Canadian Judge Jails Two Anti-Logging Protesters for a Year
By Neville Judd
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada, September 18, 2000 (ENS) - Only the prison sentences were harsher than the comments handed down Friday by British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Glen Parrett to eight people found guilty of charges relating to protests of logging old growth trees in the Elaho Valley.
Along with Christopher Nolan, Christopher Keats, Reasha Wolfe and Justin Paine, both were found guilty of criminal contempt of court for violating a B.C. Supreme Court injunction against protests that interfered with legal logging operations in the Elaho Valley, 170 kilometers (105 miles) north of Vancouver.
The Elaho is the last significant grove of old growth forest in B.C.'s Lower Mainland region. Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedars date back more than a thousand years and the area is home to B.C.'s southern most population of grizzly bears and endangered species, including the spotted owl.
Environment groups such as the Western Canada Wilderness Committee (WCWC) have long campaigned for the Elaho to be part of a national park called the Stoltmann Wilderness, named after late B.C. mountaineer and environmentalist Randy Stoltmann.
Vancouver based International Forest Products (Interfor) is licensed by the provincial government to log in the Elaho and has obtained several court injunctions to try to prevent protesters from interfering with its work. This has not deterred dozens of people from demonstrating their opposition by various means of civil disobedience.
"They are the furthest thing from heroes, however noble their cause," said Justice Parrett of the protesters prior to sentencing Friday. He attacked the "arrogance and contempt" of what he called the "foot soldiers" of the environmental movement, and read out the dictionary definition of "hypocrisy."
In a statement read to the court before sentencing, Betty Krawczyk explained her role in the Elaho protests by describing how she had witnessed her home state of Louisiana lose two thirds of its wetlands to logging, draining and filling of the bayous.
"I grew up with alligators, pelicans, wild cats and flamingos, with creeks and streams so full of catfish and crawfish no one need ever go hungry," she said. "Two thirds of the wetlands are gone, as are most of the wildlife and the summers have become so hot because of the climate moderating wetlands that even born and bred southerners are wondering if they have already died and gone to hell."
Of Krawczyk, Justice Parrett conceded, "She, at least, has the courage of her convictions."
Lawyer Robert Fleming, who represents Wolfe and Nolan, declined to comment on the severity of the sentencing. Wolfe received three months and Nolan, two months.
During the trial, Fleming unsuccessfully petitioned Justice Parrett to step down because of his disparaging remarks about the protesters, which he argued, indicated the judge's bias against the defendants.
Fleming described Wolfe and Nolan as being in good spirits on Monday.
Joe Foy of WCWC was less reserved in his summation of the trial. Foy said Justice Parrett's comments incited disrespect for the courts.
"I found Mr. Parrett's assertion that the environmental protesters were trying to get Interfor's workers to overreact and to beat them up, to be particularly offensive and distasteful," said Foy.
"No one wants to be beaten up, and every one has a right to expect to be protected from violent bullies. Such comments from the bench would never be tolerated regarding race or sexual assaults."
"The brave women and men who, acting in an honorable and non-violent manner, tried to stop Interfor's logging of thousand year old trees in the Elaho Valley will be judged kindly by history," said Foy.
Five Interfor employees face assault charges to be heard in December in connection with an incident in the Elaho Valley last September, which sent three conservationists to the hospital.
General manager of Interfor's South Coast Operations Keith Rush said he was mildly surprised by the severity of some of the sentences handed down last week.
"I think the previous sentences back in May or June were tending to get longer, but given the conduct of Barney [Kearn] and his repeated flaunting of court orders, and Betty [Krawczyk], having been arrested numerous times, maybe it's not so surprising," said Rush.
On May 26, Justice Parrett jailed four people who broke a court order for terms ranging between 14 and 56 days.
"It's the flaunting of the rule of law in court, not the process of blocking roads, that account for the harsher sentences."
Rush said due public process had already taken place during the provincial government's land use planning and protected areas strategy, which led to the Clendenning watershed being protected as a park.
"The Clendenning is a huge area of trees far superior to those in the Elaho. The groups still disrupting our work opted out of the public process."
Rush said he doubted whether the jail terms would win more public sympathy for the protesters.
"I think the public wants peace in the woods."