British Columbia

Court reinstates injunction against Fairy Creek logging protesters

Protesters have once again been barred from blocking forestry work near the Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island after B.C.'s Court of Appeal reinstated the injunction that allows logging company Teal Cedar Products to continue its work. 

B.C. Court of Appeal rules in favour of logging company Teal Jones, extends injunction to Sept. 26

Activists in raincoats look to a Mountie.
Protesters argue with police at one of the main anti old-growth logging protest sites on Sept. 30, 2021, just after a judge had quashed an injunction that banned protesters from blocking logging work. That ruling has now been overturned. (Ken Mizokoshi/CBC)

Protesters are once again barred from blocking forestry work near the Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island. 

In a unanimous ruling, B.C.'s Court of Appeal reinstated the injunction that allows logging company Teal Cedar Products, a subsidiary of the Teal Jones Group, to continue its work. 

The company originally got the injunction in April of 2021, after protesters had set up camp in an attempt to stop old-growth logging which they argue threatens the watershed. 

The area was the site of heated protests from May until September, as police enforced it. 

Activists blockaded logging roads, often locking themselves into tree stumps, cars or other "hard blocks" that required shovels, cherry pickers, chainsaws and even excavators to remove them. Police at times used pepper spray and were accused of violence by protesters. 

The injunction was set to expire in the fall, and in September, a judge denied the company's request to extend it.

In his ruling, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson called the police enforcement a "'substantial infringement of civil liberties" and said that allowing it to continue, would damage the court's reputation. 

The Teal Jones Group immediately appealed. On Wednesday, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the company.

In their decision, Justices Lauri Ann Fenlon, G. Bruce Butler, and Joyce DeWitt-Van Oosten said police enforcement does not diminish the court in the eyes of the public, and that the court and the police are independent of each other.

Police prepare to arrest activists who chained themselves together to block an access road to the headwaters of the Fairy Creek watershed on May 21, 2021. (Brad MacLeod)

The judges said the court must uphold the law that allows a private company to do work without interference from civil disobedience. 

As in similar rulings in favour of the company, the judges also said the court is not the place to argue public policy. 

"The case is not about the wisdom of government forest policy. It is decidedly not about the Court's views on whether and where old-growth logging should occur in this province, even in the context of climate change," they wrote.

A protester is cantilevered over a creek at the end of a sailboat mast being held down with a car at a Fairy Creek old-growth logging protest, near Port Renfrew, B.C. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Conrad Browne, the director of Indigenous partnerships and strategic relations for Teal Jones Group, says the company is pleased with the ruling and appreciates "the court's wise and very schooled decision."

Browne says the company has been logging in the area all along, but the ruling will allow them to continue to do so safely.

"Hopefully, the RCMP are prepared, if the protesters decide to come back."

Kathleen Code, a spokesperson for protest organizers Rainforest Flying Squad, says they are not surprised by the ruling, but are disappointed that the judges "decided that a private corporation has incredible rights to enforcement." 

She says the public protest camp will remain closed for the winter, and the group will work with its lawyers to determine next steps.