Letter: Why not allow witnesses at Fairy Creek?

I attempted to witness government response to civil disobedience.

Why not allow witnesses at Fairy Creek?

I was honoured to be chosen to be a human rights observer in Palestine last year. The World Council of Churches sent me to Bethlehem and other parts of occupied Palestine where I observed the actions of the Israeli government and its soldiers as they continue to enforce their total control of all aspects of Palestinian life and living. Almost all of their control tactics are harsh, brutal and downright mean. The government of Israel makes no apologies. They believe themselves to be in a life-or-death struggle with Palestinians and are determined to win that struggle no matter how many Palestinian lives it costs. My colleagues (people from churches around the world) and I were there to witness, record and report on the activities of the occupation. Both parties knew and accepted our presence.

In Canada, in my home province of British Columbia, in my home territory of Vancouver Island, in my neighbouring community of Fairy Creek, I attempted to witness government response to civil disobedience. Here, I was told, if I ventured one step past a police cordon set up 7 kilometres away from the protest, I would be arrested. Here, I was told, I had no right to witness what our own police are doing to our own people.

I have seen video recordings of our police in action against protestors at Fairy Creek. People I know and trust tell me our police are harsh, brutal and violent, not only in enforcing the injunction at the site of attempted blockades, but in unilaterally, illegally declared ‘exclusion zones’ far away from those sites. I know our courts have told RCMP commanders that their tactics are harsh, brutal and illegal. I’ve read the judgments. I know RCMP commanders are ignoring those judgments. I’ve asked officers on the line why they would arrest a witness like me and was told the orders came from “on high”.

I know some folk say the recordings are out of context and the actions of the RCMP would be more understandable if seen in context and that’s why our provincial and federal governments are allowing (perhaps even ordering) them to break the law. I hear that, but here’s the thing. If that’s true then why not allow witnesses to record, interview and report?

Even the government of Israel does that.

Yours sincerely,

Keith Simmonds

Minister, Duncan United Church