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Elder group heading to Victoria court to protest RCMP exclusion zones at Fairy Creek

Seniors say their right to public access and peaceful protest have been violated

A group of determined seniors who call themselves Elders for Ancient Trees are bringing court action to stop the RCMP from blocking access in the Fairy Creek Watershed.

They argue the RCMP’s exclusion zones, which police have been using to tightly control access to the area, are a violation of Justice Frits Verhoeven’s injunction order.

The April 1 order states that public access to the forests and the right to peaceful protest must be maintained.

In a shaded press conference beside the Premier’s rose garden in Victoria at the legislature Monday, Saul Arbess emphasized that legal action has become necessary to “force the RCMP to stop acting like an occupying army.”

Shouts of, “Shame! Shame!” came from the crowd of about 40 supporters.

Arbess has been involved in action to protect old growth forests at Fairy Creek since the blockade started in August 2020, and decades earlier worked to protect the Carmanah and Walbran valleys.

The legal application will be filed June 29. Lawyer for the group, Matthew Nefstead, said their request is narrow, simply seeking to clarify the intent of the injunction.

“It seems clear what the intention of Justice Verhoeven was, and equally clear that the RCMP are not following it,” Nefstead said.

It could help establish a precedent that the RCMP are not allowed to add enforcement terms that aren’t in the injunction, he added. As an amendment to the injunction, he hoped the court will hear the case soon.

RELATED: Behind the line at Fairy Creek: Inside B.C.’s old growth forest battleground

The chief complaint of Elders for Ancient Trees is that peaceful protest, that is, people who are not blocking access to logging activity, have been controlled almost as much as the civil disobedient protesters, such as those chaining themselves into ‘sleeping dragons’ dug into logging roads.

“We insist that the court affirm the right of access,” Jackie Larkin said at the press conference. The Metchosin resident has been a spokesperson for the Rainforest Flying Squad for months, helping share the story of what’s going on in the woods.

“This legal action is a first step, the real goal to convince that man” – she and Arbess pointed up to the windows of Premier John Horgan’s offices – “to stop all logging of all old-growth forests in B.C.”

Other people shared their reasons for supporting the legal action.

RELATED STORY: B.C. approves deferral of old-growth logging at Fairy Creek, Walbran valleys

“There will be other Fairy Creeks. They need this precedent to be able to protest fairly,” said one.

The Canadian Association of Journalists is planning to initiate court action over the RCMP’s treatment of journalists, which it and a group of media outlets say have “prevented substantive access” to cover the protests. Nothing has yet been filed in court.

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