Thursday, July 13, 2017

BC Forest Fires and Madam Chief Justice Beverly McLachlan

Why do I link the name of Madam Chief Justice Beverly McLachlan with BC forest fires currently raging? Because of the way her judicial decisions threw forest protesters under the bus and left them there without a hope in hades of winning any court decision for the right to peacefully protest the deforestation and degradation of public forests. Our forests have been left unattended for years in order to appease international logging companies. The companies insist on clear cutting. This method leaves degraded soils, loss of animal habitat, demolition of large acreages of trees that hold moisture, and enormous piles of combustible tree trash left behind for fuel in which to start and feed forest fires. The giant logging companies who steal our public trees and ruin the land don’t believe in controlled burnings to rid the forest of combustible materials, the way aboriginal cultures did. Why? This ancient method of controlling forest fires might endanger some of the company’s immediate profits.

When pesky protestors arrive at a logging site, the companies don’t call the police as they should, but instead send company lawyers scurrying to find a judge and ask for an injunction to make the protesters leave. An injunction is an order given by an individual judge. If a protester refuses to obey this judge’s order, then the protester is arrested and charged. The charge won’t fall under the protections and provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada which is the law of the land; the way all other charges are made. Instead of being charged with trespassing, or blocking a road, etc., which are misdemeanors (a minor wrong doing) the charge will go outside the Criminal Code and become something really scary. A protestor finds himself or herself inside a court room being charged with Contempt of Court, a charge that has no legal protections. The charge of contempt of court thrusts a protestor into a lawless land that somehow is being conducted as though it were legal. This individual judge, if annoyed with you, can sentence you, as one did to me and fellow protester Barney Kern, to a year in prison without possibility of parole, for peacefully protesting the destruction of public forests.

And that is the way the industrial logging companies like it, along with the courts, the attorneys general and the Crown. The attorneys generals are lazy and uncaring in these environmental protest matters, as are the police and the Crown. These bodies that are supposed to protect the right of freedom and speech and the freedom of assembly all know very well what they should do which is to arrest under the auspices of the criminal code which protects everybody, not leave protesters to the spiteful whims of individual judges. These people who are supposed to protect the public equally, but don’t, all know each other well and hang together.

Madam Chief Justice McLachlan certainly proved her membership in the club when she made this definitive ruling concerning environmental protesters. This ruling lays out how a protester can be stripped of his or her legal right to the protections and provisions of the criminal code as all others charged before the court have, and instead be charged and jailed outside the law. Next time: Exactly what Chief Madam Justice wrote…and how the effect of this ruling is playing out in the devastation of our province by industrial greed and increasingly, fire. Let us hold all people and creatures, both wild and domestic, in our thoughts during this time for all those affected by fire.


  1. Nobody understands better than you Betty. Thank you for this explanation.

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