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  • Mother in treatment for stage 4 cancer faces judge May 1 for action at Fairy Creek

    Valerie Elliott
    Between a rock and a hard place, mother of three accuses RCMP of Charter violations.


    RCMP officers use grinder to cut through metal Catherine McClarty had used to attach herself to a road barrier. (Photo: Brandon TS)
    CATHERINE McCLARTY, a stage 4 cancer patient and Fairy Creek land defender, is conflicted about the hearing she’s been waiting for 18 months to attend. On May 1, the Victoria resident will attend a hearing at the Nanaimo courthouse. Her case will either be dropped by the Crown, preventing her from providing evidence against the RCMP, or she will serve jail time and could provide evidence against the RCMP for alleged misconduct.

    “Usually, it’s good news when a case is dropped,” says Noah Ross, Counsel for McClarty. “In this case, if Ms. McClarty’s charges are dropped, she becomes one of many arrestees who will no longer have the opportunity to challenge the accusations of Charter violations by the RCMP.”

    On Monday, the BC Prosecution Service may choose to withdraw her charge based on the Henderson decision. The decision found that the RCMP’s Community Industry Response Group’s (CIRG) unit failed to provide adequate notice during arrest. To date approximately 30 arrestees have had their charges withdrawn with another 150 expected by early June.

    “I am so utterly discouraged and disappointed in the justice system,” says McClarty, who was undergoing chemo treatments when she was arrested. “How will the RCMP be held accountable for these violations if almost 200 charges are dropped? I can’t believe I’m feeling a need to go to jail in order to hold the RCMP accountable.” 

    McClarty was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer after the birth of her third child in 2018 and recently completed her 93rd chemo treatment cycle. She was arrested on June 9, 2021 for locking herself to a gate to prevent logging at Fairy Creek. RCMP used an angle grinder at her neck for 55 minutes to remove the lock. Sparks from the angle grinder burned through her arresting officer’s gloves and several layers of her clothing. 

    During her arrest, RCMP officers refused to wear medical masks although she had told them about her terminal cancer diagnosis and her compromised immune system. She was one of four people arrested that day with two senior women and an Indigenous arrestee already in the police van from another Fairy Creek area known as Eden Camp. McClarty was held unnecessarily for several hours following her arrest.

    “I was in the back of a police van for six hours on a hot day in direct sun. I felt nauseous and weak and didn’t have food or water. The officers drove the back logging roads and dropped off the Indigenous person on the side of a back road with no phone, no food or water, no support, and said ‘Port Renfrew is that way’ and drove off. I had no idea how long that person would have walked but it must have been a long long way,” says McClarty, who is outraged by the RCMP actions particularly against Indigenous people at Fairy Creek.

    Fairy Creek is a remote location where McClarty felt an obligation to help keep people safe. Her medical equipment business lent a $1,200 defibrillator to the First Aid tent that was subsequently seized by the RCMP without just cause. It was never returned. 

    “I was afraid someone would die there at the hands of CIRG. They were so violent. They acted like vigilantes,” says McClarty. “We were all there to protect old growth forests that are still at risk today. I’ll defend these forests for all children to my dying day. I just hope I’ll outlive another temporary deferral.” 

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    I am a Wetsuweten wing chief. I was very touched by Catherine McClarty's personal story of activism. I am reaching out to wish her wellness and recovery. It is so sad how much power industry has. A great personal sacrifice on her part. Thank you Catherine for that. God bless and universe energy to heal you. Dolores




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