Fairy Creek old-growth protesters celebrate as contempt prosecution has ‘collapsed’

The B.C. Prosecution Service has withdrawn contempt charges against 11 logging protesters accused of violating a court injunction during the closure of Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island.

Spokesman Gordon Comer said prosecutors appeared Tuesday to accept the dismissal and the department is reviewing other cases after protester Ryan Henderson was acquitted earlier this year.

Comer said officials are reviewing the remaining cases affected by Henderson’s decision, which dropped the charges because the RCMP failed to properly read the injunctions of people arrested during the protests.

“We cannot provide any figures on how many documents can be retracted, as this will be determined on a case-by-case basis based on available evidence. Crown has appealed the decision in the Henderson case to the Supreme Court of Canada,” Comer said in an emailed statement.

In February, British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson acquitted Henderson of contempt of court, ruling that the RCMP chose to use a “short script” rather than read the The full text of the court order.

“The RCMP script did not convey sufficient information about the terms of the injunction, and the information conveyed through the script was inaccurate and unclear,” Thompson’s ruling said.

Officials are expected to drop charges against as many as 150 people in the coming weeks as a result of Thompson’s decision, said a lawyer who defended the protesters.

Karen Mirsky, president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, who has defended several clients facing contempt charges over the Fairy Creek protests, said police failed to follow longstanding legal principles when they failed to read the full ban.

The RCMP spent millions of dollars during the protests, and the force’s failure to properly enforce the ban highlights how provinces should rethink the type of policing they’re embracing, Mirsky said.

She said the RCMP’s Community-Industry Response Unit, which oversees the Fairy Creek enforcement operation, withdrew the charges because police “didn’t have the funds to stand in one place and read the ban in its entirety and give a copy of the ban to individuals who were protesting.”

“We shouldn’t be shocked that they need to do this, and of course they have their own legal team,” she said.

Police force actions during protests and other incidents have sparked formal complaints, leading to a review by the RCMP’s Civilian Review and Complaints Board, Mirsky said.

A coalition of Indigenous groups, environmentalists, human rights advocates and others announced Tuesday that they will deliver an open letter to the Ottawa premier’s office calling for the police response team to be disbanded.

Fairy Creek Watershed Forestry Law and Justice

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