Protecting BC’s Giant Trees Shouldn’t Land Anyone in Jail, Green Party Says (la version française suit)

On January 18, 2024, the Honourable Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson of the Supreme Court of British Columbia (BC) convicted Angela Davidson (Rainbow Eyes), the Green Party of Canada’s former deputy leader, on charges of criminal contempt of a court injunction. 

The initial injunction forbade Mrs. Davidson - a recognized Kwakwaka’wakw land guardian - from entering an area on the traditional, unceded territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation that is claimed by the Provincial Crown and licensed in 2004 by the BC government to the Teal-Jones logging group. 

In recent years, Mrs Davidson and other Indigenous and environmental defenders had participated in blockades that sought to protect highly valuable old-growth forest located on Teal-Jones’ license.

While the leadership of the Pacheedaht First Nation elected under the provisions of the Federal Indian Act recognizes Teal Jones’ right to operate on the territory, the Pacheedaht’s traditional leadership is divided on the question, with some elders having invited protesters to the territory.

The BC Supreme Court’s Decision highlights the current difficulties facing the Canadian legal system in engaging fairly in disputes that involve conflicts between the Canadian legal system and Indigenous interests and customary law. 

Mrs. Davidson’s actions, rooted in her Kwakwaka’wakw heritage and a deep commitment to Indigenous rights and environmental protection, reflect a deep concern shared by many Canadians about the ongoing loss of the last remaining old-growth forests.

The Green Party of Canada recognizes the role of non-violent civil disobedience as a powerful tool in drawing attention to critical environmental issues, particularly when conventional channels of advocacy are exhausted or ineffective.

We are concerned about the implications of Rainbow Eyes' conviction and its categorization as ‘criminal contempt,’ which differs from ‘civil contempt’ through the ‘public' nature of the defiance and the impact it is construed to have on the Court’s reputation. 

While the Green Party of Canada acknowledges the importance of the courts preserving the judicial system’s reputation, it is crucial that the Courts differentiate between a calculated intention to bring the administration of justice into disrepute and a calculated intention to publicly exercise democratic rights and fundamental freedoms protected under the Charter to express lawful, non-violent dissent with existing laws and regulations.  

We are also particularly troubled by the ongoing operations of the Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) unit. Reports of their handling of the Fairy Creek blockades and other environmental protests have highlighted significant issues. The C-IRG’s tactics, which have been called into question for their severity and appropriateness, deserve scrutiny. The unit's approach to managing peaceful protests has often escalated tensions and raised serious concerns about the balance between maintaining order and respecting the right to peaceful protest.

The unfortunate reality is that dedicated defenders of old-growth, including Angela Davidson, find themselves facing arrest and imprisonment due to the BC NDP's failure to fulfill promises made regarding the protection of these vital ecosystems. If the government had kept its word and halted the logging of old-growth forests, many individuals passionately advocating for environmental preservation would not have been pushed to the point of arrest and jail.

It's crucial to recognize that the legal battles faced by Angela Davidson and others stem from a political failure. If the BC NDP had prioritized their environmental commitments over logging interests, we wouldn't be witnessing arrests and legal disputes today. The Green Party underscores the interconnectedness of political decisions and legal consequences in the pursuit of environmental justice.

The Green Party of Canada reaffirms its support for all individuals standing up for the protection of endangered ecosystems. We stand with those who demand government accountability and call for a renewed commitment to environmental responsibility. It's time for the BC NDP to honor its promises and prioritize the preservation of our irreplaceable old-growth forests.

We remain committed to advocating for the protection of endangered ecosystems through peaceful means. We continue to call for accountability, transparency, and action from all levels of government in addressing the urgent environmental crises facing our nation.

We stand with all those who raise their voices and take action for the future of our planet and the generations to come.