You know the Yukon Party government has hit a public nerve when people like Toby Hoeschele, 23, are spending a beautiful Wednesday afternoon on Main Street, clipboard in hand, collecting signatures.
“I really hate doing this kind of stuff,” he said. “I like to be in the bar, chasing girls.”
Neither he nor his two friends have any affiliation with political parties. But they were angry enough over the government’s proposed Civil Forfeiture Act to start the petition, which, that afternoon, had gathered about 50 signatures over the course of an hour.
It calls for the government to shelve the proposed law until public consultations have been held.
“It’s just a direct violation of our rights,” said Kendra Willems, 19, who was gathering signatures with her 11-month-old daughter, Emily.
A response came quicker than they expected. That same afternoon, Premier Dennis Fentie made an about-face and agreed to an NDP-sponsored motion that delays the draft law until public input is gathered.
Regardless, the group still plans to hold a rally to protest the controversial bill in front of the legislature on Thursday, May 6 at noon.
“We still feel we need to make our point,” said Willems. “The government is wrong in a lot of ways for what they’re doing. And even if they want to obtain public consent, we want to put up a strong front.”
Online supporters of the protest also continues to grow. Their online Facebook group, Yukoners for Civil Freedom, had 175 supporters as of Friday morning, several days after being created.
Willems and her friends first heard about the bill about a week ago, through news stories on the radio and editorials in the newspaper.
Concerned, they downloaded a copy of the draft law to read themselves.
They became concerned by its vague language, which would allow police to seize private property, including vehicles and houses, without proof of criminal wrongdoing.
Boosters of the law say it will help fight organized crime. Critics worry the law could be easily abused by authorities.
Willems wonders why Fentie agreed to the NDP’s motion to delay the bill when, days earlier, the government rejected similar pleas from the Liberals.
She can’t help but suspect the public outcry against the proposed law has much to do with the government flip-flop. If the public hadn’t piped-up, said Willems, the bill would likely have been rammed through.
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