During final day of hearings, RCMP seeks search and access powers at Fairy Creek to safely enforce injunction

·3 min read
An old-growth logging demonstrator has secured himself in a trench that has been dug across the road at a blockade northeast of Port Renfrew, B.C. RCMP are attempting to extract him. (Adam van der Zwan / CBC - image credit)
An old-growth logging demonstrator has secured himself in a trench that has been dug across the road at a blockade northeast of Port Renfrew, B.C. RCMP are attempting to extract him. (Adam van der Zwan / CBC - image credit)

The RCMP says it needs more powers to search and exclude people at an old-growth logging protest area on Vancouver Island where over 1,000 arrests have been made since mid-May.

Donnaree Nygard, Attorney General of Canada lawyer, told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson that the Mounties need more space to safely enforce a court injunction blocking old-growth logging access in the Fairy Creek watershed area north of Port Renfrew.

"Unless the RCMP has the ability to control access to the roads to do very difficult work, and to stem the flow of the material being used to breach the injunction, the situation will remain unworkable," she argued, adding that there's often only one way in and out for police to do their work.

Nygard said police are also seeking the power to search those who wish to enter the injunction area, along with searching their vehicles, and to deny access to those who refuse to be searched.

On Tuesday, British Columbia forestry company Teal Cedar Products Ltd. applied to the court to extend the injunction order against protest blockades by one year.

Friday marked the fourth consecutive and final day of hearings related to RCMP enforcement at the blockades.

Nygard said that she'd made her argument for increased police powers knowing the injunction is set to expire on Sept. 26, but could be extended.

RCMP lawyer argues police are lawfully enforcing injunction overall

Nygard made a number of arguments against evidence given earlier in the week by lawyers representing protesters.

In particular, she claimed videos shown in court alleging police were using unnecessary force to extract protesters were insufficient evidence for the court to make a ruling on, given they don't capture the full magnitude of enforcement.

"The isolated incidents in which a particular officer might [use unreasonable force], doesn't taint the operation as a whole," she said.

Nygard contested claims that police were unlawfully seizing protesters' belongings and not returning them, by explaining that police were "simply moving them off the road to comply with their duty to enforce the injunction, and clear access to the roadways."

Teal Cedar workers would then deal with the items, she said.

Nygard also countered claims that police were continuing to illegally enforce temporary exclusion zones that Justice Douglas Thompson had ruled unlawful in July, in part because they unreasonably limited press freedoms.

"Since July 20th [police] allowed over 1,100 people past [an] access control point and over 500 vehicles before it was dismantled," she said. Opposing lawyers mentioned afterward that she did not address why journalists, including the CBC, had recently been told to walk 7 kilometres to a blockade to bear witness.

In response to claims that some police were refusing to identify themselves to media and legal observers at the blockades, Nygard said that a number of identification badges would be delivered to officers next week, though the information had not been sworn as official evidence in court.

Laywer Steven Kelliher said it was "chilling" to hear the Attorney General of Canada stand before court to try and "normalize (the) horrible behaviour" of the police.

Judge says decisions will be made in the coming weeks

After four days of ample evidence provided, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson said "it's a difficult decision" and he's undecided on whether to grant an extension to the injunction.

He said it could take a matter of weeks for him to weigh the evidence and come to decisions, and said the injunction order—which was originally set to expire on Sept. 26—will remain in effect until he does.

Meanwhile, at the scene of the protests on Friday, another 23 people were arrested by police. RCMP say officers dismantled a blockade made of tree trunks and wood piles along a forest service road, but the protesters had linked arms behind the blockade and refused to leave.

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