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Jailhouse Betty rages on at the BAG

What is this world coming to? How about an anti-logging activist holding forth in one of B.C.

What is this world coming to? How about an anti-logging activist holding forth in one of B.C.'s oldest forestry centres, where the likes of Merrill and Ring, Empire Mills and Mac-Blo held court for decades and where the "think fast hippie" bumper sticker was conceived?

Thirty years ago Betty Krawczyk would have been chased right out of town. Even 20 years ago an address by a tree-hugging activist would have been as welcome as a gang of teetotalers at a frat party, an atheist lecturing at the Vatican, or a dyed-in-the-wool vegan attending the Alberta Cattle Ranchers convention. Times have changed.

Twenty-five curious folks, among them a few devoted followers, showed up at the BAG last week to hear "Jailhouse Betty's" story.

"The Earth is calling. I hear it all the time. We are all children of the same evolutionary power," she told the audience.

Betty K is Canada's most famous raging granny. This vociferous feminist and firebrand environmentalist has thrown herself in front of heavy equipment and declared with considerable conviction, "There will be no logging here today."

Most recently she did a stint at the Alouette Women's Correctional Centre, in Maple Ridge, for refusing to obey a court order to stay away from the construction zone at Eagleridge Bluffs.

To her dismay Krawczyk has discovered that the penalties for breeching a court injunction are more severe than for other non-violent crimes, and even violent crimes like assault, because disobeying an injunction is considered a direct challenge to judicial authority. "I have been battling the courts for 20 years and never won a victory. They just keep on throwing me in jail," she declared and then added, "It's kind of a privilege; I'm asking for the strength to do this."

During one stay behind bars she ended up in the psychiatric wing, or as she puts it, "the crazy lady unit," where many of her fellow inmates were sedated, and everything had a way of disappearing, including her morning coffee and lunch tray.

So, are her days of dissent finally receding in the rear view mirror of life? Not likely. As she told the assembly at the BAG, "I never know when lightening will strike again."

Krawczyk's history of activism dates back to the '60s when she first got involved with anti-Vietnam War protests and the desegregation movement in her home state of Louisiana.

She immigrated to Canada when her third marriage tanked, and refers to herself as a refugee from American political hypocrisy. Shortly after her arrival the now infamous Clayoquot Sound logging operation catapulted her with full force into the environmental activism camp.

Eight is a pivotal number for her. She has reached the ripe old age of 80, she had 8 children and she has the same number of grandkids. She's also done jail time for civil disobedience on eight different occasions.

She has written three books, including Open Living Confidential: From Inside the Joint, a self-published memoir about her latest jailhouse experience.

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