The News Rundown
- There was a surprising development in the year long protests at Fairy Creek, one of the last unlogged old-growth ecosystems on Vancouver Island. Since April, there had been an injunction granted by the BC Supreme Court that prohibited protesters from blocking logging routes or interfering with road construction and timber harvest.
- That injunction was set to expire on Tuesday at 4pm, if not renewed by the BC Supreme Court. Teal Jones, the logging company that was granted the "Tree Farm Licence 46" by the BC government that includes the area around Fairy Creek, had applied for a 12 month extension, which would have been a devastating blow for the protestors blocking the forestry company's access to its tenure in the Fairy Creek watershed area north of Port Renfrew.
- Extending the injunction also would have likely escalated tensions between them and the RCMP, who have made an unprecedented 1,100 arrests so far in conjunction with the movement, and have been caught on video several times using
- However, BC Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson denied the request, refusing to extend the injunction due to what he called "disquieting lapses" of unreasonable force exhibited by the RCMP enforcing the injunction.
- Justice Thompson handed down his reasons for judgment on Tuesday, writing that "it is not just and equitable in all the circumstances of the case" to grant Teal Cedar Products Ltd.'s request for an extended injunction order against protests.
- Thompson writes that "methods of enforcement of the Court’s order have led to serious and substantial infringement of civil liberties, including impairment of the freedom of the press to a marked degree. All of this has been done in the name of enforcing this Court’s order, adding to the already substantial risk to the Court’s reputation whenever an injunction pulls the Court into this type of dispute between citizens and the government."
- Thompson wrote that the factors in favour of extending the injunction are outweighed by "the public interest in protecting the court from the risk of further depreciation of its reputation."
- Interestingly enough, the decision solely looks at the enforcement of the injunction, and says that while "a powerful case might be made for the protection of what remains of British Columbia's old-growth temperate rainforests," ruling on that issue would mean stepping outside the court's constitutional role. Thompson explained that the more legally relevant issue to the public interest is preventing the court system from being "drawn into the fray" on the front lines between Mounties and protesters.
- Thompson wrote that interactions between protesters and police have largely been respectful and non-violent. He described the protesters as "good citizens in the important sense that they care intensely about the common good," exhibiting "disciplined and patient adherents to standards of non-violent disobedience, with only occasional lapses from that standard." Meanwhile, police have used reasonable force in most cases, Thompson said, but he also pointed to "disquieting lapses" shown in some videos played for the court.
- "One series of images shows a police officer repeatedly pulling COVID masks off protesters' faces while pepper spray was about to be employed. Another shows a police officer grabbing a guitar from a protester and flinging it to the ground, where another officer stomped on it and kicked what was left of it to the side of the road." This shows the power of the press, and of the ability to record excessive force being used by the police, and points to the importance of the RCMP trying to bar reporters and journalists from the area.
- Thompson touched on a July decision in favour of a coalition of news organizations and press freedom groups objecting to the RCMP's restriction of media access to the protest sites. In Tuesday's ruling, he pointed to the RCMP's use of checkpoints and exclusion zones, as well as officers' insistence on escorting reporters while they were within the injunction area. One journalist told the court that police restrictions on journalists' movement were comparable to what he saw working in China, according to the decision.
- When the viral images and videos being posted on social media about the RCMP's overstepping of their boundaries are shared widely, Thompson said he worries the actions of RCMP are being inextricably tied to the orders of his court. In his decision, Thompson wrote that the RCMP’s enforcement efforts “led to serious and substantial infringement of civil liberties.”
- The judge chastised those Mounties who removed their name tags and adorned their uniforms with the controversial “thin blue line” patch, a symbol that is banned under official RCMP policy. Those worries also extend to orders from RCMP brass that officers should obscure their badge numbers to prevent online harassment: "And, enforcement has been carried out by police officers rendered anonymous to the protesters, many of those police officers wearing “thin blue line” badges."
- Thompson writes: "Putting aside a visceral reaction against seeing Canadian police officers in a position of anonymity from the perspective of their fellow citizens, there are good reasons for insisting on police being precisely identifiable at least by regimental number. Anyone, especially if congregated in a group — even police officers — might be tempted to stray from propriety if there is an increased chance that they might not be accountable for their actions."
- National Police Federation president Brian Sauvé doubled down on the "thin blue line" imagery in a statement on the court’s decision Wednesday: “We are very proud of our members’ professional, thoughtful and patient approach to enforcing the expired Fairy Creek injunction in the face of exceptional challenges. In many circumstances and on many occasions over the last 133 days, they have embodied the thin blue line between order and chaos.”
- Again, it should be noted that thin blue line patches have been co-opted by the "Blue Lives Matter" movement, and in the US have been associated with white nationalist movements. On October 9, 2020, the RCMP issued a directive banning the wearing or displaying of symbols related to the Thin Blue Line by officers who are on duty. Despite this, RCMP officers are routinely photographed wearing 'Thin Blue Line' patches on their uniforms despite the directive forbidding its use.
- The Thompson judgement wasn't entirely against the RCMP's egregious lack of decorum however. The judge's decision acknowledges that protesters' tactics have become "more extreme over time" and often include digging deep trenches and attaching people to buried locking devices, or building towering tripods that demonstrators can perch upon.
- Some of these actions have led to serious property damage, hurt Teal Cedar's bottom line and created the risk of serious injury, Thompson said. Despite those concerns, however, he wrote that even without the power of an injunction, police will still be able to patrol the protest area and arrest people committing crimes.
- However, protesters are encouraged by the decision. A spokesperson for the protestors said his group will remain in the area to try to protect the old-growth forest: "We've known for a long time that the police actions out of Fairy Creek are illegal and violate the order of the injunction. This is really vindicating and encouraging to see the court standing with us in acknowledging that."
- It really is a win for the protestors when you consider the province's past history in dealing with protestors against resource extraction. This is not the first time that injunctions have actually brought more scrutiny and attention to a public protest against resource extraction, due to the inevitable breach of the rule of law and civil rights that enforcement of the injunction entails.
- In 1989, 70 individuals were prosecuted on mischief charges relating to protests against resource extraction in Strathcona Park. Notwithstanding the disruptions and damage they caused, 67 were acquitted, only three were convicted and received minor sentences as there was no injunction to enforce. The trials were drawn out over a period of 18 months, however, sapping official and private resources, and drawing further attention to the issue.
- At Clayoquot Sound in 1993, not far from Fairy Creek in what was known as the "War in the Woods", an injunction was instead obtained and more than 700 people prosecuted for criminal contempt. The trials were concluded within eight months and almost all were convicted. The average jail sentence was three weeks.
- Not surprisingly, after Clayoquot, one level of government or another, and a variety of companies and big businesses have used the technique to transform civil disobedience into contempt of court. It gave the rule of law a black eye.
- In 1994, a labour dispute at a construction site in Port Alberni resulted in the conviction of more than 90 individuals for contempt. On average, their trials lasted one or two days. Sentences ranged between 10 and 14 days in jail. At the time, the late Court of Appeal Justice Josiah Wood complained “the courts have been drawn into a role which they were never intended to perform, and for which they are ill-suited.”
- In the present day, the effect of Thompson’s judgment on other disputes remains to be seen in a province beset by rail stoppages, road blockades, pipeline protests, and certainly at a time when increased attention is being given to Indigenous issues and reconciliation. Invariably all of these recent protests have involved First Nations in some form or another, and injunctions granted police broad powers to arrest based on "contempt of court" are not going to help these issues.
- B.C. Premier John Horgan called the situation at Fairy Creek “intractable” during an unrelated news conference before the court decision was announced Tuesday.
- “Is this an intractable problem? Yes it is,” Horgan said. “Does it frustrate me? Every single day. But I think the majority of British Columbians understand that if we are going to make progress on difficult issues, we have to do it together.”
- B.C. Attorney General David Eby's office said Wednesday it was reviewing the court's decision. "As there is a possibility of an appeal by any of the parties involved, we cannot comment further at this time," the ministry said.
- In June, the B.C. government approved a request from three Vancouver Island First Nations and deferred logging in about 2,000 hectares of old-growth forest in the Fairy Creek and central Walbran areas for two years. Activists say the deferrals fall short of protecting what remains of B.C.’s old-growth forests.
- Silent in all of this is the government's reaction. Horgan, in contrast to his usual loud and blustery nature, has been suspiciously quiet and vague this entire time on the issue. Certainly this issue was not meant to be dealt with by the courts, or the police, or even the protestors. It should have had decisive action one way or another from the top, from Horgan himself.
- Instead he's tried to play both sides of the fence, claiming his government is on the side of the environment, but completely ignoring the massive protest in his own riding. The silence of the BC NDP government is despicable, and not enough media attention has been given to Horgan's massive failure on this issue.
- Last Friday as we were recording we got the news that Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was headed home. Shortly thereafter it began to trickle out and later PM Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau announced that Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were on their way home.
- This marked the end of a more than 1000 day imprisonment in China. The Michael’s were taken prisoner shortly after Meng Wanzhou was arrested at the Vancouver airport in late 2018.
- While Meng was living in a Vancouver mansion the two Michael’s were subject to horrible conditions in prison.
- Early Saturday the two men arrived home in Calgary and were greeted in person by Justin Trudeau.
- After they arrived home, the Prime Minister tweeted, “Welcome home, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. You’ve shown incredible strength, resilience, and perseverance. Know that Canadians across the country will continue to be here for you, just as they have been.”
- Kovrig then boarded another plane and flew home to Toronto.
- In underscoring how cautious both sides were in this, the plane that left Beijing and arrived in Vancouver to pick up Meng Wanzhou took very careful attention to avoid US airspace on the way here increasing its route time.
- This now raises the question of what to do about China going forward.
- China denies that the cases were linked at all and maintained that the charges against the Huawei executive were “purely fabricated” and that "It has long been a fully proven fact that this is an incident of political persecution against a Chinese citizen, an act designed to hobble Chinese high-tech companies.” according to a statement put out by China’s foreign ministry.
- China says they released Kovrig and Spavor “on bail” for health reasons. What this means is that the two men can never safely set foot in Asia again and if China was really brazen, could even be at risk here at home.
- We also need to begin the process of parsing what this means for all interactions with China going further.
- This was clearly a case of hostage diplomacy. The only reason the two Michael’s are back home is because the Biden administration granted Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou a deferred prosecution agreement on the fraud charges in question.
- Canada has been pushing for the Biden administration to broker for our two men back and the question was always, would China ask for more?
- Would China ask for Meng Wanzhou and not return the Michael’s?
- Would China ask for Justin Trudeau to attend the upcoming Winter Olympic opening ceremonies?
- Would China ask for the Government of Canada to approve Huawei’s 5G technology in Canada?
- So far, we’re not aware that there are any strings attached to the deal for Canada.
- These are all questions that we need to answer going forward.
- What are we going to do when it comes to Canadian businesses operating in China with the clear stance now that China is not safe for business?
- Should all Canadians avoid travelling to China?
- Despite Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor being released, 115 Canadians are still in Chinese prisons. There’s also the case of Robert Schellenberg being initially sentenced to 15 years then sentenced to death for apparently drug dealing in the country.
- The story about foreigners that China continues to hold, in particular Canadians, needs to be addressed.
- We also have to decide if we’re going to the Winter Olympics. Beijing recently announced that only Chinese nationals will be able to spectate due to COVID-19.
- The biggest question though, is will we finally join the consensus of the Five Eyes security alliance and ban Huawei 5G technology from Canada?
- These are just the beginning of the questions that need to be answered. Canadians and most of our typical governments are light on foreign policy.
- This is a time for Canada to have a principled foreign policy where we are loyal to our friends and allies.
- This also means clamping down Chinese influence in our real estate sectors, high tech industry, and other influenceable parts of the economy and government.
- And perhaps the biggest, confronting China on their fentanyl dealers and the deadly narcotics that they allow to be smuggled into North America.
- Senator Yuen Pau Woo who happens to be Singaporean has been sympathetic to China recently.
- Following the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor and the return of Meng Wanzhou, Senator Woo tweeted, “A happy day for #MichaelKovrig #MichaelSpavor #mengwanzhou and their families. Kudos to Ambassador Barton @GAC_Corporate for skilful triangulation. Today is a day to savour the return of our compatriots. But let’s not miss the opportunity to reflect on lessons learned. WDYT?”
- Now a Canadian viewing this for the first time would take this to mean, what did we learn about how we need to be harsher on China? But Senator Woo means it in that what did we learn when it comes to not acting in the interests of the US and that we should have acquiesced to China.
- When it came to the vote on declaring China’s actions against the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims a genocide Woo called the exercise “gratuitous” and “simply an exercise in labelling.”
- The Senate of Canada should take actions to suspend Senator Yuen Pau Woo from the Senate as they did with Lynn Beyak who was suspended for racist comments made against Indigenous people.
- Canada enjoyed the moment of jubilation as our citizens came home. Let’s be happy about it now but the government needs to re-attune our China policy as soon as the situation allows.
- The B.C. government has finally admitted that daily, it under-reports the number of people recovering in hospital from the after effects of COVID-19. The undercount was almost 50 per cent below the actual number of hospitalizations in an example provided by the health ministry in a belated response to media requests.
- On Tuesday of last week, the ministry had reported there were 332 individuals in hospital including 155 in intensive care. Then on Friday the ministry admitted that a further 152 pandemic-connected patients were still in hospital in what was characterized as “discontinued isolation.” Once those were included, the hospitalization count was 484, an increase of 46 per cent over what the ministry had reported Tuesday.
- The Ministry of Health tried to explain the discrepancy: “Once a patient in critical care is no longer infectious with COVID-19, the patient is removed from daily critical-care totals. For most cases, isolation is discontinued after 10 days, provided there is no fever and symptoms are improving. For serious cases, the guideline is 20 days.”
- Discontinued isolation does not necessarily mean the patient is out of the hospital however. COVID-19 may trigger other complications in some patients, while others are beset by longer term complications of the disease: “This means some patients who entered hospital or critical care as a COVID-19 patient may no longer be counted as COVID-19 patients once they are no longer infectious, even though they remain in hospital.”
- By remaining in hospital, they of course are still using up staffing, beds and other resources. Their numbers can also provide a glimpse of the still poorly understood problem of long haulers — patients plagued by lingering symptoms of COVID-19 such as fatigue, breathlessness and the cognitive dysfunction known as brain fog, for weeks and even months after contracting the disease.
- The ministry was at a loss to adequately explain the reasons for the withholding, apart from some gobbledygook about data being compiled for different purposes and reported in different ways.
- “This helps to understand the impact of the pandemic on the population (e.g., what percentage of people with COVID-19 require hospital care) and plan public-health measures,” claimed the ministry.
- One shudders to think how long it took for the government’s vast communications apparatus to come up with a statement as worthless, as insulting, as misleading as that The health ministry confessed to the revised case count in what was billed as an “information bulletin,” as if it were some sort of spontaneous public service announcement.
- Rather, it came in response to more than a week’s worth of questions from reporter Penny Daflos of CTV. She had been tipped about the undercount and persisted asking in the face of ministry stonewalling. Nor was that the only recent instance of the John Horgan government being called out for failing to live up to its much-trumpeted promises of “openness and transparency.”
- On Thursday the Capital Daily, an online newspaper, headlined a COVID-19 coverup involving Victoria’s unsheltered population. Drawing on leaked public health documents stamped “for internal use only,” reporter Brishti Basu detailed how “a total of 225 people living in shelters and on the streets in Victoria have tested positive for COVID-19 throughout the first three weeks of September.” The source, unnamed to protect his job, was a front line worker concerned about the health risks to residents and staffers alike.
- Also last week the government was forced to reverse its stance against reporting school outbreaks, after being confronted with evidence regarding the Sir James Douglas elementary school a few blocks from the provincial legislature.
- The school was keeping a lid on the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak. However on Sept. 17 some parents, sharing details among themselves and concerned that they were unable to get the full story about the spread, told reporter Keith Baldrey of Global TV, who lives across the street from the school. Baldrey relayed the concern to Health Minister Adrian Dix.
- Then on Tuesday of last week Dr. Bonnie Henry, perhaps prodded by Dix, announced the reversal.
- “Initially it was my understanding that there was a level of anxiety from the way that we had given broad school notifications last year. But we hear from parents across the province, I hear from educators, and our teams have recognized that parents do need an authoritative source to have an understanding of what’s happening at their children's schools. I’ve asked our team to make sure that we can notify schools in a timely, less intrusive, and more sustainable way and I hope to have that in place by the end of this week.”
- Premier John Horgan insisted he had no “regrets” about having to backtrack. The government’s only intention in withholding information about school outbreaks was to “reduce anxiety for parents and families.”
- It's hard to see how it would reduce anxiety for parents to be told that they would NOT be told the details of any outbreak at their child’s school. Especially when Dr. Henry herself says the Delta variant is more transmissible than earlier versions of COVID-19, especially amongst the unvaccinated, which includes elementary school age children.
- Taken together, the systematic withholding of information may serve a political purpose of making B.C.’s record look better than it is, but it risks undermining the government’s credibility: not just on the claim of openness and transparency, but on critical public health messaging like the safety of vaccines and the need for everyone to get vaccinated.
- It's remarkable with such duplicity that the BC government's response is still considered better than Alberta's, despite being only a bit ahead of the curve on both cases and protective measures. What's worse, a government that openly gives information about the 4th wave and treads a middle line to appease a vocal majority, or a government that actively tries to cover up information solely to make itself look better than it is?
- September 30th marked the first national Truth and Reconciliation Day. The day set aside was one for which Canadians were asked and should remember the residential school system and the horrors it brought to the Indigenous population.
- Premiers of all stripes marked the day in ceremony with Elders and statements and taking part in orange shirt day.
- The Prime Minister delivered remarks on the eve of Truth and Reconciliation Day but was slated to be in private meetings in Ottawa on Thursday.
- This was until the eagle eyed spotted the VIP Government of Canada passenger carrier landing in Tofino BC.
- The itinerary was later updated to say that he would be in private meetings but Tofino BC. The skeptical will say that the PMO would have hoped that no one would have noticed a plane leaving Ottawa and landing in Tofino and people would assume the PM was just in Ottawa.
- There were numerous days like this in the election campaign where he was listed in private meetings in Ottawa but no one tracked the callsign, CANFORCE 1, on those days.
- Was Trudeau on vacation then? There’s no way of knowing.
- Later Global BC caught up with who was on that plane and it was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself.
- When Global BC reporter Jordan Armstrong tried to question the PM on the beach, there was no response and soon after the RCMP protective detail moved to increase the distance between the journalists and the Prime Minister.
- Why is this such a big deal?
- Justin Trudeau was invited by numerous First Nations including the Tk’emlúpsTeSecwépemc (pronounced Te-KEM-lups-te-suh-WEP-muhc) Nation to join survivors and make remarks in person, this Nation happens to be in BC.
- The reporting says that Justin Trudeau spoke with survivors by phone on the plane enroute to BC but is now spending a 4-day weekend in Tofino with family.
- This is an incredibly tone deaf response for a government to take that based part of an entire campaign in 2015 on pursuing the full path of Truth and Reconciliation.
- This comes on a week when the Government of Canada lost a court battle against Indigenous Children.
- In 2019, the tribunal found that Ottawa had wilfully and recklessly discriminated against Indigenous children on reserve by failing to provide funding for child and family services. The government requested a judicial review of the tribunal which effectively amounts to children to court an effort to not have to pay up to $40,000 to First Nations children who were unnecessarily taken into care on or after Jan 1, 2006.
- This was a story that made its way briefly into the election campaign but we moved on so quickly that it barely registered in the eyes of Canadians.
- This story was made even worse by the fact that it made its way into international media.
- Reuters and the BBC both had reports that were much more frank than what Canadian media softballed in.
- Reuters ran with the headline, “Canada's Trudeau draws fire for holiday on first national indigenous holiday” and the BBC ran with “Truth and Reconciliation: Trudeau slammed for taking vacation”
- Both outlets condemned the hypocrisy around his decision and highlighted reaction from Indigenous communities to their international audiences.
- The BBC had comment from Grand Chief Stewart Philip, with the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs saying, "Justin Trudeau's arrogant dismissal of the Tk'emlúps invitation represents a slap in the face to all IRS [indigenous residential school] Survivors, especially grieving families of the children that never came home.”
- Reuters had a comment from Lynne Groulx, Native Women’s Association of Canada chief executive who said, "This is a government that has said indigenous people are (the) most important priority for the government, and that action ... does not match the words.”
- Former Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould also chimed in on Twitter in response to one of the Prime Minister’s official tweets saying, “True reconciliation begins with showing up.”
- This is where the story becomes truly absurd because the official account for the Prime Minister of Canada tweeted, “The new Survivors’ Flag is an expression of remembrance to honour residential school survivors, their families, and communities. Today on the #NDTR, it is flying at the Office of the Prime Minister as a symbol of the Government of Canada’s commitment to advancing reconciliation.”
- The Prime Minister’s personal account also championed speaking by phone to survivors on the day of, but it neglected the bit where he was in the air.
- NDP Opposition MP Charlie Angus responded to that phone call tweet saying, “So now Justin is saying he made a few calls on his way to the beach. Can you imagine any Prime Minister sending out a tweet to explain that he spent Remembrance Day at the beach but called some veterans on his way? This wasn't meant to be a day off Justin.”
- Charlie Angus has a record of holding the Trudeau government’s feet to the fire and that’s fine.
- It’s also on that day that NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Conservative leader Erin O’Toole looked more Prime Ministerial than the Prime Minister himself.
- September 30th was supposed to be a day of remembrance for all but Justin Trudeau turned it into a vacation and will probably use his transgression as an example of how we can all learn to understand things better despite experiencing them differently.
Word of the Week
Reconciliation - the act of two people or groups of people coming together peacefully on a resolution after a disagreement or conflict
Quote of the Week
“So now Justin is saying he made a few calls on his way to the beach. Can you imagine any Prime Minister sending out a tweet to explain that he spent Remembrance Day at the beach but called some veterans on his way? This wasn't meant to be a day off Justin.” - NDP MP Charlie Angus on Justin Trudeau’s trip to the beach.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Reconciliation at the Beach
Teaser: The BC Supreme Court lifts the injunction on Fairy Creek protestors, the Two Michaels return to Canada, and the BC government misleads us on hospital stats. Also, Trudeau spends the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation at the beach in Tofino.
Recorded Date: October 1, 2021
Release Date: October 3, 2021
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes