By: Yelin Gemma Lee, News Writer
On August 23, protestors rallied in front of RCMP offices for the “RCMP Stand Down” protests in BC. The 23 synchronous protests called for an end to the “illegal and violent actions of the RCMP” at the Fairy Creek blockade. Fairy Creek has been the stand-off ground between protestors against old-growth logging and police forces. The Peak was present and observed the protest at the Burnaby RCMP office.
In August 2020, protestors were invited by Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones to set up a blockade at Fairy Creek watershed in Southern Vancouver Island. The watershed is a part of BC’s last 2.7% of BC’s ancient old-growth forests.
These old-growth trees, up to 2,000 years old, are one of the last standings in the coastal temperate rainforest, with rich irreplaceable ecosystems home to endangered species such as the marbled murrelets. After the Supreme Court injunction was passed in April, the number of total arrests has risen to over 800 arrests at the Fairy Creek blockade.
On August 9, Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson stated “The RCMP has not established that the police actions under examination are reasonably necessary for [ . . . ] the duties they assert.” Justice Thompson’s ruling redefined the limits of police enforcement in the injunction area, allowing regular citizens to witness and access the area “as long as they don’t violate the injunction by blocking the road or interfering in forestry.”
Protestors gathered in the parking lot of the RCMP office for the protest. Some protestors who were at Fairy Creek testified to the crowd the excessive police violence they have witnessed and experienced.
Kaylayla Raine, an Indigenous activist, led the event with a group of Indigenous youths and young adults. Raine addressed the crowd.
“What’s happening at Fairy Creek [ . . . ] the violence towards Indigenous femmes, Indigeous and Two-Spirit people, Black people, disabled people, trans people. That’s profiling,” said Raine, “We have to protect those people — the most profiled, the most targeted, the most powerful in this fight.”
The Peak spoke to Que Banh, organizer of the RCMP Stand Down protests.
“Since late May, the level of brutality on the front lines when the police are trying to enforce their injunction [ . . . ] has increased, especially in the past few weeks,” said Banh. “The abuse of power is completely out of control at this time and the government is not doing anything.”
Banh noted there is a lack of media presence at Fairy Creek. “Unfortunately, [mainstream] media is not on the ground, so they are not getting the factual stories. They have been for the most part copying and pasting the RCMP reports which are not factual and contain lies,” claimed Banh. “The media cannot document what is truly going on at [the] front lines when they’re kept several kilometres away from what’s really happening with the extractions.”
CBC journalists reported having to walk seven kilometres behind the police to report on the event. On July 20, the Supreme Court ruled that “restricting media access and movement” at Fairy Creek was unlawful.
In a statement to The Peak, sergeant Chris Manseau, division media relations officer of the RCMP, stated that media have access in Fairy Creek.
“Despite some claims of access being restricted, Media Relations Officers and Division Liaison Team members on site continue to provide independent media and protester-appointed legal observers the opportunity to observe and report on arrests and provide support to arrested individuals as they are being made,” wrote Manseau.
“If we were doing something severely wrong and such, why aren’t they arresting and processing and charging all of us?” Banh said. “I’m wondering if the RCMP have been following protocol when it comes to filing the appropriate paperwork, when it comes to use of force.”
“I’m not in a position to provide context to any officer’s actions based on a portion or snippets of videos and commentaries, but can assure you all our enforcement actions are well documented, including the use of body worn cameras, which we are prepared to disclose as part of evidence in criminal proceedings, or as part of a complaint process,” Manseau wrote.
The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, has received 163 public complaints about police misconduct at Fairy Creek as of Sept 1, 2021.
“There’s a problem with having an oversight board but with no enforcement,” said Banh.