Logging company tells protesters to take their concerns up with the province
Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice reserves decision on injunction request
The lawyer arguing for the continuance of a court order against protesters who have been trying to stop clear cutting in public forests says the protesters' end goals don't justify their means.
WestFor Management Inc., a forestry consortium that works with 13 lumber mills in Nova Scotia, brought a motion to Nova Scotia Supreme Court last year that forced protesters to abandon two blockades on logging roads in Digby County.
An interim injunction against the blockades is due to expire this month but WestFor is seeking to extend the order until a full hearing on the issue concludes.
"This motion is about one thing," WestFor lawyer Ian Dunbar said in court Tuesday. "And that is whether an order should be issued to prevent the roads from being reblockaded."
Dunbar said he was not arguing against the validity of the concerns that led to the blockades.
The protesters, who include members of the global environmental group Extinction Rebellion, have said the Crown land WestFor is cutting is prime habitat for the endangered mainland moose and should be preserved.
Province responsible for protecting endangered moose
Dunbar said that argument should be taken up with the provincial government, which issued the logging permit to WestFor and which has a legal responsibility to protect endangered species.
"There is a time and place to debate that issue and this courtroom is not it, and neither is the middle of a logging road … There are channels available to raise concerns, there are channels available to engage with the political process," Dunbar said.
The province's responsibility to protect endangered species was the subject of a judicial review last year, which ended in a judge ruling that Nova Scotia was not living up to its own standards.
Another part of Dunbar's central argument was that blockades could lead to a significant interruption to business and possible financial loss, causing WestFor "irreparable harm" — a term from the legal test used by courts to decide if an injunction should be awarded.
Dunbar said WestFor's application for a logging permit went through a rigorous review process, which included an opportunity for public comment. He said no concerns were raised at that time.
Blockades a last resort, protesters' lawyer says
James Gunvaldsen Klaassen, one of the lawyers representing Extinction Rebellion, said the blockades were a last resort after years of inaction from the provincial government on protecting mainland moose habitat. He said the blockades were necessary because there is an "existential crisis" at hand for the moose.
"These people [were] not out there to cause trouble. They had a very powerful principle they were attempting to act on and the goal they wanted. It was not a matter of trying to interfere in any way in WestFor's activities. It's not about that," Gunvaldsen Klaassen told the court.
Protesters set up their first blockade in October, west of the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and not far from the Silver River Wilderness Area. A second, in the same area, was set up in November and the interim injunction was ordered on Dec. 10.
Despite the order, some protesters stayed put for several days. RCMP arrested nine people on Dec. 16. Dunbar said since then, it's been "business as usual" for WestFor.
Gunvaldsen Klaassen said the blockades were spurred, in part, by frustration that has been mounting since 2018. That's the year William Lahey submitted his report on ecological forestry to the provincial government, which recommended significant reductions to clear cutting.
Nova Scotia has yet to implement the recommendations of that report.
Justice Kevin Coady reserved his decision on the injunction request.