Nova Scotia

Police arrest 9 protesters impeding logging project after court-ordered injunction

The Nova Scotia RCMP have arrested nine people for disobeying a court-ordered injunction and continuing to block logging roads in Digby County in an effort to protect what they say is an endangered mainland moose habitat.

Protesters are concerned about habitat of endangered mainland moose

Nine people were arrested Tuesday for continuing to block logging roads in Digby County after a court-ordered injunction ordering them to stop. (Nina Newington)

UPDATE, Jan. 12, 2022: The criminal charges against the protesters were withdrawn on Jan. 10, 2022

The Nova Scotia RCMP have arrested nine people for disobeying a court-ordered injunction and continuing to block logging roads in Digby County in an effort to protect what they say is an endangered mainland moose habitat.

In a release, the RCMP said they attended a site on Langford Road in New France on Tuesday and took four men and five women into custody for civil contempt of an injunction order. They were released from custody and will appear in court at a later date.

The protesters set up camp in late October on a road southeast of Weymouth in an attempt to prevent WestFor Management's logging trucks and equipment from accessing the Crown land where harvesting has been approved by the province. The group set up a second blockade in another location near the Caribou River last month.

They say the area, which is located west of the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and not far from the Silver River Wilderness Area, is important habitat for mainland moose.

A judge granted WestFor's application for an interim injunction to remove the protesters last week.

A man dressed as Santa Claus was one of the people arrested on Tuesday. (Laurinda Richards)

In their release, the RCMP said they had met daily with the protesters to "encourage compliance with the terms of the injunction."

"Through those discussions it was determined that the terms of the injunction were not going to be met voluntarily," the release said.

"The RCMP's primary goal in this demonstration was the safety and security of all involved while preserving the right to peaceful, lawful and safe demonstration within terms set by the Supreme Court in the Injunction Order."

Few mainland moose left

Nina Newington, one of the protesters arrested Tuesday night, said they feel the provincial government has failed at both protecting endangered species and reforming forestry.

She said they knew they would be arrested if they continued to protest at the sites.

"When governments fail, citizens end up having to stand up do that in its place, and it's not a decision I, or anyone, took lightly," she told CBC's Information Morning.

The provincial government says it's difficult to know how many mainland moose are left in Nova Scotia, but a CBC News investigation last year found there could be fewer than 100 mainland moose left.

Protesters are concerned about the destruction of what they say is a habitat for the endangered mainland moose. (Marcie Wallace)

The mainland moose are different from those found on Cape Breton Island, which were introduced from Alberta in the 1940s and are far more abundant.

The Department of Lands and Forestry notes on its website that loss of habitat due to harvesting can be detrimental to the endangered species. 

Newington said the protesters plan to "vigorously plead not guilty" to the charges when they appear in court.

"We stood up for nature in a way that has to start happening, not just for moose, not just for the forests of Nova Scotia, but for the planet," she said. "We can't go on bulldozing and clear cutting and flattening forests when we desperately need them."

Nina Newington in the back of an RCMP vehicle after she was arrested. (Sandra Phinney)

Newington said Crown land should be for the benefit of the public, not for "a few logging companies." 

She said protesters will continue to stay at their camp, but will no longer block the logging roads.

"We want to maintain a witness to the forest destruction that the government is permitting, so our tents are in place," she said. "Those of us who were arrested will not be allowed to go back to them, but there's an awful lot of other people who are very much concerned about what's happening."

The interim injunction will remain in effect until the end of January when WestFor will make the case in court for an interlocutory injunction, according to the court order. That case is expected to be heard in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Jan. 26-27.

With files from CBC's Information Morning