The Critical Infrastructure Defence Act and Potential Implications

This article was authored by Nick Nesbitt, Peter Hillson, and Max Christie

The Critical Infrastructure Defence Act (CIDA) was recently passed by the Government of Alberta in response to protestors blocking rail traffic in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en community in British Columbia. Learn more about the Wet’suwet’en community and the history behind their movement from our resource here. The CIDA was introduced as an attempt to safeguard capital and commerce, however, may be a violation of Albertan, Canadian, and International Rights and Freedoms. Here is a summary of the act and what it means for Albertans:

1. The act broadly defines “essential infrastructure” to include oil and gas facilities, railways, and highways, defined as areas where the public is able to use for the passage or parking of vehicles, including surrounding sidewalks or ditches (1). This definition of “essential infrastructure” areas under CIDA criminalizes many locations currently used for protest (2).

a. Section 5 of CIDA states that “[The Government of Alberta] may make regulations

prescribing buildings, structures, devices or other things as being essential infrastructure

(2),” meaning that this definition may evolve and potentially further limit areas available

for protest, without needing approval of the legislature.

2. Any person in direct violation of the act may be punished with fines up to $10,000 ($25,000 for multiple offences) and 6 months imprisonment (2). This may include a peaceful protestor or people encouraging people to protest.

a. Every day a person violates the act will count as a separate offence (2).

3. The CIDA may impact energy development plan consultations necessitated by Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 (3) and limits Indigenous peoples’ ability to contest resource extraction that damages traditional territories and impedes traditional use of the land. Aboriginal title and Aboriginal rights are also protected by Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 (3).

4. Canadians’ rights to freedom of thought, belief, expression, and peaceful assembly are protected by Section 2(b), 2(c), and 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As CIDA will limit areas available to use for assembly, some legal experts believe that this act may infringe on Albertans’ right to peacefully protest on public land (4). Arguments on the contrary include that not all public lands are protected under CIDA, and citizens maintain their ability to protest if it will not hinder essential business.

a. Private companies maintain the ability to apply for injunctions to remove protestors

from their land (5). As such, provisions under CIDA regarding private property may serve

to increase the legal repercussions for those protestors (5).

As many environmental activists’ express opinions via peaceful assembly, some believe the CIDA may have the potential to impact future capacity to advocate for the environment and climate change. It is important that the environment remains a governmental priority at the national and provincial level, and that citizens maintain their ability to demand government action.

If you are looking for more information on CIDA, there are actions you can take to get involved in the ongoing discussion regarding CIDA below:

1. For Albertans, call or email your MLA

2. For other Canadians, contact your local representatives and urge them to get in contact with Albertan officials regarding the CIDA.

3. Use social media! Contact legal experts and research the details of the CIDA.

[Note: Since the CIDA has gained royal assent so recently, no legal challenges have been filed yet. However, organizations such as the Alberta Federation of Labour and the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations have expressed their opposition to the act. We will be updating this page as legal challenges continue, and you can see the links to statements by organizations opposed to the CIDA below.]

Statement from the Alberta Federation of Labour

Open Letter from the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations







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Shake Up The Establishment is a youth-led, registered (#1190975-4) national non-partisan non-profit organization that operates within the geographical confines of what is currently known as "Canada", but what is referred to by its First Peoples, as Turtle Island. Indigenous peoples have inhabited Turtle Island for over 10,000 years, and were the sole inhabitants less than 500 years ago. We acknowledge that our address resides on Treaty 3 land, and is the traditional territory of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas Peoples. Turtle Island is still home to many Indigenous peoples and we at SUTE are thankful to be able to live, learn and work on this territory, whilst continuing to create meaningful change for the climate justice movement. We are aware that our actions as an organization and the work we put out have an impact on our land, and on all that inhabit it. We are humbled to be able to follow the lead of centuries long Indigenous-led efforts towards the protection and stewardship of this land and the people that inhabit it. We are committed to continually evaluating & decolonizing our practices, and we do our best to incorporate the lived experiences of the land defenders and protectors within our work. We also want to honour the voices of Black, and non-Black people of colour within our work, and continually recognize their resiliency in the face of years of systemic oppression as imposed by the Canadian state.


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