B.C. Extinction Rebellion road blockers 'defence of necessity' rejected by judge

Howard Breen and Melanie Murray were convicted two years ago on charges of mischief in relation to a stunt that blocked traffic in Nanaimo.

B.C. Extinction Rebellion road blockers 'defence of necessity' rejected by judge
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A British Columbia judge has rejected an argument that protesters who blocked roads in Nanaimo had no choice but to do so to increase awareness about climate change.

Howard Breen and Melanie Murray were convicted two years ago on charges of mischief in relation to a stunt that blocked traffic.

Breen, who also co-founded Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island, was found guilty of breaching an undertaking by impeding traffic on a public roadway. Other charges were stayed for being duplicates.

Breen and Murray are facing charges related to protests against the logging of old-growth forests in Nanaimo in 2022. In addition, Breen is also charged for his involvement in a protest on a Nanaimo log boom, an occupation at the Nanaimo airport, and an incident where he super-glued himself to the doors of a Royal Bank of Canada branch in Nanaimo to protest the Coastal GasLink pipeline project in northern B.C.

Breen also went on a 31-day hunger strike to put pressure on the minister of forests to meet with him.

His hunger strike ended after he lost 40 pounds and he experienced cognitive decline. He would end up receiving a phone call from the minister.

Breen and Murray's lawyer put forth a "defence of necessity" argument for their actions, marking a historic precedent in Canadian court history as the judge permitted expert witnesses to testify on this matter, as noted by Vic Brice, press secretary for Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island.

Both a climate scientist and a "civil-disobedience expert" were permitted to testify regarding the necessity of Breen and Murray's protest actions, the Times Colonist reports.

However, provincial court Judge Ronald Lamperson ultimately ruled that the case did not meet the criteria for a defence of necessity.

A sentencing date has not yet been set.

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