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B.C. won’t pursue cases against 146 Vancouver Island old growth protesters

Dozens of cases against Fairy Creek logging protesters are dropped after high court ruling

The BC Prosecution Service says it’s dropping 146 cases against old-growth logging protesters after Canada’s highest court refused to hear an appeal against the acquittal of a demonstrator who had been cleared of criminal contempt.

The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the appeal application from the B.C. Crown and awarded costs to protester Ryan Henderson.

In light of that decision, the cases against other people who took part in the Fairy Creek blockade on southern Vancouver Island have been withdrawn.

Prosecution service spokesman Dan McLaughlin says there was no substantial likelihood of convicting the other protesters accused of violating a court injunction at Fairy Creek, and the matters are now concluded.

Henderson was cleared of contempt in February when B.C. Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson found RCMP officers only read a shortened version of the injunction to hundreds of protesters, including Henderson, who were arrested at the Fairy Creek blockade.

Thompson ruled the abbreviated script used by the officers didn’t contain enough information to give protesters “actual knowledge” of the injunction contents and prove they were “wilfully blind” to its terms.

McLaughlin says the 146 cases dropped by the Crown hinged upon the same issues in Henderson’s case.

As is customary, the high court did not provide reasons for its ruling.

“The police used the same pre-arrest script in the 146 cases that were withdrawn. Those cases were withdrawn earlier this year pending the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada,” McLaughlin said in an email Thursday.

“As these cases suffered the same inadequacies as to notice as the court found in Henderson, the Crown concluded that there was no longer a substantial likelihood of a conviction and the charges were withdrawn.”

Henderson’s acquittal previously prompted the BC Prosecution Service to withdraw contempt charges against 11 old-growth logging protesters in April, but many similar cases remained before the court.

The Fairy Creek protest began after logging permits were granted in 2020 allowing Teal Cedar Products to cut timber, including old-growth trees, in areas including the Fairy Creek watershed northeast of Port Renfrew.

Protest camps were set up close to the cutting site in August 2020 and injunctions aimed at preventing interference with logging or forestry crews followed the next year.

Confrontations escalated in 2021, leading to active RCMP intervention and what is considered one of the most extensive acts of civil disobedience in Canadian history as more than 1,100 demonstrators were arrested.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version referred to acquitted protester Ryan Henderson by their former name.

READ ALSO: High court won’t examine acquittal of B.C. old growth logging protester