In a landmark decision, the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) have won a Supreme court case against the RCMP for restricting media access in the ongoing old-growth protests at the Fairy Creek watershed near Port Renfrew.
In May, CAJ, among Canadian publications including Victoria’s Capital Daily, challenged the RCMP in the BC Supreme Court over fair access for media.
Last week, the judge sided with the coalition of journalists against Teal-Jones and the RCMP. A written statement of the judgements is set to be released in the coming days.
The decision to go to court came after journalists were being restricted access at the old-growth blockades occurring on the traditional territories of the Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations.
Protestors told Victoria Buzz in May that at least two journalists were arrested, one of which was a Nuu-Chah-Nulth journalist, and the other of which was a documentary filmmaker.
On April 1st, the BC Supreme Court granted the injunction which ruled in favour of logging company Teal-Jones, giving the RCMP the power to enforce the injunction.
The RCMP established exclusion zones where they could enforce and restrict the areas which protesters and media could access.
The RCMP said all arrests could be verified within the area of the injunction in May; in court, the RCMP said they believed media access was adequate.
Both protestors and RCMP said journalists were breaching past exclusion zones to report.
A video was posted to the Fairy Creek Blockade Instagram in May of the arrest of a documentary filmmaker that was breaching the exclusion zone.
Since the enforcement began, RCMP have arrested 494 individuals; 355 were for breaching the injunction (civil contempt of court), 109 were for obstruction, five for a combination of obstruction and breaching their release conditions, 10 were for mischief, three were for breaching their release conditions, four for assaulting a police officer, one for counselling to resist arrest, and one wanted Canada-wide on warrants issued by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
In an application brought by Teal Cedar last Monday, the BC Prosecution Service declared its intent to consider laying criminal charges against some of those who have been arrested.
This decision comes in light of the enforcement of homeless encampments in Toronto and the fight for media access after the arrest of a photojournalist for the Canadian Press.
Police and city inspectors have begun moving homeless encampments at public parks in downtown Toronto.
While there are parallels between the Victoria and Toronto homeless encampment issues, tensions are rising much more than in Victoria as videos of aggressive Toronto police enforcement circulate online.