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  • RCMP prepare for arrests by limiting media access to a large area of southern Vancouver Island


    Michael John Lo
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    With no apparent legal justification, the RCMP has imposed restrictions and conditions on journalists' access to publicly-owned land on which arrests of forest activists are likely to occur on Tuesday.
    May 17, 2021
     
    TODAY, THE RCMP has escalated the situation at Fairy Creek by establishing their own blockade and checkpoint at publicly-owned McClure Forest Service Road, to “prevent a further escalation of efforts to block access contrary to the Supreme Court Order,” and to limit the access to the Fairy Creek watershed to only select individuals, who must provide identification and state their purpose. 
     
    Journalists not already embedded with the Fairy Creek blockades — from what the RCMP calls “recognized media outlets” — will only be allowed to access areas beyond the checkpoint with handlers from the BC RCMP Communication Services supervising their stay. According to an RCMP press release sent out late today, the press pool may only enter the site during the day. “No one will be permitted to remain, however, you may choose to return the next day and again be escorted back into the designated media area,” said RCMP spokesperson Christopher Manseau. 
     
    “We cannot guarantee you access if you are not there [by 7 a.m.],” continued Manseau. “I will not be able to provide further information on the anticipated plans for tomorrow or subsequent days ahead.”
     
    An earlier press release from the RCMP highlighted the blockade at the main Fairy Creek Rainforest camp, but by late today its focus had apparently shifted to the blockade on the Caycuse Mainline road, about 30 kilometres, as the raven flies, away from the Fairy Creek Rainforest blockade.
     
     
    248438362_FCGate2021-04-02_DMP_3535.jpg.322e7827703f02ce6dfa7f7ee299f794.thumb.jpg.dbb2d2aae22b3039b074c5abc6eaaab8.jpg
     The initial police action appears to be aimed at a blockade about 30 kilometres north of the Fairy Creek Rainforest blockade, pictured above (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
      
     
    These RCMP actions are result of the injunction granted to Teal Cedar Products Ltd, which empowers the RCMP to arrest forest defenders currently sitting in defiance of the order. Lawyers on behalf of the Rainforest Flying Squad have filed an appeal, but police presence in the area has increased. Helicopter flyovers have been reported by those on the ground. Now, the RCMP is looking to block access to at least one of the camps maintained by old-growth advocates. 
     
    While the RCMP calls this latest action a “temporary access and control area,” the tactics and language very much evoke memories of the exclusion zones used by RCMP during the enforcement of the Wet’suwet’en injunction in 2020.
     
    At that blockade, Ricochet reporter Jerome Turner, along with a documentary filmmaker, was detained by officers and kettled away from the scene of the arrests for eight hours. The Tyee has also reported instances of RCMP officers threatening reporters with arrest, keeping them further than necessary from the action, and censoring what they could photograph. These actions have come under much criticism from media and journalism groups for threatening press freedom in Canada. 
     
    A number of journalists have already been turned away from the checkpoint at McClure. Free press access to the Fairy Creek blockades is now at risk. 
     
    Noah Ross, a lawyer familiar with the matter, says that the BC Supreme Court injunction does not prohibit individuals from being physically in the injunction zone. Only certain activities are illegal, such as blocking harvests and vehicles. 
     
    “Whatever public safety reasons there are, they will generally be unjustified restrictions of civil liberties,” said Ross. “Likewise, the injunction is not a ground for an exclusion zone.”
     
    FOCUS Magazine will be sending journalists to the scene and will continue to monitor the situation.
     
    Michael John Lo was recently senior staff writer for the Martlet and has joined Focus Magazine.
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