CRCC review of RCMP C-IRG actions at logging protest near Argenta continues more than a year after it began

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Photo: “RCMP arrest and remove the protester’s designated police liaison representative shortly after arriving to enforce the injunction and break up the camp on the Salisbury Forest Service Road at the north end of Kootenay Lake.” Photo by Louis Bockner.

The Trail Times reports: “An independent review of RCMP actions in shutting down a 2022 logging protest near Argenta is still underway [more than] a year after it began, and the lawyer representing the people who were arrested says the delay is predictable.”

“Noah Ross, a Denman Island-based lawyer representing the arrested protesters, said the delays are an indication that as Canadians we do not value ‘timely, impactful police accountability’ as much as we value ‘getting people off the road so industry can happen’.”

Photo: Noah Ross.

The article continues: “Ross thinks the investigation should be about ‘officer misconduct’, not just about policies and systemic issues. ‘It’s not about what the complainants were most interested in, which was having an independent investigator look at RCMP conduct,’ Ross said.”

C-IRG operations should be stopped

A year ago, on March 17, 2023, the Kimberly Bulletin had reported: “Noah Ross, a lawyer who represents [Last Stand West Kootenay], told the Nelson Star that he thinks the CIRG should be disbanded, or at least its operations should be stopped, while the investigation is underway, because the unit committed a number of human rights violations while making its Argenta arrests.”

That article adds: “He said the CIRG created a large exclusion zone that blocked local residents from accessing their homes and travelling on a public road. The officers sealed the whole area off, he said, and aggressively arrested many people who were not actually blocking the road. ‘It seems a lot of these human rights violations or charter rights violations were planned into their operations,’ Ross said.”

Systemic investigation launched on March 9, 2023

The terms of reference for the CRCC systemic investigation launched on March 9, 2023, notes: “The file review will focus on the C-IRG’s governance, command and control, and operational planning, as well as its activities and enforcement operations with respect to at least three sites [including] the Cooper Creek Cedar Ltd injunction on Salisbury Creek Forestry Road.”

C-IRG arrests on Argenta forest service road

In May 2022, the C-IRG arrested 17 people positioned near the bottom of a forest service road at the north end of Kootenay Lake, near Kaslo.

As Louis Bockner has reported in The Narwhal: “[The road] was being occupied in an effort to protect a 6,200-hectare strip of forest surrounded by a provincial wilderness conservancy. Parts of the area, known as the Argenta-Johnsons Landing face, were set to be logged by Cooper Creek Cedar Ltd. in April [2022]. Due to the occupation, three weeks had passed without a chainsaw or feller buncher roaring to life.”

That article adds: “’It’s brutal that people got arrested that had no intention to’, says Noah Ross, a lawyer who is representing many of those arrested. ‘It’s scary and [there’s] a lot of stress and expenses.’”

“According to Ross, who is also representing land defenders arrested at Fairy Creek, the RCMP’s approach to land defenders has changed in the last decade. He’s observed an increase in the use of exclusion zones — areas where members of the press and legal observers are denied access in the name of creating safe work areas for officers.”

“Ross sees this as an escalation in tactics by the Community-Industry Response Group and believes that the arrests of people wishing to peacefully protest were unlawful. ‘It sounds like there were a couple of arrests of people in hardblocks, which were reasonable,’ Ross says. ‘But I don’t know that any of the other [people] were properly arrestable under the injunction.’”

The article further notes: “Ross says the same troubling approach was taken in November [2021] on Wet’suwet’en territory. ‘It seems like there’s a culture of non-accountability to civil liberties within [the Community-Industry Response Group], where they’re willing to kind of go beyond the injunction in order to try and break a camp,’ adding that extending that to a small blockade in the Kootenays just seems ‘completely out of historical tradition in relation to rural forests.’”

Webinar on C-IRG violence

To watch our 1-hour webinar from April 16, 2023, that features Bockner speaking about the situation at Argenta, click here.

That webinar also features powerful presentations from Wet’suwet’en land defender Jocey Alec, Professor Tia Dafnos, and frontline activist Molly Murphy. The panel was moderated by PBI-Canada Board member Phil Henderson.

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