British Columbia

Judge rules in favour of journalists' access to Fairy Creek blockade

The Canadian Association of Journalists, along with a coalition of news organizations and press freedom groups, has won a court case that will require the RCMP to grant media full access to the Fairy Creek blockades.

RCMP had argued it was providing adequate media access

The judge ruled that media access must be granted unless there is a genuine operational or safety reason to restrict it. (Dave Malysheff)

The Canadian Association of Journalists, along with a coalition of news organizations and press freedom groups, has won a court case that will require the RCMP to grant media full access to the Fairy Creek blockades.

The judge ruled that such access must be granted unless there is a genuine operational or safety reason to restrict it. 

"I am not satisfied that geographically extensive exclusion zones and associated access checkpoints have been justified as reasonably necessary in order to give the police the space they need," Justice Douglas Thompson stated in the decision.

Journalists from all over B.C. have been covering the demonstrations against the logging of old-growth trees near Port Renfrew during the last several months. 

The group originally filed the complaint in May after obtaining documented reports from numerous journalists who say they were refused entry through the broad use of exclusion zones to the area where enforcement is taking place.

"This is, without question, a watershed moment in the history of Canadian press freedom advocacy," said CAJ Brent Jolly in a statement after the ruling.

A barrier set up by activists in the Fairy Creek watershed on Sunday May 30, 2021, to prevent Surrey-based Teal-Jones Group from logging in the area. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

In addition to the CAJ, the coalition included Ricochet Media, The Narwhal, Capital Daily, Canada's National Observer, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, The Discourse and IndigiNews. 

"This problem of the RCMP using broad exclusion zones to exclude journalists and restrict media access has long been a thorn in the side of the media," said Ethan Cox, an editor with Ricochet Media. 

Lawyers representing the RCMP and logging company Teal Jones both opposed the application by the press coalition. The RCMP argued that media access was adequate and Teal Jones said the press coalition lacked standing to intervene in the injunction proceeding.

Media treated fairly, say RCMP

When the injunction was originally filed, RCMP told CBC they wouldn't comment directly on the allegations but said they believed the media was treated fairly at Fairy Creek.

"There have been no restrictions for the media, I like to think we've been very forthcoming with inviting the media every day," spokesperson Cpl. Chris Manseau said. 

The CAJ says it looks forward to working with the RCMP.

"It is our hope that this latest defeat will prompt the RCMP to re-examine their approach with regards to allowing journalists to do their jobs,"  said Jolly.

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