People behind the blockades that are protecting the old-growth forest in an area known as Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island say they’ll stay as long as the company keeps pushing to harvest the timber.
“We are now calling on the government to exercise their responsibilities and do the right thing: Deliver the changes to protect the last remaining 3% of irreplaceable ancient forest habitats and their threatened biodiversity, and ensure a safe climate future for all,” said Saul Arbess, a spokesperson for Rainforest Flying Squad, the environmental group behind the blockades.
Hundreds of people have joined in the protest against logging the old-growth forest since they started in May of 2020.
Teal-Jones, a Surrey-based logging company, was granted an injunction against the blockades in April of 2021.
According to the RCMP, there has been 1101 arrest enforcing the injunction.
But on Sept. 28, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Thompson allowed the injunction against the land defenders and protesters to expire rather than extend it another year.
Arbess said his group is pleased with the outcome.
“We were very gratified to see that because the defenders have been depicted by Teal-Jones and their lawyers as terrorists and violent people and the judge did not agree with that, and we know that it’s not true,” he told APTN News.
Arbess said those protesting in Fairy Creek will continue but acknowledged the challenges some there faced after months of arrests.
“This is true of true Indigenous and non-Indigenous land defenders, some have spent many months under great hardship and police pressure and pressure of the company, through all kinds of weather, “ he said.
“Now the original camps have all been destroyed, people are fundamentally living in the forests now.”
In the judge’s ruling not to extend the injunction against the blockades, he was critical of RCMP’s enforcement of the court’s orders.
He stated that protestors’ civil rights were violated and, in part, freedom of the press.
The thin blue line patches have been a controversial topic in Canada. Some them as honouring police and their families, but others see it as a symbol of extreme-right movement with racial undertones.
Thompson was also critical of officers having their names concealed and officers wearing thin blue line patches.
“Enforcement has been carried out by police officers rendered anonymous to the protesters, many of those police officers wearing “thin blue line” badges,” the judge stated in the ruling.
“All of this has been done in the name of enforcing this Court’s order, adding to the already substantial risk to the Court’s reputation whenever an injunction pulls the Court into this type of dispute between citizens and the government.”
APTN News asked about RCMP members concealing their identity, their conduct and wearing the blue patches.
In an email statement, Sgt. Chris Manseau, media relations officer with the RCMP in B.C. didn’t answer the questions, instead said police are still patrolling the area.
“The RCMP remains the local police of jurisdiction, so we will be present and remain in the area to maintain public safety and respond to any calls for police services,” the statement read.
APTN contacted Teal-Jones for a statement, but they had no further updates to add to the company’s statement from Sept. 29 that it is appealing.
“We have already notified the activists’ legal team we will be appealing,” the statement said. “To do otherwise would be to allow anarchy to reign over civil society, and for misinformation campaigns to win over fact.
“The blockaders have been flouting both the stated wishes of the local First Nations and the well-reasoned court injunction, while engaging in dangerous and illegal activity and spreading misinformation through sophisticated and well-financed campaigns.
The company said in an online statement that they are harvesting mostly second-growth trees but do harvest some old-growth trees.
“Teal Jones purchased rights to TFL 46 about 20 years ago to increase our supply of second-growth logs, as we were investing to build a new mill to process smaller timber. To this day, most harvesting in the area is in second-growth. We harvest some old growth as well as it has unique characteristics needed for some value-added products.”
Teal-Jones plans to continue to access its approved logging areas.
According to an RCMP press release on Friday, there were serval arrests of people blocking forestry workers on a logging road near Fairy Creek.
The arrests were for mischief and obstruction of justice.
Arbess stated that even though there are two-year deferrals of old-growth logging in the Fairy Creek watershed, old-growth logging is still taking place in adjacent Fairy Creek areas that fall outside the deferrals zones.
“That is the area they are logging now, with the tremendous emergency that exists now both the climate emergency and also the dwindling old-growth, trees of this magnitude are less than 3 % remaining as you know, they are taking those trees now,” he said.