Fairy Creek protester cleared of criminal contempt for failure of RCMP to notify properly
A protester accused of criminal contempt for violating the injunction prohibiting interference in logging of waste timber in the Fairy Creek watershed has been acquitted in the BC Supreme Court in a decision affecting the 180 others still facing similar charges.
Judge Douglas Thompson found Ryan Henderson not guilty because the RCMP failed to adequately notify him of the injunction.
Henderson sat on a tripod blocking the Granite Mainline Forest Service Road on October 21, 2021 as an officer read a summary of the court order prepared by the RCMP. Henderson was then removed from the tripod and arrested.
“The RCMP did not provide sufficient information regarding the terms of the injunction, and the information provided through this script was not accurate and clear,” Thompson said in his oral sentencing statement.
Henderson’s co-attorney Ben Issit said the RCMP’s short-form script for the injunction was only a few sentences long.
“I think this decision shows in some ways the RCMP’s ruthlessness in their approach to enforcement at Fairy Creek. And it now begs the question of whether Crown can proceed with prosecuting those with pending charges,” Isset said.
The Fairy Creek logging protests on southern Vancouver Island have been called the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history, with nearly 1,200 arrested.
A five-month injunction to stop scrap logging protesters from blocking industry access to the forest was first granted in April 2021 and then a year after a BC Court of Appeal decision in favor of Teal Cedar Product Ltd. extended. About 400 people were charged with criminal contempt for violating the restraining order.
According to a statement by the Rainforest Flying Squad, 210 of the accused were convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 15 hours of community service to 14 days in prison.
Given Henderson’s acquittal, the group says Crown must now review the remaining 180 cases to determine whether the charges should be dropped. It alleges that the RCMP read the same summary of the order to nearly all those arrested at Fairy Creek.
“What Justice Thompson said was that this script wasn’t enough … and [it] failed to comply with established law, which states that a person must actually be notified of a restraining order before they can be prosecuted for it,” Issit said.