Access to the harbour is only one of the issues at stake in the harbour fence debate. We need to examine the undemocratic nature of the decision to fund the fence and government officials using the Sept. 11th attacks as carte blanche for regulations and spending.
The harbour fence has far-reaching consequences to the public. It is a serious problem and there is no easy mechanism to disseminate information to the public about city council resolutions and decisions.
If the public doesn’t know about a decision, how are they supposed to have their voices heard? Isn’t democracy supposed to be “for the people, by the people”?
The fence will close 60 per cent of the harbour from public access.
St. John’s harbour is not very big. We do not have the luxury, like Halifax, of being able to cordon off large swaths of the harbour without affecting the public. People use all parts of the harbour that are currently accessible. There are always people walking down Harbour Drive. Children love looking at the boats. People like being near the water, as it’s a part of our culture and identity which is often lost while in a dense urban environment.
The CEO of the St. John’s Port Authority, Sean Hanrahan, says, “that the authority must either abide by security standards or shut down the port of St. John’s.” But why? In no statement or interview does Mr. Hanrahan quote which regulations the port authority is currently violating, nor does he justify how the fence will meet those standards.
Sept. 11, 2001 was 11 years ago. If this was an actual issue, wouldn’t the port security have been updated then?
The proposed fence is apparently a “heritage fence.” Terrorists, illegal immigrants or whatever other kind of criminal will not be deterred by a heritage fence. They are not deterred by airport security or border security and consequently any kind of fence will do little to stop them.
I think it is safe to say St. John’s is not and has not made itself a target for any terrorist organizations.
If major public threats like the events of 9/11 are the sole rationale for heightened security along the harbourfront, then this is an extremist post-rationalization of the very need of the fence to begin with.
Moreover, it comes at the detriment of the urban fabric and intimate connection with the sea that we are trying to restore.
Furthermore, national defence is the responsibility of the federal government. Since the federal government pays for security upgrades in airports, the primary target of terrorist attacks, shouldn’t they also be paying to upgrade port security?
The federal government takes responsibility for the fisheries without blinking an eye. Why is city council paying for this fence?
The 9/11 attacks were incredibly sad and distressing for people all over the world. People are afraid to oppose arguments that use 9/11 as justification because people want to do everything in their power to prevent similar attacks from happening.
The harbour fence will not prevent those attacks.
It will limit public access without consulting the public and it will be a regressive development in the design of our vibrant, downtown area. Before any decision can be made about updating or “securing” the waterfront, the people of St. John’s need more information.
Patricia Johnson-Castle is studying international development studies, African studies and philosophy at McGill University.