RCMP Coyote Camp Arrests Wet'suwet'en Coastal GasLink The Narwhal 11

Coastal GasLink drops charges against journalists arrested on Wet’suwet’en territory

Amber Bracken and Michael Toledano were detained for three nights, attracting international scrutiny of ongoing RCMP violations of press freedoms

Charges have been dropped against journalists Amber Bracken and Michael Toledano, who were arrested and detained for three nights on civil contempt charges while reporting on militarized police raids on Wet’suwet’en territory in northwest B.C. on Nov. 19. 

Their arrests drew international media attention and marked an escalation in an ongoing battle between journalists and the RCMP over the right to report from within injunction zones without risking arrest.

The plaintiff, Coastal GasLink pipeline, owned by TC Energy, filed earlier this week to discontinue proceedings against the two journalists on charges of civil contempt of court. Bracken and Toledano have also been relieved of the terms of their release, which included agreement to appear in court on Feb. 14, 2022, and to obey a Coastal GasLink injunction. 

Bracken, who was on assignment for The Narwhal at the time of her arrest, said she’s relieved the charges have been dropped, but the fundamental issue hasn’t been resolved. 

“I should never have been arrested or charged, let alone detained, in the first place,” Bracken said. “I can’t get those days of my life and work back. Nothing in these proceedings provides any feedback to RCMP for their gross interference with journalists, so what’s stopping police from just doing it again?”

As The Narwhal reported at the time of Bracken’s arrest, the RCMP were tracking her and Toledano in a database of police investigations, a practice which raises questions about the RCMP’s characterization of journalists who report on social conflict or within injunction zones. At the time of their arrests, the RCMP seized recording devices and professional equipment from both journalists, actions that prevented the public from witnessing police conduct during the raid where more than a dozen land defenders were also arrested.

Black backpacks and a bag sit on a wooden floor
Photojournalist Amber Bracken’s camera equipment was disposed of at a dump site after her arrest by the RCMP. Bracken recovered her gear, covered in mud and ice and clearly displaying her press credentials, after being released from police custody.

Although the charges against Bracken and Toledano have been dropped, The Narwhal, the Canadian Association of Journalists and other news organizations are exploring other legal avenues to hold the RCMP accountable and ensure arrests of journalists don’t continue happening. 

“It’s a huge relief that sanity has prevailed, and that the erroneous charges against journalists Amber Bracken and Michael Toledano have been dropped,” said Brent Jolly, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists. “We hope this moment serves as a reminder that the right to report freely, and without interference, is a legal right that will never be subject to negotiation.” 

In August, The Narwhal, the Canadian Association of Journalists and a coalition of media filed a successful legal challenge against the RCMP, which asked the courts to remind law enforcement of the rights of media to report on the Fairy Creek logging blockades

In two scathing written rulings, B.C. Supreme Court’s Justice Douglas Thompson determined that the vast exclusion zones, affiliated checkpoints and media restrictions set up by RCMP officers at the injunction area are unlawful and “seriously and substantially” impacted important liberties. 

Justice Thompson refused to extend the injunction when he issued his second decision in September, stating the way the RCMP continued to violate charter rights when enforcing the injunction was causing a “depreciation” of the court’s reputation. 

Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?
Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

Over half of Clayoquot Sound’s iconic forests are now protected — here’s how First Nations and B.C. did it

The forests of Clayoquot Sound became world famous as the battlegrounds of the decades-long “war in the woods” — and now, a vast swath of...

Continue reading

Recent Posts

Our newsletter subscribers are the first to find out when we break a big story. Sign up for free →
An illustration, in yellow, of a computer, with an open envelope inside it with letter reading 'Breaking news.'
Our newsletter subscribers are the first to find out when we break a major investigation. Want in? Sign up for free to get the inside scoop on The Narwhal’s environment and climate reporting.
Hey, are you on our list?
An illustration, in yellow, of a computer, with an open envelope inside it with letter reading 'Breaking news.'
Our newsletter subscribers are the first to find out when we break a major investigation. Want in? Sign up for free to get the inside scoop on The Narwhal’s environment and climate reporting.
Hey, are you on our list?
An illustration, in yellow, of a computer, with an open envelope inside it with letter reading 'Breaking news.'