Monster in the Woods by Elisa Gianola Fornari
As breaking heat waves wash over us in real time, it is wonderful to see the passion being expressed by the protesters and blockaders at Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. Most of us know by now, or intuit, that mature forests moderate climate and indeed, even create climate. As our rain forests rapidly diminish to mere memories of themselves, there is also the ever-present threat of wildfire. But even worse, there is another destructive threat looming over the blockades at Fairy Creek - the monstrous use of court ordered injunctions that has already stolen most of our public forests. The continuing use of these inappropriate and unjust never-ending environmental court injunctions let loose by British Columbia courts anytime civil disobedience starts gaining traction is the unspoken monster in the woods.
Why do I compare court ordered environmental injunctions to monsters? Because in my opinion, these injunctions are, in a very real sense dangerous and lawless. Why do I think this? Because the rules and regulations that govern the charge of disobeying an injunction, which usually results in Contempt of Court charges, stand outside the Criminal Code. I fear that at least some of the people who have been arrested will be surprised at what awaits them in the courtroom when they stand before a judge to try to explain themselves and their actions. They will find (unless things have changed enormously my time in front of the judges) that their assigned judge legally does not listen to, or care one continental damn about professions of sincere love of nature by the arrestees, or their climate change anxieties, our utter dismay at the callous nature of the logging companies who are or destroying our public property.
Every crime imaginable to the human race is described in the Criminal Code with remedies that can and perhaps should be applied for the offence described. Except for the charge of Contempt of Court. Contempt of Court seems to be left solely to the purview of individual judges. This means that the protester who just by appearing in the courtroom under the charge of disobeying an injunction in a logging dispute, has just been stripped of his or her legal right to equality of due process of the law, i.e., to be treated or punished as all other law breakers are treated and punished or declared innocent, as defined by the Criminal Code.
The logging companies claim the provincial government has given them the right to consider the appointed logging area at Fairy Creek as their private property for the length of their tenure. The public in large part says no, the logging companies are at best renters, bad ones at that. The matter is settled when an individual judge decides to sign an injunction that protects the company and locks out the public and First Nations that are affected. The protesters who use civil disobedience will be arrested and in due course, charged with Contempt of Court. When brought before the court they will stand there, already condemned, because they stand unprotected by the law of the land – The Criminal Code.
So it is futile to blame the logging companies. Logging companies do what any business does to survive and grow; they take advantage of opportunities such as the current incredible price rise for lumber in the world. Private property is what capitalism is founded on and the logging companies have found a sure-fire way to make public property into their own private property. The tree farm license they have received from the governments makes this bargain. The companies will pay a few cents on the trees cut and then they can do what they like (pretty much) with their newly negotiated private property. The logging companies know very well that they are protected by the Justices of British Columbia. The judges. The ones who give out the injunctions that will tell the public they are trespassing on private property when they seek to preserve public property by civil disobedience.
This knowledge has been gleaned from my own experience of weeks, months, years of dealing with trying to convince BC judges that their use of injunction in in environmental disputes is unjust, unequal, immoral, with disgustingly predicable outcomes that degrades public trust. But I have been thinking there are other ways to consider the problem. The Fairy Creek arrestees are already pinpointing provincial politicians for their part in ignoring the issue. I hope they don’t forget to also look at the provincial police chiefs and the BC Attorney General. These two agencies also have serious responsibility to stop the looting of the last of our forests. How do these two agencies factor in the unleashing the brooding monsters of court injunctions? Next time.