Logger’s lawyers to ask for details of protest group’s online activity

·4 min read

An organization protesting against logging in the Argenta area at the north end of Kootenay Lake may be forced to identify its social media managers, if requests by the logging company are accepted by a judge.

Lawyers for Cooper Creek Cedar were expected to appear before a Nelson judge this week to ask the courts to order Last Stand West Kootenay to reveal the names of their website and social media managers.

“They are alleging that account has created wrongdoings related to encouraging people to breach the injunction and counsel people to cause harm to Cooper Creek,” says the lawyer for Last Stand West Kootenay, Noah Ross out of Denman Island.

According to a post on the Last Stand West Kootenay Facebook page, Cooper Creek Cedar was asking for the first and last names, contact information provided at time of registration, and IP addresses of the last 300 logins and logouts of its Facebook and Instagram accounts. It was also seeking the identities of some supporters who posted online statements about the logging operation.

“This is an unacceptable and clear violation of our privacy, an attempt to scare us away from peacefully advocating for the forest, and a last-ditch effort to bolster the charges that resulted after the slew of illegal arrests on May 17 at Grouse Camp,” says a post by the group.

Public protest

On Monday, about 40 members of Last Stand West Kootenay and their supporters rallied in front of the Nelson courthouse to raise awareness of the case and the issues involved.

Noah Ross says court requests for the identity of the social media managers or individuals online isn’t legally unheard-of, but it’s not usually applied to cases like this. He says it is more common in cases of fraud, where money is being transferred to an unknown person, or a person is making defaming statements from an anonymous account.

“It’s a fairly unusual order, to give up the identity of an anonymous Facebook or Instagram account,” says Noah Ross. “They’re saying wrongdoing was done to them, but they are conversely not pursuing charges against anyone who was arrested, whose identity they know already.

“There isn’t precedent in a social-disobedience context for such an order.”

Ross says all Last Stand West Kootenay did was invite people to come to the site and witness the protest. He says he’ll argue that the application shouldn’t be granted unless there is evidence of wrongdoing.

“Telling people to come and witness at a site where some people are engaging in civil disobedience isn’t an offence, and it’s important to protect the ability to promote that, because we have a society where different people have different beliefs,” he continued. “And witnessing people engaging in expressions of belief is something people are allowed to do.”

He said it’s pretty clear what Cooper Creek Cedar was trying to do.

“It appears they are trying to kind of intimidate people from being involved in this kind of organization,” he says.

The Valley Voice reached out to Cooper Creek Cedar’s legal firm but did not receive a comment by press time.

Ross said he would also oppose another proposed motion by Cooper Creek Cedar for an information request for people who posted statements of support on other Facebook pages.

Earlier charges in limbo?

This week’s expected court appearance isn’t directly related to the arrests made at the protest site earlier this year.

Seventeen members or supporters of Last Stand West Kootenay face charges of civil contempt of court for participating in or observing a protest that blocked Salisbury Creek Forest Service Road in the spring. That action allegedly violated a 2019 court order, and police dismantled a protest camp on May 17 and arrested participants. Two others were arrested June 1 in a further protest.

But when the defendants appeared in court in July, Cooper Creek said it would “invite” the Crown to proceed against the defendants on charges of criminal contempt.

But Ross says since then, nothing has happened.

“They haven’t pursued that, so no one has been formally charged with wrongdoing from the protests in May,” he says. “The arrests haven’t gone anywhere.”

And nothing may happen for some time. He says the logging company still has two years to act on the charges.

The protesters were trying to stop the logging of 6,200 hectares of forest on the Argenta-Johnsons Landing Face, on the northeast shore of Kootenay Lake. The Autonomous Sinixt and Lower Kootenay Bands also called for a halt to the logging and for environmental protection for the area. However, the logging of five cutblocks on the AJL Face went ahead and was scheduled to be completed by the end of this month.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice