British Columbia’s Court of Appeal overturned a lower-court ruling Wednesday and extended an injunction against old-growth logging protests until September on Vancouver Island.
In a unanimous decision, a panel of three judges granted the appeal by forestry company Teal Cedar Products Ltd. of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that denied the company’s application to extend the injunction by one year.
More than 1,100 people have been arrested while protesting old-growth logging in the Fairy Creek area near Port Renfrew.
“The public interest in upholding the rule of law continues to be the dominant public interest in cases involving civil disobedience against a private entity,” says the written decision from the panel.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson refused to extend the injunction last September, saying police enforcement led to serious infringements of civil liberties including freedom of the press.
He also said the factors in favour of extending the injunction did not outweigh the public interest in protecting the court’s reputation.
However, the Appeal Court’s decision said the court’s reputation isn’t depreciated by granting an injunction to stop unlawful conduct.
“The conduct of police does not tarnish the reputation of the court; the court and police are constitutionally independent,” the decision says.
A lawyer for Teal Cedar argued during a two-day Appeal Court hearing in November that the company has the right to pursue its economic interests while facing an organized protest campaign that disrupts its legal right to harvest timber.
Company lawyer Dean Dalke told the court the rule of law must be upheld, and the lower-court judge erred in concluding the court’s reputation would be diminished by continuing the injunction.
The panel agreed with the company.
“In conclusion, and with respect, we are of the view that the judge erred by giving weight to irrelevant considerations and by giving too little weight to the public interest in upholding the rule of law, which must be the dominant consideration in all cases involving significant and persistent acts of civil disobedience.”
Lawyer Malcom Funt, representing the protesters, known as the Rainforest Flying Squad, told the court in November the company has the right to defend its economic interests, but others also have rights to lawful protest and freedom of expression and movement.
Funt said there are limits to a company’s economic and private-industry rights.
A temporary injunction preventing protests against logging activities in the area had been in place since September.
—The Canadian Press