[Betty Krawczyk, as photographed for the Vancouver Sun by Ian Smith. In this photo Betty was behind bars, unbeaten and unbowed:) The caption above the photo reads: One of B.C.'s most political of prisoners, and underneath the piece is captioned: Behind Bars With a Romantic Warrior]
I must say, I have the most amazing friends! When I look around at my life's real wealth, it is my friends, all of whom are golden, all of whom contribute something breathtaking to this old planet of ours, in our desire to save it.
Betty and I were among the founding members of the Clayoquot Sound Writers Group. At that time, early '90's, Betty was grieving the death of her beautiful daughter, who was a dancer, from cancer, and helping to care for her grandson, Julian. Betty was a fiery, passionate, fun-loving woman, who always brought down the house at our gatherings by doing the best self-taught boogy-shimmy ever danced by a septuagenarian (now an octogenarian!)
She has an irrepressible spirit, and has had a most colorful and interesting life, which she wrote about in her first book: Clayoquot: The Sound Of My Heart. Her subsequent books are about life in prison (where of course she advocated for the rights of the women incarcerated with her). The titles are pure Betty: Lock Me Up or Let Me Go, and Open Living Confidential From Inside the Joint.
In her lifetime, she raised eight children. She hailed from Mississippi, where early on she was an activist for civil rights. This grew to include human rights, workers' rights, women's rights. You name it, any cause Betty came across, she worked hard for, with a passion for righting wrongs that seem self-evident to all but the powers-that-be.
She had moved to Tofino, where she lived in a small cabin a distance by boat from the village, with the intention of retiring after an active and busy life. But one morning, she stepped out of her cabin to see the mountain behind her had slid down its slopes in the night, due to clearcutting then going on in the Sound, literally on her doorstep. Her heart became fired with the need to do what she could to stop the insanity.
At the time of the article accompanying the above photo, Betty was incarcerated for protesting at the Elaho Valley. She was given a 67 day sentence for defying a court order prohibiting environmental protests in the Elaho. (What happened to freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest? Dunno.) She refused to sign an undertaking not to return to the area, which would have allowed her out of prison. But she knew, in conscience, she could not honor it.
Betty's first arrest was in Clayoquot Sound. She has spent two and a half years in prison for "previous contempt convictions stemming from anti-logging protests." Then she served ten months, at age 78, for "civil disobedience", peacefully protesting the Eagleridge Bluffs development.
After leaving Tofino, Betty went to Victoria and founded the Canadian Party of Women. I would have so loved to see Betty as premier of this province. It is our loss that it didn't happen.
At age 80, Betty ran as candidate for Mayor of Vancouver. When asked by a journalist what she thought her chances of winning were, Betty responded in true Betty fashion: "I'm aready a winner. I was conceived. The odds against that are one in a million. That makes any other odds look pretty good, doesn't it?" My gal Betty!
Here is an excerpt from http://www.gumboot.ca/ about the coverage of Betty's trial on the Eagleridge Bluffs charges, when Betty spoke in explanation of her actions:
But Krawczyk had another point to make that was far more principled than either personal or legal . “[I]n a very real sense,” she said, ”this trial is not about me. It’s about an awakening human consciousness, a consciousness that wants to do things differently, that wants to be healthy, and that wants a healthy planet.” She went on to speak of the “decomposing” planet due to climate change, of ecologies that are being “cut down, burned out, dug out, or hacked to death for profit”, of the cancer epidemic, the collapse in sperm count, and — as the ultimate indignity to a great grandmother — that “human breast milk has become the very most polluted human food on this increasingly chemically polluted earth.”
But the reason she gave for going up to Eagleridge Bluffs on June 3th, 2006 — the evening she was arrested — was eminently practical and compassionate. Her 71 year-old friend, a Pacheenacht elder named Harriet Nahanee, “said she had to go to the Bluffs to say prayers for the dead and dying creatures...due to the logging and blasting there.” Nahanee had been most concerned about the red-legged frogs. “When I asked her why especially the frogs, she said that red-legged frogs only live in wetlands and they signify life because that’s where we all came from, the wetlands, and so the red-legged frogs also signify life to humans, and that in the Pacheenacht belief when the last red-legged frog dies, all of humanity will also die.”
Harriet Nahanee, weakened from chronic asthma, influenza and 14 days in jail, died one month after her release from custody. Betty Krawczyk, still alive and fit of body and mind, is in jail again. One very tough woman! One very justified fight.
In the article accompanying the above photo, Betty is quoted as saying, "As I gaze upon these stripped mountains daily, I am beginning to wonder if the logging companies...know what in tarnation they are doing." At this time she was 71. Born in 1928, Betty is 82 today. Still an ecological warrior like none other. Still trying to right an unworkable system, every day of her life.
Betty has an appeal pending, in an attempt to defend an individual's right to free speech and peaceful protest. She is fighting on behalf of the rights of all of us, to stand for what we believe, and to protest the environmental desecration that has ravaged this province for decades, in the name of Profit.
Imagine how thunderstruck I was today to find this in my inbox, from Monica Markovici, Betty's ardent supporter and distributor of Betty's press releases :
There is a very serious development occurring in Betty's appeal...The Attorney General (the Crown) is going to try to pursuade the Court to look at locking Betty away for fifteen, twenty-five years, or even for life. The way they are going to do this is by asking the Court to designate her a chronic offender and to re-sentence her under the rules of "accumulated convictions".
Here are the facts: The Crown has entered into the Court in his responses to Betty's appeal these facts: Two cases he refers for the judges to consider for Betty Krawczyk's sentence appeal are both concerning repeated violent pedophiles who raped their own children. The case for one is entitled Regina v. C.A.M and the other is R.v. M (C.A.) But in the one case R.V.M (C.A) the Crown (Michael Brundrett) emphasizes one judge's opinion on the sentencing principle: "When an accused has been convicted of a serious crime in itself calling for a substantial sentence and when he suffers from some mental or personality disorder rendering him a danger to the community but not subjecting him to confinement in a mental institution and when it is uncertain when, if ever, the accused will be cured of his affliction, in my opinion the appropriate sentence is one of life."
So this is how the Attorney General plans to get rid of Betty...have the court declare that my search, and others' search, for justice and fairness from our own government and in the court and for protection of our life support systems for the future is a mental and personality disorder, much like violent pedophiles who repeatedly rape their own children.
You can see how important it is for people to be there on Wednesday to support Betty and others in the right to protest the destruction of our forests and streams. The more people who know that the right to protest is being equated with perversion and that everybody is being threatened by the Attorney General with unheard of sentences. Life? My God.
It appears there are millions of us with this same "affliction", that of hating the destruction of the planet for the profit of the multinationals. Any one of us could be in Betty's place. She is fighting for us all, and for her grandchildren's - and our grandchildren's - future.
I am indebted to this woman warrior. I think the court, if it recognizes this argument, should be declared criminally insane itself. In fact, the insane people I know have a truer wisdom than apparently can be found before the court.
My mind is truly boggled.
Anyone who feels outraged by this may write in support of Betty, to the Attorney General Michael de Jong at AG.Minister@gov.bc.ca or to Premier Gordon Campbell at email@example.com