VICTORIA — All sides in the old-growth logging dispute dug in deeper Wednesday after a British Columbia Supreme Court judge refused to extend an injunction against protest blockades on southern Vancouver Island.
Forest company Teal Cedar Products Ltd. said in a statement it intends to appeal Justice Douglas Thompson's decision from Tuesday.
Luke Wallace, a spokesman for the protest group Rainforest Flying Squad, said supporters will stay put at blockade camps at Fairy Creek, a remote area north of Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island.
"Teal Jones still has every intent of logging all the remaining old growth in that valley and the surrounding valleys, and so we will be present on that land until the reality is changed," Wallace said in an interview. "Until those forests are no longer under threat of deforestation."
The B.C. government said in a statement it will not comment on matters that could still be before the courts.
Thompson's ruling immediately lifted the injunction that had been in place since April. He said the RCMP's enforcement of the court order led to serious and substantial infringement of civil liberties.
Teal Cedar and the RCMP asked the court to spend more of its "reputational capital" by granting the extension that would keep protesters at bay who may, or may not, be in breach of the injunction, the judge said in his decision.
There have been more than 1,000 arrests at Fairy Creek since the original injunction went into effect.
Teal Jones said the company will continue to legally log in its Tree Farm Licence 46 and will report any alleged illegal activity to the RCMP.
In a statement, the company says it purchased the rights to the area 20 years ago to increase its supply of second-growth logs for a new mill "to process smaller timber."
"To this day, most harvesting in the area is in second growth. We harvest some old growth as well as it has unique characteristics needed for some value-added products."
The company says there are numerous protected areas within the tree farm licence.
"It is a myth that old growth in the area is at risk."
Teal Jones was disappointed by Tuesday's B.C. Supreme Court decision, it said in a statement announcing the appeal.
"To do otherwise would be to allow anarchy to reign over civil society, and for misinformation campaigns to win over fact."
The company also said if it cannot continue its work, it may be forced to lay off employees and shut down mills.
In his decision, Thompson urged the B.C. government to consider further options to address the dispute beyond the injunction, including using criminal or provincial laws or even changing the laws.
B.C.'s Ministry of Attorney General said in the statement it was reviewing the decision.
Provincial Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau said she will push the New Democrat government to live up to its promises to resolve old-growth logging issues when the legislature resumes sitting next week.
"Absolutely, we will be once again asking this government why they are not taking their responsibility seriously, particularly now a judge of the B.C. Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that it is the job of the government to address this," she said.
The province approved the request this year of three Vancouver Island First Nations to temporarily defer old-growth logging across about 2,000 hectares in the Fairy Creek and central Walbran areas, but protests continued.
The Rainforest Flying Squad said the old-growth forests outside of the deferred areas are still at risk of being logged.
"We are still in Fairy Creek and the surrounding old-growth forests and protecting those forests until the government puts them under permanent protection," said Wallace.
At the earlier hearing in Nanaimo, B.C., on the injunction request this month, lawyers representing the protesters said people from all walks of life with environmental concerns were being treated like terrorists.
Thompson's ruling said the RCMP acted with "reasonable force" during much of the injunction period, but some video evidence presented showed "disquieting lapses in reasonable judgment."
He cites video evidence showing police pulling off COVID-19 masks worn by protesters before dousing them with pepper spray.
National Police Federation president Brian Sauvé says in a statement the officers who enforced the injunction against blockades were "the thin blue line between order and chaos."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2021.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press