Friday, February 23, 2024

Two old-growth protesters remain in custody following Wednesday’s Malahat blockade


Two protesters with Save Old Growth remain in custody after blocking entry to the Malahat on Wednesday and leaving the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) backed up for four hours.

West Shore RCMP say 33-year-old Derek Hugh Menard and 23-year-old Elizabeth Helen Stewart, both from Victoria, were arrested in relation to the protest.

They now face intimidation and mischief charges, with Menard also facing a charge for failing to comply with undertaking conditions, according to police.

Activist group Save Old Growth had warned earlier that day they’d be blocking northbound TCH lanes at West Shore Parkway in Langford starting at around 3:30 p.m.

Five protesters had managed to keep the blockade in place, but when RCMP arrived on scene, all left the road, except for Menard and Stewart.

Police say the pair had attached themselves to a large concrete-filled metal barrel to slow down their removal process, with specialized officers called in to safely get them off the highway.

“Even though we managed to have traffic routed around the protesters, those individuals caused a significant traffic backlog that, without a doubt, created a lot of frustration amongst motorists who needed to attend medical appointments, child care services, etc.,” said Staff Sgt. Chris Boucher.

“Those types of illegal demonstrations will not be tolerated, and those committing these criminal acts will be arrested promptly and held accountable.”

When speaking with reporters, BC Premier John Horgan addressed the protesters’ actions, saying their objective isn’t to save old growth—it’s to make people angry.

“That’s not how you affect change in a civil society,” said Horgan.

“I’m profoundly disappointed that this small group of people are so self-absorbed and think so highly of their options and so-called rights that they feel it’s okay to intrude in the rights of other British Columbians.”

Video captured prior to police arrival shows fed-up commuters attempting to physically remove the barrel, as one tosses traffic cones and another tears a banner from a protester’s hands after yelling, “I’ve got kids in the car [who] are sick.”

Save Old Growth posted the footage to Twitter, saying its members “remained peaceful and calm when faced with violence from the public.”

As of Friday afternoon, West Shore RCMP say both Menard and Stewart remain in custody. They appeared in BC Provincial Court yesterday.

According to Save Old Growth, over 80 protesters have been arrested on BC highways in Vancouver, Revelstoke, Victoria, and Nanaimo since January.

Still, it notes that it won’t stop blocking routes until the BC government passes legislation to end all old-growth logging.

Earlier this month, the province of BC said it was working with First Nations to defer logging of old-growth and develop a new approach to sustainable forest management.

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