Injunctions and injustice - the courts & Fairy Creek
Our family started thinking about Fairy Creek for real only five months ago. (Can this be right?? It feels a lot longer than this. But yes. Our son told us in about mid-May that he planned to head to the blockade, and he left on May 31.)
I haven’t written about Fairy Creek in an organized way for a while. I’ve read a ton about it, from all sorts of sources. I’ve discussed action plans and ideas in various Facebook groups devoted to helping effect change. I’ve tweeted about it. I’ve put it on my Instagram. I’ve signed petitions. I’ve made phone calls and sent emails to politicians and newspapers. I've waved signs. I even gave a speech about it at a community event.
The issue has (finally!!) gotten coverage in some major media outlets lately, so in some ways I wonder what I can possibly add. But here's some (very) basic info about all the legalities of the situation. Injunctions and injustice abound.
TL; DR: Teal Cedar keep going back to court until they get a response they like.
All the blockade-related arrests, injunctions, and appeals are clogging up the courts.
Meanwhile, loggers are logging, trees are falling, the RCMP are back at Fairy Creek, and arrests seem to be ramping up again.
I don't think any of this has much to do with justice. If it were about justice, Teal Cedar would be on trial for crimes against the planet, and RCMP goons and our NDP government would be facing accountability for the many ways they enable those crimes.
Before this year I'd never had any cause to read legal decisions or pay any attention to our court system (yes, I know - privilege), but now I even have a favourite judge!
Standing ovation to The Honourable Mr. Justice Thompson (Sept 28)
Boo, hiss to The Honourable Madam Justice Stromberg-Stein (Oct 8)
BIG BOO, HISS to The Honourable Mr. Justice Verhoeven (granted the original injunction April 1, 2021)
A very short recent timeline
September 28: BC Supreme Court Judge Thompson refuses Teal Cedar’s request to extend their injunction for another full year. (Recall that the injunction was first granted in April 2021, and its purpose was to enable the RCMP to prevent forest protectors and land defenders from impeding logging operations at Fairy Creek.)
One of the main reasons behind the judgement? The behaviour of the RCMP has injured the reputation of the court (since the RCMP have been acting aggressively in the area and saying their actions are justified since they’re upholding the injunction. In fact, some of the RCMP’s actions, like limiting access to the public and the media, have gone far beyond anything permitted in the original injunction.)
Looking at the above images, you do kind of get the impression the police might have been a bit overzealous, don't you? Most of these pics are from August and September 2021. Credit to @arvinoutside for the centre shot (and maybe the top right one?), and @icejjfishyyyyyy for some of the others, and if I stole one of your images, I'm so sorry and please let me know so I can give you credit.
The day that Judge Thompson ends the injunction, I write on Facebook:
FAIRY CREEK - GREAT NEWS!! Judge Douglas Thompson has ruled against Teal-Jones' request to extend their injunction. The injunction expires at 4pm today!!
This doesn't mean the protest is over, nor that the old growth has been protected.
But it might just mean the RCMP will pack up their helicopter, their ATVs, their drones, their pepper spray, their chainsaws, their angle grinders, their dozens of vehicles and officers sent in there daily, their Thin Blue Line badges, and GET OUT OF FAIRY CREEK!
Of course, Teal Cedar don’t agree with me on this, and they promptly appeal this decision. The appeal date is set for November 15. In the meantime, they ask for a reversal of Justice Thompson’s September 28 decision. They want to get back in there and cut down all the trees they can before the snow flies. This matter goes to court on October 8. October 8: BC Court of Appeal Judge Stromberg-Stein rules in Teal Cedar's favour, basically taking the situation back to where it was from May 1 to Sept 28: lots of police working to enable industry. Her reason was that Teal Cedar could suffer “irreparable economic harm” if prevented from chopping down this ancient forest RIGHT AWAY. Barf. A CBC article quotes a lawyer for Teal Cedar as saying the company needs urgent access to the area so workers can winterize roads to prevent washouts, harvest $1.27 million worth of felled timber before it deteriorates in the bush, and harvest additional timber to keep its mills running and avoid job losses before it's "too late."
So where are things at now at the Fairy Creek blockade?
The RCMP never left the Fairy Creek area entirely, although after September 28, their numbers decreased and they mainly escorted loggers/industry up to wherever they were working on any given day. They mostly stopped arresting people. Forest protectors/land defenders started rebuilding camps and obstructions. The weather got rainy and colder, which probably contributed to the numbers of people at camp declining, but support was (and continues to be) extremely high for this movement to protect some of the last ancient giant trees in North America. Even William Shatner scolded BC Premier John Horgan for his lack of commitment and follow-through on the NDP's very recent campaign promises to protect old growth.
What you can do to help these ancient giants
Support is still very much needed and appreciated! Donate, write or call your MLA, sign a petition, or go to Fairy Creek just to take in the beauty of the forests and talk to some of the folks on the ground. The pics I posted above make it look scary, but I promise it's a lot more welcoming than you think, and you're sure to have an unforgettable experience!
THIS WEEK AT FAIRY CREEK
October 18: RCMP came back in force (20 vehicles at least, and up to 45 police), armed with chainsaws, and proceeded to destroy much of what had been built over the past two weeks. Police enthusiastically wielded chainsaws to dismantle obstacles, in close proximity to protestors and without using proper protective equipment. Upsetting videos emerged that show two young Indigenous women being roughly arrested by a large number of police. Also October 18: On a more personal note, I had the dubious pleasure of listening in on proceedings in the BC Supreme Court in Duncan, where 100 or so names (my estimate) were called, in mostly alphabetical order, for “Contempt of the Court Order of Mr Justice Verhoeven, Issued on April 1, 2021.” These are "contemnors" people who have been arrested at Fairy Creek. On October 18, each and every one of them (or their lawyer) was told just one thing by the judge: their next court date is November 15 in Nanaimo at 2 pm. It seemed like a colossal waste of time and resources to me. Looking ahead to November 15, we’ll have goodness only knows how many contemnors appearing again in court, plus the “real” appeal hearing to see if Teal Cedar can carry on logging with impunity and getting the RCMP to act as their henchmen. Given what I’ve witnessed and learned over the past five months, I have little faith that the trees will be protected. But that’s a subject for another blog post.