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Activists ask for public investigation into RCMP enforcement at Fairy Creek old-growth logging protests

Environmental groups are accusing RCMP unit of "improper and unlawful actions"; RCMP says it seeks peaceful resolution of public disorder
People who declared themselves "land defenders" sing as they guard an area of a logging cut block at Fairy Creek, near Port Renfrew, last October. JONATHAN HAYWARD, THE CANADIAN PRESS

A community activist is asking for a public interest investigation into RCMP enforcement of the Fairy Creek blockades.

Keith Cherry has filed a seven-page complaint on behalf of the Rainforest Flying Squad, Elders for Ancient Trees, Legal Observers Victoria and the Social Environmental Alliance with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.

The environmental groups are concerned about what they call “the improper and unlawful actions” of the RCMP’s Community Industry Response Group (C-IRG) in planning and enforcing the injunction order at Fairy Creek.

About 1,100 arrests have been made since May 2021 after logging company Teal-Jones obtained an injunction against old-growth logging protesters trying to block roads and prevent the cutting of ancient trees at Fairy Creek, near Port Renfrew.

The Surrey-based forestry company’s application to extend the injunction was initially denied in last September when Justice Douglas Thompson said police tactics trampled civil liberties and was damaging to the court’s reputation. The injunction was reinstated and has been extended to Sept. 26.

“No one is above the law including police officers. When those who are meant to enforce laws consistently and flagrantly disobey the law, we have to act,” Cherry said in a statement.

The activists’ complaint alleges that the RCMP has denied Indigenous people access to their territories and implemented expansive checkpoints and exclusion zones that interfere with the public’s right to protest old-growth logging.

The complaint also alleges the RCMP used excessive force against protesters involved in non-violent civil disobedience “with a pattern of abusive conduct, flagrant disregard for human rights and human dignity, and punitive police actions that exceed the authority of police in Canadian society” in contravention of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Protesters have been subjected to unlawful search and seizures, denied reasonable access to legal counsel, denied access to shade, food, water and sleep, and have been extracted from obstacles in a reckless and unsafe manner, says the complaint. The activists charge that the RCMP has interfered with the media’s ability to document and witness their conduct and is ignoring direct reprimands from the B.C. Supreme Court.

The conduct of the RCMP is “abusive, over broad and arbitrary,” disconnected from any reasonable safety or operational objective, the complaint alleges.

The complaint emphasizes that the RCMP’s responsibility is to ensure public safety, including the safety of protesters engaged in civil disobedience.

The RCMP must uphold the Constitution and must respect the Charter-protected rights of all people, it says.

According to the RCMP website, the C-IRG was created in 2017 to provide strategic oversight addressing energy industry incidents and related public order, national security and crime issues.

It uses a measured approach in facilitating the peaceful resolution of public disorder issues and “proactively engage all stakeholders through open communication and meaningful dialogue.”

About 70 witness statements are attached to the complaint.

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