More than 100 people charged in connection with a high-profile Vancouver Island logging protest won’t be getting a requested stay of proceedings.
And they won’t be granted an opportunity to combine their criminal contempt charges into a single court case either.
The B.C. Supreme Court has rejected both the requested stay, and an application by the Rainbow Flying Squad to merge the cases of 121 individuals charged with violating an injunction tied to blockades aimed at halting Teal Cedar Products logging in the Fairy Creek watershed.
In his decision, Justice Robin Baird said a stay is a “very rare and drastic remedy” only possible when it’s determined prosecuting the case would “offend society’s sense of justice.”
“What the applicants propose, in effect, is a wide-ranging, ad hoc, public inquiry into the RCMP enforcement operation which is beyond the institutional competence and capacities of an ordinary criminal court.”
The Rainbow Flying Squad argued the cases should be joined because it would allow them to demonstrate systemic misconduct by the RCMP in enforcing the injunction. Baird said any misconduct would still be demonstrable through separate trials and joining the 121 cases would be “wholly unmanageable by virtue of its size and complexity.”
He said the individuals could apply for a stay of proceedings individually, which “can be based, in part at least, on alleged systemic misconduct unrelated to the personal experiences of the applicant.”
“Each applicant must respond independently to the charge of criminal contempt, and each seeks the benefit of a substantial and exceptional remedy in their individual circumstances. In my view, the allegation that subjective mistreatment was part of a generalized system or campaign of police misconduct does not alter the fact that, in every case, the question is whether the individual applicant is eligible to be granted a stay of proceedings.”
Baird noted that each of the 121 individuals intends to plead guilty to the charge of criminal contempt. The crown is planning 73 different trials, based on when individuals were arrested.
Since around mid-May, 2021, there have been more than 1,200 arrests while protesting old-growth logging in the area, in a remote section of southwest Vancouver Island near Port Renfrew.
The Crown has charged around 400 individuals with criminal contempt of court for violating the terms of the injunction.
The injunction was extended back in September to last until Sept. 26, 2023.