Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Fairy Creek protester gets reduced sentence after his camping gear was destroyed

Around the time he was arrested, Keith Cherry’s camping gear was put in the middle of the road, where it was run over repeatedly by a road grader
A protest camp at Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew in 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has reduced the amount of community service required of a Fairy Creek logging protester because the man lost camping equipment worth $1,600 after it was “repeatedly” run over by a road grader.

Keith Cherry, 34, had placed his gear in a ditch at the side of the road prior to being arrested, Judge Douglas Thompson said in a review of evidence. “It ended up in the middle of the road at and around the time of his arrest, and was repeatedly run over by a road grader.”

The decision did not say who put the camping equipment in the middle of the road.

“I agree with Mr. Cherry’s point that even when one expects to be arrested that they should not expect that their belongings will be lost or ­damaged,” Thompson said.

“There are principles, practices, and procedures to safeguard an arrestee’s property that I understand police in this country to operate by when they are arrested, and operation by these procedures is what I think citizens have a right to expect.”

In previous cases, Fairy Creek protesters had been handed 100 hours of ­community-work service, but ­Thompson imposed only 70 hours of ­community service due to the destruction of the camping gear. ”The consequence for Mr. Cherry, a man of good character, a man without a criminal record who engaged in this act of disobedience, would be 100 hours of community work service but for the loss of his gear,” Thompson’s decision said

Cherry acknowledged that his actions on Sept. 13, 2021 constituted criminal contempt of a court injunction against protests at the Fairy Creek watershed near Port Renfrew.

On that day, he was next to a large log on a logging road. The log did not fully block the road but did impede traffic, Thompson’s decision said. Cherry’s arm was chained inside a hole in the log and about 20 large nails had been ­hammered into the wood around the hole to make it more difficult to cut through.

Cherry, a PhD candidate in law and society at the ­University of Victoria and a sessional instructor there, has no criminal record and has an ­“admirable and extensive history” of ­volunteering in the community, Thompson said.

That includes serving as treasurer of Climate Justice Victoria, sitting as a board member of the Salish Sea Protectors Fund, and working as a member at large with the Social Environmental Alliance.

The decision was released by B.C. Supreme Court in December and posted on the B.C. Supreme Court website’s list of recent decisions this week.

In November, Canada’s National Observer reported that it had obtained ­documents through a freedom-of-­information request in which an RCMP officer raised ­concerns about RCMP enforcement tactics at the Fairy Creek ­old-growth blockades during the summer of 2021.

The officer, a former ­member of the RCMP’s ­specialized team that deals with resource-­extraction protests, resigned from the task force over concerns about “unjustifiable” police behaviour during an August 2021 crackdown on ­activists, the documents said.

The officer, who was not named, said in a report outlining his concerns that some officers smashed windows of vehicles parked in the injunction zone, seized and possibly threw out protesters’ personal property and improperly handled protesters.

>>> To comment on this article, write a letter to the editor: