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Fairy Creek Blockades

The RCMP has arrested more than 1,100 people at protests in the Fairy Creek and Caycuse watersheds on southern Vancouver Island, part of an enforcement of an injunction that has become a flashpoint over B.C.’s logging practices and the province’s remaining old-growth forests.

Police enforcement came after forestry company Teal-Jones obtained a court injunction in the spring of 2021 banning blockades of logging activities in the two watersheds. In September, a B.C. Supreme Court judge refused to extend the injunction, saying RCMP enforcement of the order “led to serious and substantial infringement of civil liberties, including impairment of the freedom of the press to a marked degree.”

Teal-Jones plans to appeal the decision. In the meantime, RCMP enforcement of the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadas history can continue, but is limited to powers granted by the Criminal Code.

In June, the B.C. government accepted a request from three First Nations to halt old-growth logging in the Fairy Creek watershed and Central Walbran areas for two years, a decision that comes as the RCMP continues to arrest blockaders who have obstructed access to cutblocks since August.

The Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations welcomed the province’s announcement, which came two days after the nations revealed they signed a declaration called the Hišuk ma c̕awak Declaration to take back their power over their ḥahahuułi (traditional territories). Over the next two years, the nations plan to work on forest stewardship plans informed by Indigenous priorities. Teal-Jones said it would abide by the declaration signed by the nations.

Premier John Horgan said at the time that he was hopeful that the deferral decision will end the protests at Fairy Creek, though blockaders have continued protests because other nearby old-growth areas are at risk from planned logging.

In July, a coalition of press freedom groups and Canadian news organizations, including The Narwhal, won a court victory over the RCMP’s actions at the Fairy Creek blockades. In his ruling, Supreme Court of B.C. Justice Douglas Thompson concluded that the RCMP failed to justify its “extensive” exclusion zones which prevented journalists from doing their jobs.

John Horgan’s NDP government has promised to implement the 14 recommendations issued in April of 2020 by a B.C. old-growth strategic review panel. More than a year later, none of those proposed changes — including an immediate halt to logging in B.C’s rarest forests — have been fully implemented.

Forester Garry Merkel, who co-chaired the independent panel, said he doesn’t expect tensions over B.C.’s logging practices to cool down any time soon.

“We’re going to have Fairy Creeks happen all the time,” he told The Narwhal.

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