Protesters call comments made by Regina mayor and councillors 'dangerous' and 'shocking'

A group of Regina citizens is protesting Monday after Mayor Michael Fougere said there is 'never' a time for civil disobedience.

Mayor releases statement in response to civil disobedience rally

Florence Stratton and Bob Hughes address people in front of the Gandhi statue at Regina city hall on Monday. (CBC)

Comments by Regina's mayor and two city councillors brought a group of protesters to city hall on Monday.

Bob Hughes of the Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism said he was "shocked" by comments made by Mayor Michael Fougere last week.

"The general public is led to believe that civil disobedience is violent and that's simply not the case," Hughes said standing in front of the Gandhi statue outside city hall.

The protesters cited Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Canada's Viola Desmond as examples of people who broke the law in order to enact social change.

"Civil disobedience has such a proud history worldwide. It caused the de-segregation of the United States. It caused the de-segregation of Canada. Viola Desmond is now being put on the $10 bill because of a stance she took," said anti-poverty advocate Peter Gilmer.

"Much of the social progress that we all benefit from now has been based on civil disobedience," Gilmer said.

Regina Mayor Michael Fougere was asked about civil disobedience last week in response to six people arrested for refusing to get off a STC bus. 

"We don't want to talk about civil disobedience. That crosses a line that I don't accept as mayor and I don't think anyone would accept it as a rational way to go about protesting," Fougere said last week.

Florence Stratton, one of the organizers for the rally, said she believes Fougere should retract the statement or apologize, calling it "dangerous."

One of the people who staged a sit-in protest during one of the final trips made by the Saskatchewan Transportation Company said civil disobedience is part of a democratic society.

Jack Hicks called protesting a clear way to show opposition to cuts made by the Saskatchewan government during its March provincial budget. 
Rita Vogel and Donna Nelson are among the group protesting at Regina city hall. (Adam Hunter/CBC)

Mayor's statement

On Monday afternoon, Fougere released a statement responding to the rally.

"A member of my Council suggested late last week that civil disobedience connected to the closure of STC is legitimate. I disagree.

Legitimate political dissent and protest is absolutely welcome in a democratic society; it is a form of expression that can focus public attention and bring about much-needed change. I fully support peaceful protest and welcome and encourage it when people feel it is necessary. No community is perfect, ours included, and until it is people should be and will be allowed to raise their collective voice and be recognized.

Civil disobedience, however, is a completely different activity that speaks to acting outside the bounds of the law. I believe that when dissent crosses the line into breaking the law or inciting a response it is something entirely different, and the context of that action becomes crucially important."

Council weighs in

Coun. Bob Hawkins doesn't think the mayor should apologize. Hawkins said what's happening in Regina does not justify a showing of civil disobedience.

Coun. Sharron Bryce agreed, saying obeying the law should be the top priority.

"We don't need to break the law here in Regina to actually get our voices heard," she said on Sunday.

"Gandhi was not living in Regina in 2017," Bryce added.

Hughes had a problem with those statements, calling them "out of touch".

"Sharron Bryce has a job today as a councilor. That's how Sharron Bryce even got to run in politics — because of civil disobedience."

With files from Stephanie Taylor