RCMP union responds to Fairy Creek decision, says officers 'embodied the thin blue line'
Just hours after a B.C. Supreme Court judge ended an injunction against old-growth logging protesters on Vancouver Island, saying the actions of the RCMP at the protest site put the court’s reputation at risk, the union representing the Mounties says it’s proud of the actions of its officers at Fairy Creek.
On Tuesday, Justice Douglas Thompson denied forestry company Teal Cedar Products Ltd. an extension to its injunction barring protesters from blocking forestry work in the Fairy Creek area, north of Port Renfrew, B.C.
The decision effectively ended the injunction Tuesday afternoon, after more than four months of arrests and accusations of violence between the RCMP and the blockaders.
In his decision, Thompson wrote that the RCMP’s enforcement efforts “led to serious and substantial infringement of civil liberties.”
The judge chastised those Mounties who removed their nametags and adorned their uniforms with the controversial “thin blue line” patch, a symbol that is banned under official RCMP policy.
“All of this has been done in the name of enforcing this court’s order, adding to the already substantial risk to the court’s reputation whenever an injunction pulls the court into this type of dispute between citizens and the government,” the judge wrote.
National Police Federation president Brian Sauvé doubled down on the "thin blue line" imagery in a statement on the court’s decision Wednesday.
“We are very proud of our members’ professional, thoughtful and patient approach to enforcing the expired Fairy Creek injunction in the face of exceptional challenges, including repeated and aggressive physical, racial, and personal taunts and threats by some of the protesters,” Sauvé said.
“In many circumstances and on many occasions over the last 133 days, they have embodied the thin blue line between order and chaos,” he added.
The union boss thanked the Mounties for their service at Fairy Creek and wished them “a relaxing and peaceful time at home with their families after so much time away.”
More than 1,100 people have been arrested since enforcement of the injunction began in May, including more than 100 people who have been arrested more than once.
Protesters have been camped out in the area for over a year to defend what they say is the last unprotected old-growth forest on southern Vancouver Island.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Teal Cedar said in a statement it is reviewing the decision and will consider its options, adding that its work in the area “is important and responsible, vital to sustaining hundreds of jobs in the province and producing products we all rely on every day.”
Lawyer Phil Dwyer, who represented several members of the Rainforest Flying Squad protest group, called the decision a “huge victory.”
“This is a very significant decision,” Dwyer said. “It's really hard to say right now what's going to happen on the ground out there.”
During the court hearings, a lawyer for the Mounties said police were being tasked with enforcing a court injunction under increasingly difficult circumstances.
Thompson's ruling says the RCMP acted with “reasonable force” during much of the injunction period, but some video evidence presented during the hearings showed “disquieting lapses in reasonable crowd control.”
“One series of images shows a police officer repeatedly pulling COVID masks off protesters' faces while pepper spray was about to be employed,” he wrote. “Another shows a police officer grabbing a guitar from a protester and flinging it to the ground, where another officer stomped on it and kicked what was left of it to the side of the road.”
B.C. Premier John Horgan called the situation at Fairy Creek “intractable” during an unrelated news conference before the court decision was announced Tuesday.
“Is this an intractable problem? Yes it is,” Horgan said. “Does it frustrate me? Every single day. But I think the majority of British Columbians understand that if we are going to make progress on difficult issues, we have to do it together.”
B.C. Attorney General David Eby's office said Wednesday it was reviewing the court's decision. "As there is a possibility of an appeal by any of the parties involved, we cannot comment further at this time," the ministry said.
In June, the B.C. government approved a request from three Vancouver Island First Nations and deferred logging in about 2,000 hectares of old-growth forest in the Fairy Creek and central Walbran areas for two years.
Activists say the deferrals fall short of protecting what remains of B.C.’s old-growth forests.
With files from The Canadian Press