British Columbia judge ends protest injunction at Fairy Creek
This week, the Supreme Court of British Columbia refused to extend an injunction against the Old Growth Forest protest in and around Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island. But the rejection had nothing to do with the logging or the actions of the protesters.
Instead, Justice Douglas W. Thompson turned down the logging company’s request because of how the Royal Canadian Mounted Police behaved when enforcing the injunction, offering a strong rebuke of the national police force.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this,” Kent Roach, a law professor at the University of Toronto, told me in an email. “I am not aware of any case where police misconduct has been cited as a reason for withholding such an injunction.”
While Justice Thompson found that the logging company that was seeking to extend the injunction was suffering “irreparable harm” from the protests, he wrote that Mounties’ actions in enforcing it constituted a “serious and substantial violation of civil liberties.” “
Mounted Police did not immediately comment. Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s office declined to comment.
Fairy Creek became the center of opposition to Premier John Horgan’s New Democratic Party, in the wake of protesters backtracking on a promise made during last year’s provincial election to protect old-growth forests.
While old-growth logging was suspended in some areas of the province, it was continued in and around Fairy Creek until June by the lumber company Teal-Jones. The company was entering into partnerships with three First Nations whose territories included the Fairy Creek Forest.
The Mounties came out in large numbers and arrests began to rise after the logging company, which declared this week that “it is a myth that chronic growth in the area is at risk,” was granted an injunction in April against protesters’ efforts. stop doing it.
In his ruling, Justice Thompson described some actions taken by protesters, such as digging deep into the streets or hanging from a wooden tripod 30 feet high, as “examples of increased illegality”. But he also concluded that they were not ideal.
“Videos and other evidence show him being disciplined and following standards of nonviolent disobedience,” he wrote. “That standard has only occasionally been missed.”
In contrast, Justice Thompson found that the Mounties repeatedly destroyed the “court’s coveted capital” as they went about enforcing the injunction.
In particular, he strongly criticized Mounties’ leadership for ordering officers to remove their names and all other identities from their uniforms. Police told the judge that this was a necessary step to protect them and their families from potential online harassment.
Noting that anonymity makes it impossible for citizens to successfully file complaints about police misconduct, Justice Thomson wrote that the move was inappropriate for anyone in a position of authority, including judges.
“We recognize ourselves,” he wrote. “Accountability is required.”
As of September 24, the Citizens Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP has received 230 complaints about police action at Fairy Creek. Of these, 93 are being investigated.
Most of the officers involved in the protests also wore patches of “thin blue line” on their uniforms, despite a national directive to ban the practice. Justice Thompson said an Indigenous woman said in an affidavit that people in her community saw the patch, which usually overlays the line on a Canadian flag, “to help the RCMP implement policies about the genocide of Indigenous people.” A symbol of the history of participation. In the United States, similar patches and flags have evolved from a symbol of support for the police to a symbol of protest against the Black Lives Matter movement.
Justice Thompson also found that despite the court’s earlier direction, police continued to interfere with journalists reporting on the protests.
Justice Thompson’s decision is not Mounties’ first rebuke in recent years, which has also sparked other protests by force. And Robert Gordon, a professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, said it is unlikely to last. Nor does he believe that the embarrassment it would bring to the force would lead to any significant change.
“About 20 years ago, there have been many incidents and a box full of reports and recommendations about replacing the RCMP,” Professor Gordon, a police officer in the UK, told me. “The bottom line is that the RCMP sees itself as having the last word in policing in Canada, and is reluctant and highly resistant to engaging in any change other than a superficial band-aid.”
A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has been reporting about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.
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