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July 24, 2023
Vancouver, BC / Unceded Coast Salish Territories – Today, the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) answered the Civilian Review Complaint Commission’s call for additional complaints in support of its systemic investigation of the RCMP “E” Division Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG). The BCCLA’s complaint focuses on an interaction between BCCLA Staff Counsel, Veronica Martisius, and the RCMP at an exclusion zone checkpoint within the Caycuse watershed on unceded Ditidaht lands on June 8, 2021.
In April 2021, Justice Verhoeven of the BC Supreme Court granted Teal Cedar’s application for an injunction order (the “Injunction”) against interference with its logging operations within the traditional and unceded territories of the Pacheedaht and Ditidaht peoples on southern Vancouver Island. The boundaries of the Injunction covered Tree Farm License 46 (TFL 46), a large area of land including the Fairy Creek watershed, Central Walbran, and the Caycuse Valley. This area contains stands of ancient old growth forest, which Indigenous land defenders and environmental activists have been actively trying to protect since August 2020.
The Injunction explicitly prohibited “anyone having knowledge of the Court’s order” from interfering with any person, including any member of the public, from using any road to access or exit the injunction area. It also stipulated that the defendants and other persons were free to participate in a peaceful protest within the injunction area.
Between June 7th and 8th, 2021, Veronica was in the Caycuse Valley in Ditidaht territory upon invitation by Indigenous land defenders. At that time, active logging was occurring in that area. On June 8, she was travelling along Caycuse Main Road towards Lake Cowichan where she stopped to confront two RCMP C-IRG officers about the exclusion zone they were using to stop people from entering the injunction area.
The RCMP officers claimed that the checkpoint and exclusion zone was connected to enforcement of the Injunction, however, on that same afternoon, enforcement was happening at the Hayhaka camp on the other side of the injunction area. Veronica later received written confirmation from RCMP lawyer, Bobby Bharaj, that the exclusion zone she encountered was established exclusively for the benefit of Teal Jones’ active logging operations.
This exclusion zone was illegal.
“It is deeply disturbing and unjust for individuals who are intimately aware of their rights to be denied those rights by RCMP officers who are clearly ignorant about the law as it stands yet wield tremendous power and potential for violence in enforcing their interpretation of the law for the benefit of a logging company.” – Veronica Martisius, BCCLA Litigation Staff Counsel.