A B.C. judge has slammed an environmental activist group for using protesters as “sacrificial lambs” in its campaign to draw attention to old-growth logging using high-profile but disruptive traffic blockades.
Provincial court judge Laura Bakan had harsh words for Save Old Growth during the June 30 sentencing hearing for Ian Schortinghuis, a 30-year-old protester who was arrested after blocking key Metro Vancouver thoroughfares and bridges in three separate protests in April and June.
According to the judgment posted online, Bakan said based on her observations and from evidence in court, Schortinghuis is “unsophisticated,” “sincere and without guile.”
“He appears to be the type of person these groups entice and basically use as sacrificial lambs for their causes,” she said in Richmond provincial court.
“I find this conduct reprehensible as they hide behind from the persons who have come before me, good people and people such as Mr. Schortinghuis who says that he was given a sense of purpose and belonging by these groups.”
Schortinghuis was involved in the protest on the Ironworkers Bridge on April 4. He occupied the bridge deck for about 30 minutes before he was removed by police.
Five days later, Schortinghuis and four others blocked a crosswalk at Grandview Highway and Boundary, impeding the entrance to Highway 1.
Then on June 13, Schortinghuis again participated in a blockade of the Massey Tunnel. He was atop a 10-foot ladder placed over the dividing line of the lanes and refused police instructions to come down.
He was charged with three counts of mischief and two counts of breach of undertaking.
In her summary, Bakan noted Schortinghuis has no criminal record.
He had worked in the service industry, in landscaping and as a bike courier. He has a high school education and has been accepted in an automotive repair program this fall. He lives in the basement of his mother’s home and was described as a son who helped with repairs and maintenance.
Schortinghuis also has attention deficit disorder and learning disabilities, court heard.
“His mother states that in her view, this makes him more vulnerable to being somewhat ‘seduced’ into these sort of activities,” said Bakan.
Save Old Growth’s earlier campaign of blockades on major B.C. roads and highways to call for an end of old-growth logging involved protesters risking arrest and the ire of frustrated motorists.
The judge noted that “if they are saying, ‘we are going to have so many people arrested,’ that is like using people as cannon fodder,” she said. “It is generally not the strategists that are on the front line.”
The day before Schortinghuis’ sentencing hearing, Save Old Growth announced it was changing tactics, abandoning its controversial campaign in favour of public outreach.
Bakan said Schortinghuis’ early guilty plea on all offences and his genuine remorse were mitigating factors. The judge sentenced Schortinghuis to time served, 24 months probation and 125 hours community service.