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RCMP conduct over Argenta protest questioned

A cluster of organizations have filed a formal complaint with the Civilian Complaints Commission for the RCMP after the arrests of 19 people.

Last Stand West Kootenay, the Autonomous Sinixt, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the Wilderness Committee, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, Mount Willet Wilderness Forever, From the Heart Kootenays and Fridays for Future Nelson have stated that 19 individuals were arrested before they had the chance to clear the roadway in accordance with a court-ordered injunction.

Police enforced an injunction at the site of the demonstration on Salisbury Creek Forest Road, near Argenta, while Cooper Creek Cedar was trying to start logging in the forest known as the Argenta-Johnsons Landing Face.

According to the complaint filed on July 21, “the 2019 Salisbury injunction prohibits activities that impede, restrict, or impede Cooper Creek Cedar’s use of the road. It does not and could not lawfully prohibit the right of the defendants to continue to peacefully protest Cooper Creek Cedar’s operations.

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“It appears to us that the mass arrests of individuals who were not breaching the injunction were unlawfully carried out as an intimidation tactic to clear the camp and dissuade further unlawful protests to the opposition of Cooper Creek Cedar’s logging,” states the report.

“The arrests that were carried out by the C-IRG [Community-Incident Response Group] also deprived victims of the essential right to engage in peaceful protest and is a violation of their Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” says the document. 

“I was arrested at the bottom of Grouse Camp on Salisbury Creek Road on May 17, I was not blocking traffic and told the RCMP that I wanted to go home,” Beatrice Massara, one of the people arrested at the demonstration, said in the complaint. “I was not given the opportunity to leave the road prior to being arrested and they did not read the injunction to me.”

Massara, 76, has had two hip replacements and said she was  forced to walk over eight kilometers home after being released.

“I was present at Grouse Camp and was not arrested, but I witnessed our police liaisons and legal observers arrested when they were not blocking the road,” says Reyna Rose Brown, a bystander to the arrests. 

“When others stepped in to fill those roles, they were also arrested. Individuals were arrested without any previous warning, without an opportunity to leave or even without being read their rights.”

Between 2019 and this spring there was no protest activity in the area, but there has been a strong opposition to Cooper Creek Cedar logging activities in the Argenta Johnson Landing forest well before 2019.

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, created by Parliament in 1988, reviews all conduct complaints about the RCMP. If the commission is satisfied with the RCMP’s handling of the complaint then a “satisfied report” is issued to the RCMP Commissioner, the Minister of Public Safety, the complainant, and the officer or officers involved in the incident. 

Should the commission file a “non-satisfaction report” then the chairperson will issue an interim report that outlines the recommendations directed to the RCMP with a copy of the report going to the above mentioned parties. 

The commission is independent of the RCMP.

Seventeen of the 19 people, who are charged with civil contempt of court, were arrested on May 17 and the other two on June 1.

They made a first court appearance on Tuesday. Court was adjourned to August 15, but due to the unavailability of defense counsel it is not known when they will appear next.

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