Fairy Creek forest defenders, I salute you!
First Nations people and non -First Nations, standing all together, fighting to preserve some of the last strands of old growth forests in the nation, has firmly placed a sense of uneasiness, indeed, perhaps of fear, into the consciousness of the Justice System of BC. How so? Well, maybe the fear of an aroused people of Canada demanding justice where there has been none before, at least not for citizens and First Nations people of Canada who have been awakened and sensitized to the criminalization of clear cut logging on public, titled and unceded native lands.
While Justice Douglas Thompson reasons for refusing to renew the injunction didn’t say so, his ruling opens the door to a possible change in the court’s thinking about using injunctions as a weapon against the people who protest. It also opens the door to a clearer understanding of human rights for all of us. But this is tentative. It depends on what the police do next and how the court interrupts the reasons given by Justice Thompson when and if the forest defenders wind up in court if arrested without an injunction.
As an old forest defender myself who accumulated a lot of experience in the courtroom, permit me to mention something of what I learned there. Of course all experiences are different, still I think much remains the same. I learned enough to realize that you forest defenders at Fairy Creek have just climbed over an almost insurmountable wall by sheer guts, determination, and love, love of nature, love of each other, love of humanity.
You, especially the young may not even realize the feat you have accomplished. But by your unceasing bravery in the face of bloodied flesh and fractured bones, you have influenced a BC Supreme Court judge’s decision that will become a precedent in the practice of environmental law. And you have done this without the help of any of the environmental elites who in secrecy many years ago signed away what they thought was your right to protest rain forest destruction. And the Rainforest Flying Eagles flew in to take up the slack. If you are arrested without the injunction and brought to court the judges will have to treat you like all other Canadians accused of a crime; by the Criminal Code.
And you will have to stand your ground in a different way in the courtroom. This time the judges will have to listen to you. They will have to take your motives into consideration. For First Nations there is a growing body of legal decisions that express acknowledgement of their claims, and the success of these past claims explains much about the current victory.
I don't know, of course, but it sounds as if this movement has competent lawyers. However, if you doubt, and feel capable, don’t be afraid to represent yourselves. Remember that a lawyer is an officer of the court and must do as the judge dictates. When a lawyer is told to desist in argument and sit down by a judge, then he or she must promptly do so or risk disbarment. As a private citizen you have more leeway. If a judge tries to cut you off in what seems like an unfair way before you have adequately presented your defence, you can object. When the Crown tries to misrepresent your motives or impinge upon your character you can stand up and object to that, too. But if you do this, always defend yourself boldly, as you did at the Creek. Don’t unnecessarily annoy the Justices, always try to be polite, but remember that you are making history. You are helping to destroy the stranglehold the Justices of British Columbia, by the use of court ordered injunctions, have held over the citizens and First Nations of this province for what seems like forever. And maybe just the threat of this will encourage Teal Jones to quit the area and take their soul destroying, job destroying mega machines with them.
The courtroom is in spirit the extension of the physical defence of the Forests of Fairy Creek. I hold all of you warriors in my heart.
More next time.