of the first three people, so this last person is able to talk for quite some time. They almost finish the script before the head security guard, who was very much unimpressed, returns and escorts them out.
While this is happening, many people in the gallery are nodding their heads to agree. The speakerof the House, who is similar to a facilitator or chair person and facilitates the discussion between MLAs, decided to call for a recess in the middle of this demonstration. But most of the MLAs stayed seated and continued to listen to those speaking in the Gallery.
Some shook their heads in disapproval, obviously not happy with people using their right of free speech, but they did not speak out or interrupt. When the speaker of the House decided to go to recess, some of the MLAs actually asked him where he was going, and looked very confused as to why they were breaking.
There would have been a video, but the security confiscated a camera shortly before the demonstration began; apparently you are not allowed to record the House of Assembly.
The group of protestors were on their way out of the legislature when they were approached by a police officer. The officer asked them for their names. One of people asked him if they had broken the law or committed any crime, which the officer avoided by saying, "You are not allowed to interrupt the assembly."
They asked him yet again, "But is that illegal?"
The officer gave in. “No, it is not illegal."
"So we do not have to give you our names?" they asked.
The officer responded, "You do not have to give me your names but i would like you to."
All parties involved denied the officer.
So from my observation it is not a crime to interrupt the Assembly, it is unclear whether these people will be allowed back into the legislature anytime soon, but they will be free, to continue to fight for this land, water and eco systems.