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RCMP’s Fairy Creek exclusion zones, checkpoints go too far, judge rules

Elders for Ancient Trees win challenge against police force’s tightly controlled enforcement
Jackie Larkin and Saul Arbess, both spokespeople for the Elders for Ancient Trees point toward John Horgan’s office windows at a press conference announcing their legal challenge against the RCMP on June 28. A judge ruled in their favour on July 20. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled in favour of a group of seniors protesting old-growth logging in the Fairy Creek Watershed on southern Vancouver Island, saying the RCMP’s broad exclusion zones and checkpoints are not justified under the injunction police are enforcing.

A group of determined seniors, Elders for Ancient Trees, brought an application to the court in late June, asking a judge to clarify terms of the injunction. The group claimed the exclusion zones, which the police have been using to tightly control access to the area, went above and beyond terms of the injunction issued April 1.

RELATED STORY: Elder group heading to Victoria court to protest RCMP exclusion zones at Fairy Creek

The injunction, granted in August 2020 to Teal Cedar Products to prevent protesters from blockading access to logging trucks, said protesters may not block access, but was equally clear that the right to lawful protest must be protected.

Tuesday’s decision, issued orally with written reasons to come, was given by Justice Douglas Thompson after a hearing July 14.

“He said the RCMP may arrest and remove people who violate an injunction order, but may not deny access to everyone simply based on the possibility that someone may violate the order in the future,” wrote lawyer Matthew Nefstead.

“This is a major victory for the public and anyone who wants to express their disapproval of the destruction of some of the last irreplaceable old growth in the region,” said Susan Gage, spokesperson for Elders for Ancient Trees.

As of July 19, a total of 446 people have been arrested at the Fairy Creek Watershed.

A decision Monday in response to an application brought by Teal Cedar, the BC Prosecution Service declared its intent to consider laying criminal charges against some of those arrested.

RELATED: Fairy Creek logging protesters may face criminal charges

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