A lawyer for a British Columbia forest company says it wants the court to uphold the rule of law at protest sites on southern Vancouver Island, where more than 1,000 people have been arrested at ongoing protests over old-growth logging.
Lawyer Dean Dalke, representing Teal Cedar Products Ltd., told a B.C. Appeal Court panel Monday that the company has been the victim of an unlawful, highly organized protest campaign to disrupt it from accessing its legal timber rights in the Fairy Creek area on Vancouver Island.
The company is appealing a decision from a B.C. Supreme Court judge in September that denied its application to extend a court injunction against protest blockades in the area for one year.
“This appeal is about whether the court will uphold the rule of law in the face of a campaign of unlawful blockages,” Dalke told the hearing. “It arises because Teal Cedar, the innocent victim of these unlawful blockades, was denied a remedy in the court below.”
Lawyers for the protest group known as the Rainforest Flying Squad are scheduled to present their arguments in court Tuesday.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson refused to extend the injunction that was set to expire in September, saying that police enforcement led to serious infringements of civil liberties, including impairment of freedom of the press.
He also said the factors in favour of extending the injunction at Fairy Creek north of Port Renfrew do not outweigh the public interest in protecting the court’s reputation.
But the injunction remains in place after Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein granted a temporary stay last month in order to allow Teal Cedar to appeal the lower court decision.
Dalke told the Appeal Court on Monday that protesters mounted a protracted campaign of interference prior to the granting of an injunction last April and they have continued ever since.
“This has become the largest campaign of civil disobedience in Canadian history,” he said.
He said the lower court judge’s decision to deny the injunction extension should not be permitted because it allows the court to avoid responsibility to uphold the rule of law, punishes the company for RCMP conduct at the blockades and requires the police and Crown to take measures beyond relying on the court.
Instead of granting the injunction extension, the lower court judge suggested police and the Crown employ other methods, such as increasing patrols or looking to criminal and provincial laws, Dalke said.
The lower court judge said the RCMP largely exercised “reasonable force” in its enforcement of the injunction, but at times showed “disquieting lapses in reasonable crowd control.”
Video evidence presented at the lower court trial showed RCMP officers pulling down the masks of protesters and spraying their faces with pepper spray, while another showed officers destroying a protester’s guitar.
The Appeal Court also heard from lawyers representing the B.C. government, the Attorney General of Canada and the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, a nearby Indigenous nation, which was granted intervener status Monday.
Katherine Reilly, representing B.C.’s Attorney General Ministry, said the police and Crown are independent from each other and the lower court judge linked them in his decision.
— by Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press