A B.C. Supreme Court judge has granted Surrey-based Teal Cedar Products Ltd.’s request for the court to “invite” the attorney general to review alleged criminal contempt related to an injunction order that was issued by a fellow judge concerning protests against the company’s logging operation on southern Vancouver Island.
The defendants are identified in a court document as “Unknown Persons Operating as the ‘Rainforest Flying Squad,’ Robert Arbess (also known as Reuben Garbanzo), John Doe, Jane Doe, and Persons Unknown.”
Justice Douglas Thompson in his July 14 reasons for judgment, in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, noted that Teal Cedar has been granted permits to conduct logging and build roads within certain parts of a 60,000-hectare property identified as TFL 46, which contains stands of old growth trees. In August 2020, protesters blocked roads at various spots in and around TFL 46.
“In September 2020, the provincial government announced that it was deferring old growth logging in nine areas throughout the province, but TFL 46 is not one of these nine areas,” Thompson noted. “Blockades and other forms of protest continued. Teal Cedar reported the ongoing road blockades to the RCMP in December 2020, but no steps were taken by police to remove the blockades or prosecute blockaders. In February 2021, Teal Cedar commenced an action seeking, inter alia, injunctive relief.”
In April, Justice Frits Verhoeven issued an injunction prohibiting the obstruction of Teal Cedar or its contractors from accessing or “engaging in forestry operations in an area essentially congruent with the bounds of TFL 46. Thompson noted that order, to remain in place until Sept. 26, permits people to protest in a “peaceful, lawful and safe manner, as long as the terms of the injunction are complied with.”
Since mid-May, police have arrested hundreds of people for allegedly violating the injunction order. In some cases, protesters chained themselves to objects “or placed themselves in devices or positions such that the RCMP has used a specialized team to undertake a slow process of removal,” Thompson said.
“My impression is that most protesters are complying with the terms of the injunction order. However, the evidence before me on this application strongly suggests that many are not,” Thompson added. “To be clear, I have not made a finding that there has been contempt of court by any of the alleged contemnors. My conclusion is that there is evidence that, if accepted, could support a criminal contempt finding. I do not intend to discuss the facts in relation to any particular individual or group of alleged contemnors. They are all presumed innocent, and I do not wish to embarrass the trial of their cases by creating an impression that their cases have been prejudged in any way.”
Thompson pronounced the following order, inviting the British Columbia Prosecution Service to “Undertake a review of the evidence and circumstances surrounding any and all arrests for contempt of the April 1, 2021 injunction order of Justice Verhoeven, and to assess whether prosecutions for criminal contempt of court should be pursued; and to Undertake a review of the evidence and circumstances surrounding the alleged contempt of the April 1, 2021 injunction order of Justice Verhoeven by Will O’Connell, Yogi Shambu (also known as Steven Daniluk), Rhia Ironside, Nicolas Mielle, and Paulo (Pablo) Makinah, to assess whether prosecutions for criminal contempt of court should be pursued.”
Teal Cedar Products Ltd. is located at 17897 Trigg Rd. in Surrey.