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Police union survey says most in B.C. support enforcement at Fairy Creek

82% agree with enforcement, 77% support right to peaceful protest
RCMP officers and protesters face off at a camp in Fairy Creek with tripod structures visible in the background. (Submitted by BC RCMP)

According to a survey commissioned by the National Police Federation, the vast majority of British Columbians support RCMP enforcement of the BC Supreme Court injunction in the Fairy Creek watershed, but numbers are split when it comes to supporting civil disobedience to stop old-growth logging.

Pollara surveyed 800 randomly selected British Columbians, including 299 Vancouver Island residents, between Aug. 30 and Sept. 2, and 82 per cent said they agree with the statement that “the police have a duty to enforce Supreme Court injunctions.”

The National Police Federation represents roughly 20,000 RCMP members across Canada.

The survey also found that 78 per cent believe protest is an important part of democracy, and 73 per cent believe that the request from the Pacheedaht First Nation for the protesters to leave their traditional territory should be respected. Numbers are split with regard to the justification that civil disobedience is justified to stop old-growth logging, with 43 per cent in agreement and 42 per cent opposed.

Nearly half of those surveyed — 47 per cent — said they have been following the Fairy Creek protests closely, including 62 per cent of Vancouver Island residents.

“Our members have professionally and respectfully enforced a B.C. Supreme Court injunction since mid-May,” said National Police Federation president Brian Sauvé. “This has resulted in over 860 arrests for violation of the injunction over 114 days, with very few if any credible complaints, including one related to an incident involving force after a police officer suffered a concussion as a result of being pushed to the ground by a crowd of protesters.”

Sauvé’s statement was released on Sept. 9. The number of arrests at Fairy Creek has since climbed past 1,000, making it the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history.

“Our members have maintained their professionalism and composure against a steadily increasing barrage of verbal taunts, racial slurs, engineered physical barriers, human chains, and bindings that threaten the health and safety of everyone in the area,” Sauvé continued. “Protesters and their supporters have also undertaken a campaign of online and personal stalking and harassment of individual officers for which the NPF is considering legal action.”

The RCMP has asked the Attorney General of Canada to change the injunction to give the police force greater powers, including the right to control access to areas in the injunction zone where enforcement is occurring. Teal Jones, which owns the logging rights to Tree Farm Licence 46, which includes the Fairy Creek watershed, has asked for a one-year extension on the injunction, and the Rainforest Flying Squad, which is organizing the protests, is challenging that application.

READ MORE: Old-growth activists want fewer police powers at Fairy Creek, RCMP asking for more

In response to the NPF survey, the RFS agreed that it is the job of the RCMP to enforce injunctions, but questioned their methods of doing so.

“We would ask, though, whether people would agree or disagree that RCMP should endanger the lives of protesters while enforcing the injunction,” the RFS said in a statement to Black Press. “Should people practicing civil disobedience to protect forests for the good of all be treated like criminals, or in some cases, in ways that it’s illegal to treat animals? Should the RCMP deny access to journalists in injunction zones, even after the court has reaffirmed the importance and democratic right of journalists to report on police activities such as enforcement of injunctions?”

The results of the survey haven’t affected the feelings of the protesters, they added.

“The commitment and morale of the forest defenders have not flagged, despite the RCMP’s racism, recklessness and contempt for protestors’ safety, and despite their well-resourced and well-funded media department’s intensive PR campaign against us,” the statement continued. “However, the respect that some of us (mostly white settlers) had for RCMP members before, believing them to be impartial defenders and protectors in society, has really taken a beating.

“Protecting B.C.’s old-growth forests is still one of our best hopes to mitigate the climate crisis. Logging old-growth forests causes more carbon emissions than any other activity in our province, but is not counted in provincial tallies.

“Sacred areas on unceded Indigenous territories are being obliterated. Endangered species and/or their habitat are being destroyed daily. We remain committed to protecting these forests and ecosystems until government halts their destruction.”

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Kevin Rothbauer

About the Author: Kevin Rothbauer

Kevin Rothbauer is the sports reporter for the Cowichan Valley Citizen
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