A "public" hearing is one where the whole community can gather to do what it needs to do. At the Enbridge hearing, we would have watched our friends make their presentations, heard their words and emotions, felt their presence, lent them our support, and they in turn would have felt our presence.
For no good reason -- citing extremely vague "public safety concerns" -- the Joint Review Panel has decided to split the hearing into presenters, each being allowed one guest, and the rest of us. The rest of us are meant to gather at the Holiday Inn three blocks away and be satisfied with audio feed -- no visuals at all -- of the presentations.
This is unacceptable. The executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has said the Joint Review Panel is obligated to follow the open court principle that states any legal proceeding must be open to the public unless there is a “real and substantial risk” involved. He said a viewing room and transcript of the hearings don’t cut it. “It doesn’t just mean the public has to know what went down. They actually have to be there in the room,” he said. “The Supreme Court of Canada has been very clear in several decisions.”
The people of Kelowna and other British Columbians must demand from the Joint Review Panel an adequate explanation of why public hearings in Victoria, Vancouver and Kelowna have been closed to the public.
The people of Kelowna must also refuse to attend the Holiday Inn. I would suggest that we converge at the Sandman Hotel, the site of the hearing, to protest not only tar sands, pipelines and tankers, but also the unfair Joint Review Panel proceedings.