In sentencing Fairy Creek protester, judge weighs good character against risk to police

·3 min read
Police prepare to arrest activists who chained themselves together to block a road into the headwaters of the Fairy Creek watershed on May 21, 2021.  One of the people arrested at the blockades in 2021 has been sentenced to seven days in jail. (Brad MacLeod - image credit)
Police prepare to arrest activists who chained themselves together to block a road into the headwaters of the Fairy Creek watershed on May 21, 2021. One of the people arrested at the blockades in 2021 has been sentenced to seven days in jail. (Brad MacLeod - image credit)

One of the people arrested at the Fairy Creek blockades on Vancouver Island in 2021 has been sentenced to seven days in jail, less a day served — because a judge says he put police at risk with his actions.

When considering the sentence, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Douglas W. Thompson said Jonaven Moore — a 42-year-old carpenter and University of Victoria student who lives in the community of East Sooke — is a "good and caring citizen" who was trying to bring attention to the climate crisis.

Justice Thompson also pointed out that Moore admitted guilt, and was a first-time offender. He said first-time offenders rarely receive jail sentences.

Ultimately, the judge said the manner in which Moore was blockaded meant he deserved a stronger sentence.

Like many Fairy Creek protesters, Moore blockaded himself on a logging road in Crown land licensed to logging company Teal-Jones.

On May 28, 2021, just 10 days after police began enforcing an injunction that banned people from disrupting Teal-Jones' work, Moore sat on a platform, dangling from a pole that stretched from a bridge, and out over a cliff. The pole was held down by a vehicle blocking the bridge, and Moore was attached to the pole with a device called a "sleeping dragon," which is particularly hard for police to open up.

Police said they were extracting protesters to arrest them for contempt for breaking the injunction, and to clear the way for the company.

Kieran Oudshoorn
Kieran Oudshoorn

Justice Thompson said Moore's setup was much more complicated than those of others around him, and that police had to take "significant risk" in order to extract him. He says Moore knew that, but did it anyway.

In his ruling, Thompson cited MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. v. Simpson, a case from 1994 involving Clayoquot Sound protesters.

He said when determining a sentence, one must consider "moral culpability" and whether protesters are acting in defiance against the courts or as a political statement.

Overall, he said, climate activists have a rational cause.

He continued: "The rule of law seeks to promote and safeguard peace and order, but clear warnings are being sounded that on the present course the future will be disordered in ways that are scarcely imaginable. A reasoned assessment of the appropriate punishment for conduct that corrodes public order must account for the activists' motivation to provoke action that might avoid the societal disorder that will likely result from short-sighted inaction."

Given all that, Justice Thompson sentenced Moore to seven days in jail, less a day. He was credited for the one day he spent in jail when he was arrested.

Kathryn Marlow/CBC News
Kathryn Marlow/CBC News

"It is no small thing to jail a first offender," said Justice Thompson. "However, I agree with the Crown that it is necessary to do so in this case to give adequate weight to the principles of denouncing Mr. Moore's dangerous conduct, and deterring others who might be so reckless."

Moore's sentence was complicated by the fact that the Crown had made an earlier error by accidentally offering him, and others who had been charged with contempt, a plea bargain involving a fine or community service.

The Crown hadn't meant to give a lenient offer to Moore, and says it would have suggested more than seven days in jail, but thought it fair when accounting for the earlier mistake.

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