As the RCMP continue arrests of forest defenders at the Fairy Creek blockades, legal and political questions abound following the BC Court’s decision to take over the persecution of arrestees at the request from logging corporation Teal Jones.

Credit: Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash
Legal issues, as forest defenders attempt to defend giant cedars like this

Grandfather Cedar at Fairy Creek – photo by Anastasia Avvakumova

“I find it reprehensible that the government is going to be using taxpayers’ dollars and jailing its own citizens, because of its own failure to implement its own policy. I think history will look back on this moment in time in British Columbia’s history and all of these people — these teachers, these scientists, these nurses, these Olympic swimmers, amazing people that I met, who are blockading at Fairy Creek — they are not criminals. They are heroes. And I think that’s how they’re going to be seen.”

Long-time activist Tzeporah Berman, founder of Stand.earth, was deeply involved in the Clayoquot Sound old-growth-logging protests in the early 90’s, the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history, with more than 900 arrests of forest defenders. As of Wednesday, July 28, the Fairy Creek Blockade’s official media channel reports 496 arrests to date and counting, since police enforcement of the court injunction granted to Teal Jones Group began in late May of this year.

Berman spoke about her arrest and objectionable treatment she received while in police custody on Saturday, May 22, as well as her recent hearing on Thursday, July 8, when she successfully challenged her bail conditions. The latter had prevented her from going back to the entire Fairy Creek area. Although the judge’s ruling applied to her only, she encourages others arrested at the blockades to use her legal arguments, which are now on public record, to contest their own bail conditions and win the right to return to the protests.

Leagl issues as a group of people walk along a road through a clearcut

Walking through a clearcut at Fairy Creek - photo by Anastasia Avvakumovah

Legal issues as dozens of Forest defenders sit down on a road awaiting arrest at Fairy Creek

Forest Defenders at Fairy Creek – photo by Anastasia Avvakumovah

Berman is still charged with civil contempt of court and will have another hearing in the fall. Since her arrest, BC Attorney-General David Eby approved Teal Jones’ appeal for the responsibility of prosecution to be handled by the Supreme Court of BC, meaning it will now be funded at taxpayers’ expense. Teal Jones also lobbied for civil disobedience charges to be escalated to criminal conduct.

Meanwhile, a coalition of independent media outlets won the right in a BC Supreme court ruling to be present and document the arrests at Fairy Creek without undue obstruction by the RCMP. Until the ruling last week and even in the days following, media access was at the whim of RCMP officers on the scene.

The protesters at Fairy Creek, who prefer to be known as forest defenders, employ non-violent direct action, such as physically blockading loggers from road building and tree falling. Arrests have at times turned violent at the hands of the RCMP, notably so when dealing with indigenous youth blockaders.

Berman remains hopeful that BC’s remaining old growth, key to the planet’s life-support systems, will be protected, and offers smart solutions for alternative economic development.

Petition on the Stand.earth website

Screenshot of petition on Stand.earth website

Links of Interest:

Top photo credit: Fairy Creek standoff - photo by Anastasia Avvakumoa

This program was funded by a grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada and the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative