Extinction Rebellion roadblock organizer pleads guilty to mischief charges

Almost a year after forming a company to organize illegal roadblocks, a leader of three climate change protest brands pleaded guilty to five mischief charges Monday in Vancouver Provincial Court.

Almost a year after forming a company to organize illegal roadblocks, a leader of three climate change protest brands pleaded guilty to five mischief charges Monday in Vancouver Provincial Court.

Muhammad Zain Ul-Haq, a student from Pakistan, was scheduled to go on trial for mischief related to the July 24, 2021 Extinction Rebellion (ER) protest that blocked the Burrard Bridge in Vancouver. He pleaded guilty to that incident and for blocking the Cambie Bridge on March 27, 2021, Granville Bridge on May 2, 2021, the intersection of Georgia and Burrard streets on Oct. 16, 2021, and the Templeton Street and Grant McConachie Way intersection leading to Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 25, 2021.

Haq’s next court date is Feb. 9 for a pre-sentence report.

Just over two months ago, on Nov. 15, Haq pleaded guilty to mischief under $5,000 and breach of a release order. He had been charged for failure to comply with bail conditions after the Stop Fracking Around (SFA) anti-pipeline protest march blocked Cambie Bridge traffic on Aug. 15.

On Jan. 27, 2022, Haq and four others incorporated Eco-Mobilization Canada, a federal not-for-profit behind the ER splinter group Save Old Growth (SOG). In 2022, there were 48 arrests leading to charges for 34 individuals of the group whose tactics have failed to convince the NDP government to stop old growth logging.

In the December sentencing of a Vancouver schoolteacher, Judge Nancy Adams said it is not the message of SOG protesters that is wrong, but their methods, which put both protesters and public in danger. She fined Deborah Sherry Janet Tin Tun $1,000 and sentenced her to 18 months probation after she “usurped public infrastructure in order to extort a democratically elected government to do something”

SOG’s website says the group receives most of its funding for recruitment, training, capacity building and education from the Climate Emergency Fund, which disbursed US$5.3 million to 43 protest groups around the world last year. The New York Times quoted Haq last summer saying that SOG had received US$170,000 in grants from the California-based charity.

Last June, Canada Border Services Agency held Haq in custody for violating the terms of his Simon Fraser University student visa. Neither CBSA nor the Immigration and Refugee Board commented after a closed-door hearing. He resurfaced in August as the central coordinator of SFA. Activists from the anti-fracking campaign have sought media attention for their cause by vandalizing the Gastown Steam Clock, Olympic cauldron and an Emily Carr painting at Vancouver Art Gallery.

In February 2022, Haq spent nine days in jail for contempt of court after blocking a Trans Mountain Pipeline construction site in September 2021. Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick’s verdict said that Haq had been protesting in his role as the national action and strategy coordinator for ER.

Fitzpatrick expressed concern about Haq’s comments in the media about the potential for violence stemming from the pipeline, after he called government actions “treason.”

In an Instagram video shot outside the North Fraser Pretrial Centre after his release, Haq joked about spending his time in jail watching Seinfeld reruns. He also suggested Prime Minister Justin Trudeau be tried and sentenced for crimes against humanity.

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