RCMP’s enforcement of the B.C. Supreme Court order in the Fairy Creek standoff cost Canadian taxpayers more than $10 million in 2021, Black Press Media has learned.
Records obtained by Black Press Media from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police under the Access to Information Act show the RCMP spent a total of $10,060,583 on direct costs related to enforcing an injunction granted Teal-Jones Group in the high-profile southwest Vancouver Island logging protest up in the months leading up to Dec. 31, 2021.
RCMP began enforcing the court ordered civil injunction on May 17, 2021 by establishing a checkpoint at the McClure Forest Service Road in the Fairy Creek Watershed area between Lake Cowichan and Port Renfrew.
According to the financial records, RCMP spent more than $7 million on “personnel” and more than $1.7 million on “transportation & telecommunications.” During a period of eight months, the RCMP also spent nearly $1 million on “rentals & leases” and $108, 987 of the budget was spent on “utilities, materials & supplies.”
The Fairy Creek Watershed has been an old growth forest battleground since August 2020 when about 30 members of the Rainforest Flying Squad established a road blockade on the Western ridge of Fairy Creek on Pacheedaht territory to stop Teal-Jones Group from logging old growth.
Shawna Knight, who is of Secwepemc First Nation and Norwegian descent, has been camping at the Fairy Creek blockades on and off for the past 18-months.
“It’s pretty surprising that $10 million dollars worth of taxpayers money would go towards non-violent protest. There was really no enforcement necessary. The costs aren’t to do with the legal battle in court, it’s simply non-violent protest stopping old growth logging. What a waste of money, ” said Knight in a phone call interview from Fairy Creek.
“These trees are worth more standing then they are to industry and to jobs. What we stand to lose is our future. They represent more than just money. They sequester carbon to help mitigate the code red climate crisis. They are literally the lungs of the earth,” she said.
Teal-Jones Group, a privately-owned company, has the licence to log and build roads in Tree Forest Licence 46, the area that includes Fairy Creek.
“Blockaders in Tree Farm Licence 46 have been acting against the interests of local First Nations, which have asked them to leave at least six times. Blockaders are engaging in increasingly dangerous and violent activities, such as interfering with fallers, damaging helicopter landing pads, and threatening tree spiking. The injunction is important to ensure our employees are free from harassment in their workplace and to prevent anarchy and misinformation from reigning,” the company said in a written statement.
Since enforcement began, the RCMP have arrested 1188 individuals; 110 of whom were previously arrested with a combined total of 261 times. Of the total arrested, 919 were for breaching the injunction (contempt of court), 222 were for obstruction, 22 were for mischief, 10 were for breaching their release conditions, 12 were for assaulting a police officer, 1 for counselling to resist arrest, 1 for causing a disturbance, and 1 Immigration Act, according to a December 2021 RCMP media release.
Knight told Black Press Media that she was arrested three times and charged once.
“All of the arrests were unnecessarily violent,” she said.
Many of the Fairy Creek Watershed protectors have accused the RCMP of using heavy-handed tactics and the Canadian Association of Journalists took the RCMP to court over their use of exclusion zones to keep media away from areas where protesters were being arrested.
“One journalist who has reported on all manner of police events in Canada and elsewhere, in both rural and urban settings, including civil disobedience events, deposed that the level of police restriction on journalist movement in TFL 46 was familiar to him from his work in China where he was accompanied by police who decided what he was allowed to see. In every other democratic society this journalist has worked in, he has been allowed to do his job without police escorts and exclusion zones,” wrote B.C. Supreme Court judge Douglas Thompson in a Sept. 28 statement leading up to denying Teal-Jones an extension on the injunction.
Teal-Jones currently has a temporary injunction in place while the B.C. Court of Appeal makes a decision on their request for an extension.
“Our activities in Tree Farm Licence 46 are responsible, consistent with all provincial regulations and done only after engagement with local First Nations. Our work in the area supports hundreds of good jobs while providing the materials needed for numerous products we all rely on every day. A value-added manufacturer, Teal Jones mills all logs here in BC, using 100 per cent of every log in our mills. If we were unable to pursue our work we might be forced to lay off employees and shut down mills. As Justice Thompson said in his decision’..the economic impact of the continuing illegal activity on Teal Cedar is not only irreparable but significant…’,” Teal-Jones wrote.
Well into a snowy January and looking forward at the cold months ahead, Knight says police activity has mellowed out and there are about a dozen people holding down two camps.
“DomCor Security has pulled out. There hasn’t been anyone at Fairy Creek for two days and there hasn’t been any arrests in about a month because we haven’t been blocking the road, the snow is. The nature is the blockade,” said Knight.
– With files from Cole Schisler