Appeal Court reserves injunction decision in Fairy Creek old-growth logging protests

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VANCOUVER — A panel of three judges in British Columbia's Court of Appeal reserved its decision Tuesday on the future of an injunction against old-growth logging protests on southern Vancouver Island after a two-day hearing.

While the judges didn't set a date for the release of their ruling, they did say a temporary injunction stopping old-growth logging protesters from interfering with Teal Cedar Products Ltd. actions remains in place.

The company appealed the B.C. Supreme Court decision in September that denied its application to extend an injunction against protest blockades in the area for one year.

More than 1,100 people have been arrested at ongoing protests over old-growth logging in the Fairy Creek area on southern Vancouver Island.

A lawyer representing the protesters, known as the Rainforest Flying Squad, said Teal Cedar Products has the right to defend its economic interests, but others also have right to lawful protest and freedom of expression and movement.

Malcolm Funt said there are limits to a company's economic and private-industry rights.

"The central question in an injunction application is what is just and equitable," said Funt.

In September, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson refused to extend the injunction, saying 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 do not outweigh the public interest in protecting the court's reputation.

Funt said the lower court weighed the harm the company could suffer by denying the application to extend the injunction but decided to rule in favour of the other interests and the court's reputation.

"That's what he is supposed to do and that is what he did do," he said.

Teal Cedar lawyer Dean Dalke told the panel Monday the court must uphold the rule of law at the protest sites.

He said the company has been the victim of an unlawful, highly organized protest campaign to disrupt it from accessing legal timber rights in the Fairy Creek area.

"Mr. Dalke says it's fundamentally unjust Teal Cedar is left holding the bag, so to speak," said Funt. "There is no doubt Teal Cedar has rights in this case, but in my submission the court's defence of economic and private (industry) rights is not limitless and there are other interests at stake."

Funt faced questions Tuesday from the Appeal Court judges about the lower court's reasons not to grant the injunction extension, especially the suggestion the court's reputation was damaged by police conduct during the arrests of protesters.

"It raises the question of whether the judge erred in principle in suggesting the reputation of the court is damaged by police conduct," said Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon.

— By Dirk Meissner in Victoria

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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