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Contempt cases dropped against nearly 150 Fairy Creek protesters

The court has dropped 146 cases against protesters who blockaded the Fairy Creek watershed in 2021 because of police error.

In a February decision the BC Supreme Court concluded the pre-arrest script RCMP had been using to inform protesters of the terms of the injunction they were allegedly breaching was inadequate. The court found police erred by reading an abridged form of the injunction, instead of the whole thing.

That left doubt protestors could be found in contempt of the order, since they were never informed of its full details.

Following the February decision, the BC Prosecution service refused this week to pursue the remaining cases.

However, one protestor, Shawna Knight, was found guilty of criminal contempt in a parallel case. Her verdict was published Friday.

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Knight was found guilty of contempt for blocking the Granite Mainline road on August 10, 2021. In his decision, Justice Douglas Thompson says she cannot plead ignorance.

“Ms. Knight has been shown to be too intelligent, too knowledgeable, and too committed to the cause of these protests to be merely reckless or merely indifferent to a court order prohibiting certain conduct where the protests were occurring,” he says. “If by some chance she remained ignorant of the order’s material terms, it was a deliberate ignorance because she wanted to be able to deny knowledge of the terms of the order.”

The crown is proceeding with other contempt cases, despite those abandoned this week — there were 1,100 people arrested during the 2021 protests, the largest act of civil disobedience in Canada’s history. Several cases have already concluded, with those found guilty of contempt receiving up to seven days in jail, or a $500 fine and 50 hours of community service.

The protests started in response to logging in an old-growth area by forestry company Teal-Jones, which obtained a court injunction to get people off the roads leading to the cut blocks northwest of Victoria. Logging in the region which could affect old-growth forests has since been put on hold.

 

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