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HomeBusinessFace of Save Old Growth, hoping to avoid deportation, gets judge’s OK to move to Victoria with protester wife 

Face of Save Old Growth, hoping to avoid deportation, gets judge’s OK to move to Victoria with protester wife 

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Bob Mackin

The Pakistani climate change protester who pleaded guilty to repeatedly blocking traffic and reneging on his promises to stop must wait longer to be sentenced.  

Judge Reginald Harris reserved decision in March after Crown prosecutor Ellen Leno asked him to send Muhammad Zain Ul Haq to jail for 90 days and impose 18 months probation. Haq’s lead defence lawyer Ben Isitt argued for a conditional discharge.

Muhammad Zain Ul Haq, a Pakistani national outside the North Fraser Pretrial Centre (Save Old Growth)

On May 31 in Vancouver Provincial Court, Harris — citing his commitments to complex, ongoing trials — delayed sentencing Haq. Harris suggested he could have time to deliver his verdict in late June, but gave the 22-year-old permission to move from Vancouver to Victoria so that he can live with the fellow protester that he married last month. 

Haq pleaded guilty to five charges of mischief for his role in illegal Extinction Rebellion road and bridge blockades in 2021 and one charge of breaching a release order for the August 2022 Stop Fracking Around protest on the Cambie Bridge. Haq separately faces deportation to Pakistan and a one-year ban on returning to Canada for violating the terms of his visa to study at Simon Fraser University. 

Isitt told the court that Haq married Sophia Papp on April 29 in Vancouver and that the court and the Crown have no role in supervising who Haq marries. 

“He’s chosen Miss Papp as his life partner,” Isitt said. “They are going to be life partners, they will likely be talking about the climate crisis, they’ll likely talk about how to raise awareness.”

Haq has been residing in Vancouver with activists Janice Oakley and Quetzo Herejk, who posted a $4,000 surety to the court. Leno opposed the application and argued that arrangement should continue. 

“So the Crown’s concern is we’re taking him from a stable environment with some mature supervision that seems to have been working, and it would disrupt that and potentially put him in a different location with influences that are less positive,” Leno said. 

Protester Sophie Papp vandalizing the Gastown Steam Clock in August 2022 (Instagram/Stop Fracking Around)

Leno showed Harris photographic evidence of Papp with Haq at last August’s Stop Fracking Around protest where Haq violated the terms of his release from previous arrests. 

Also last August, Papp publicly poured molasses on the Gastown Steam Clock in another anti-pipeline protest. Last November, a judge gave Papp an absolute discharge after a mischief charge from a Victoria protest last June. 

In March of this year, Leno said, Papp helped videotape a protester pouring pink paint on the Royal B.C. Museum’s woolly mammoth for another climate change campaign. 

Harris approved Haq’s application because there is no evidence Haq had broken the conditions of his bail during the last eight months. 

“I’m satisfied that it could be amended, I’m satisfied it’s not going to upset the applecart, he’s just got too much to lose by non-compliance at all,” Harris said. 

In January 2022, Haq and four others incorporated Eco-Mobilization Canada, a federal not-for-profit behind the Extinction Rebellion splinter group Save Old Growth. Haq had boasted last August in a New York Times story that Save Old Growth received US$170,000 in grants from the California-based Climate Emergency Fund.

In March, the court heard that should Haq succeed in overturning his deportation on compassionate and humanitarian grounds, he has a job offer from environmentalist Tzeporah Berman at the charity Stand.earth.

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