Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Appeal to support UBC Students for a Democratic Society

Dear Friends,

Below is a letter of support from the Boundary Peace Initiative for the UBC students facing criminal charges of Obstructing a Police Officer for exercising their right to protest non-violently using methods of civil disobedience practiced worldwide. Please, if you see your way clear to supporting our hope and our future, our youth, use this as a template, amend as you feel you must, or simply insert the name of your organization or your personal name and send it to the UBC president and vice-president. It is vital that we send a message to these young people that we value them and their voice, that they are important to us and to the world. If we sit by and do nothing then we send the opposite message. If you decide to send this letter or some form of this letter please send me a copy so I can forward it on to the students. I thank you in advance and have over the last week tried to keep you all informed but for further information go to YouTube and access Knoll Aid. There are a series of videos.

In Universal Kinship and Loving Peace,

Laura Savinkoff

Dear Sir,

The Boundary Peace Initiative pleads with you to drop all charges against the Students for a Democratic Society.

Within a Democratic form of Government, we the people, have the human right to gather, speak and act in opposition to any policy, action, legislation or proposal of such from any level of Government, corporation, organization or institution. Opposition that is peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience is an indication of a healthy democratic society that promotes dialogue and negotiation, one in which the voice of the people is a integral element that leads to transparent and accountable governance. Exercising our right to opposition and contribution to improving the policies and living conditions of Canadians goes beyond voting during elections. It is our right and our responsibility to speak and act politically and within the social justice arena. When this right is not heard through letters, petitions and dialogue then it is also our right to protest in a more visible way. When undue and excessive force is used to curtail a demonstration of this right and responsibility of all citizens it is a sign of the eroding of civil and human rights.

The UBC Students for a Democratic Society exercised this right in a non-violent and peaceful gathering to bring awareness of the issue of destroying a ‘green space’ on campus to make room for a bus loop. Besides wasting millions of dollars, destroying a beautiful little bit of natural environment the increase in ‘greenhouse gas emissions’ will add to ‘climate change’. If we, the adults and policy makers, do not care about the world we are leaving for our youth, the youth do care. These students care about the air they breath and the preservation of at least a little bit of green among the concrete jungle so that it is possible to connect with the Earth, with the land.

The students were gathered not only for an hour but also throughout the evening, without incident or disruption to anyone or anything. What triggered the concern was a bon-fire. From information we have obtained the bon-fire was not a danger to any person or property. The situation escalated only after the arrival of the police. Violence was only forthcoming from the authorities and not from the students. Chanting and raised voices do not constitute violence but are tools used globally for civil disobedience. The authorities were violent and used unnecessary force to stop the demonstration while arresting young people trying to help one of their friends. There was an attempt by the students to negotiate with the authorities for the release of the young man and only after the police refused to negotiate did the students once again exercise their right to civil disobedience. We feel that these students’ democratic rights have been violated and excessive force was used. We teach our youth that their voices count; that they are important and valuable citizens and encourage them to take an active role in society and politics, yet when they raise their voices we punish and threaten them. Does this constitute a democratic society? We teach our youth to speak up for their rights, to act and to care about the world they live in but then we punish them if they do not agree with our vision of the world. Is this a democratic society? Is it any wonder that the vast majority of youth do not vote or participate in the political system? They are supported only if they do not oppose the status quo, do not disagree with the ‘powers that be’. Is this then the democratic society we are so proud of, that we so confidently promote globally, that we so proudly defend? These young people, the Students for a Democratic Society and others, are saying that they do not agree with further destroying the Earth and choose to defend in a non-violent and peaceful way our human right and responsibility to speak, gather and act.

It was through acts of civil disobedience, demonstration and protests that we have our Canadian Labour Code, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the abolition of slavery, the abolition of racial, gender and religious discrimination. It was people such as Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and others before and after that has brought about change. It is through their actions that we hoped the days of State repression were over. The actions taken against these young people say differently when a bus loop takes precedence over green space, when adults use and threaten force and violence and oppress the democratic right of citizens to voice opposition.

We ask you, what is more important? Is it more important to preserve a place that enhances the natural environment and promotes ecological integrity or a bus loop that adds to global warming? Is it more important to stand up for the democratic right to non-violent civil disobedience or for economic development at the expense of the erosion of civil and human rights? Is it more important to exercise excessive force and the attitude of ‘might is right’ or to send a message to our youth that they are a vital part of society and their views are heard and valued.

Our choice is to support our youth, our future and our hope, for a better world that values all life and is willing to speak on behalf of the voiceless—the grass, the trees, the birds, the squirrels. We feel it is possible to design a bus-loop, if it is an absolute necessity, in such a way that ‘green space’, the now famous knoll, is preserved. Therefore, we urge you to use your influence and drop all charges.

We thank you for your consideration. We hope you will see your way clear to support our youth as they ‘’walk the talk’’. UBC has a reputation as an institution that promotes questioning and social and political activism as witnessed by the over 5000 people from all over the world who participated in the World Peace Forum in 2006. If you choose to insist that these young people be labelled as criminals then sadly the purpose and success of the World Peace Forum will be tarnished.

In Universal Kinship and Loving Peace,

On behalf of the Boundary Peace Initiative,

Laura Savinkoff

Boundary Peace Initiative
Box 2572,
Grand Forks, B.C.,
V0H 1H0
Phone: 250 442 0434

Stephen J. Toope
Office of the President
The University of British Columbia
6328 Memorial Road [map]
Vancouver, BC
Canada V6T 1Z2

Phone: 604.822.8300
Fax: 604.822.5055

Stephen Owen
Office of the Vice-President, External, Legal and Community Relations
6328 Memorial Road
Vancouver, B.C.
V6T 1Z2
Phone: 604.822.5017
Fax: 604.822.3861

Stephen Owen [see Bio and Curriculum Vitae]
Phone: 604.822.6330
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