What am I talking about with the Shadow Dancers? Who are they and what are they doing at Fairy Creek?
First, there are only two of them. However, it only takes two to tango and this pair has been dancing in and around BC forests since 1958. Actually, they are ghosts as they are both deceased, but their spirits live on at Fairy Creek and in the court rooms of BC. I think of them every time a tree farm license is in dispute. Let me tell you about this pair and how together they have deforested, and are still deforesting, the last remaining bits of old growth in BC. and why they won’t stop dancing until our mountains are shadows too.
I want to call their names.
In 1952 a former schoolteacher and part-time musician named Robert Sommers (Honest Bob as he as known) was elected under the new Social Credit government and made minister of Lands, Mines, and Forests. Six years later (1958) he was sentenced to five years in prison by Chief Justice J.O. Wilson for conspiring with and taking bribes from a very large logging company (BC Forest Products) for a very large Tree Farm Licence on Vancouver Island. Is the spirit of Robert Sommers one of the ghost dancers?
No. While I think Robert Sommers was guilty as charged, I also think he took the fall for other players, too. I think the accusations and convection of Robert Sommers for bribery and conspiracy was simply the catalyst for the ghost dancers to come together and do their crazy dance and act out the precedent that they created.
However, his crime is almost beside the point. The point is a far worse crime was the one committed against him, and by extension to all of us, especially First Nations. How so? By the way Justice Wilson broke the law himself in his effort to unlawfully protect one of the largest and riches logging companies in BC and its owner, E.P. Taylor, which set the precedent for other and later BC judges to do the same. Taylor was the owner of BC Forest Products and was one the richest men in BC. Justice Wilson must have been truly dazed by him because his decision to protect Taylor and his company was so unethical, so unreasonable, so unlawful that I can’t figure out how Justice Wilson got away with it even then. So what did he do?
Justice Wilson also convicted Robert Sommers, the same judge, to five years in prison. But for the man who gave the bribe and his company, E.P. Taylor of BC Forest Products, Judge Wilson declared not guilty of anything. Taylor and his company was declared to be innocent of all charges. And the icing on the cake for Taylor and BC Forest Products was that they were allowed to keep the massive old growth Tree Farm License they had won through bribery and conspiracy.
How was this possible? How was it legally possible for the giver of bribes not to be punished for this as well as the receiver of the bribes? How indeed was this not utter contempt for the law? Of course it was. And the precedent that was set in that courtroom that day lingers on to this day in the courthouses of British Columbia. What is that precedent?
That it is absolutely fine for BC judges to skirt the law, and even break the law, if that is necessary to protect rich logging companies from any perceived harm, particularly financial harm. That protecting the logging industry in BC is a major component of BC judicial practice. This is the main reason, in my opinion, our BC courts rule on precedent. It is why judges give out logging injunctions with hardly bothering to read them. The logging companies must prevail. The spirits of these two men, Chief BC Justice J.O. Wilson and E.P. Taylor linger still, dancing at Fairy Creek, whispering in the ears of the Land and Forest Defenders…
“Oh, give up, you know that money is everything, most of you have no money to speak of, all you have is spirit and spirit is never a match against money...Give up. Your own justice system is demonstrating to you that these forests that were ripped out of the hands of First Nations and there’s nothing you can do…Give up. You are fighting a losing battle because the entire thing was born in corruption, and we don’t care...Give up. It’s getting cold in Fairy Creek. It’s time for you to go home...”
And nobody would blame you if you did. But for those of you who are young and strong and can bear the cold and wet you are getting close to something. You are getting close to setting your own precedent for doing away with the use of injunctions every time a logging CEO shoves an application for one across a judge’s desk. You are getting close to interrupting this dark crazed dance between money and nature, you are getting close to making history for us all. Be well. Be happy in you work. I hold you close.