A court injunction against old-growth logging protests on Vancouver Island will remain in force at least temporarily past its expiration date later this month, which will rule its future, a judge says.
British Columbia forestry company Teal Cedar Products Ltd was in court this week applying for a one-year extension of the injunction, which was due to expire on September 26.
But Justice Douglas Thompson said on Friday that it would be a matter of weeks before he would give his written decision on the extension’s request.
“It’s a difficult decision,” he said at the conclusion of a four-day hearing in the B.C. Supreme Court. “I clearly don’t know what I’m going to do at the moment. It’ll probably be a couple of weeks.”
Nearly 1,000 people have been arrested in the Fairy Creek area north of Port Renfrew since the RCMP began enforcing a BC Supreme Court order in May.
“Public opinion is in favor of stopping the old development,” Teal Cedar’s attorney, Dean Dulke, told court Friday. “But this is a court of law, not public opinion.”
He said not extending the prohibitory order would be seen to ignore the protests.
“The worst thing that could happen to the prohibition would be to end it even for a day,” said Dulke, who told the court that the blockade was inhibiting the company’s legal rights to harvest timber.
Lawyers for half a dozen protesters disagreed with Dalke, arguing in favor of refusing to extend the injunction. He proposed to allow the injunction to expire and to enter into an arbitration process to resolve issues of protecting ancient forests and logging interests.
Steven Kelliher, a lawyer representing Victoria landscaper Robert (Saul) Arbes, who opposed entry into the Fairy Creek area, said tensions are rising over the blockade and he fears people may get hurt.
“All for what, an injunction that should never have been issued earlier,” he said.
Lawyer Elizabeth Strain, who showed police videos of police taking off people’s face masks with pepper spray, said the RCMP and company sought to “condemn” the protesters.
She said she supports mediation as a way to resolve the ongoing situation at Fairy Creek.
“Everything needs to calm down,” she said. “If prohibitory orders continue and police enforcement continues, it is only going to increase. The longer this goes on, the more likely someone is to be seriously injured.”
Earlier on Friday, the RCMP told Thompson it needed more powers to find and expel people from the area.
Federal government attorney Donari Nygaard, who represented the RCMP, argued that the Mounties also needed more space to safely enforce the injunction.