Four environmental advocacy groups are jointly calling for a review of actions taken by RCMP officers enforcing a court injunction against old-growth logging protesters last year.
Considered by supporters as one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in Canadian history, the in-forest protests saw more than a thousand arrests made. Participants camped out in Vancouver Island forests, including the Fairy Creek watershed, over the months-long enforcement that resulted in clashes between demonstrators and police.
The groups claim the police actions infringed on 13 charter rights of protesters and want a Civilian Review and Complaints Commission investigation into what they call improper and unlawful actions by the RCMP’s Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG).
The joint complaint was submitted to the commission Aug. 10 by Elders for Ancient Trees, Rainforest Flying Squad, Legal Observers of Victoria and Social Environmental Alliance.
The infringements cited include deploying excessive force against people engaged in non-violent civil disobedience, subjecting individuals to unlawful and unreasonable searches, discriminatory treatment, blocking roads outside the injunction zone and more.
“No one is above the law, including police officers,” Keith Cherry, one of the request submitters, said in a release. “When those who are meant to enforce laws consistently and flagrantly disobey the law we have to act.”
A spokesperson for the commission said while those who file complaints are welcome to make their allegations public, the civilian body doesn’t confirm the receipt of complaints related to RCMP officer conduct for privacy reasons. Black Press Media has also asked the RCMP to comment on the joint complaint.
The Community-Industry Response Group was created in 2017 to provide what the RCMP calls “strategic oversight addressing energy industry incidents and related public order, national security and crime issues.” Its webpage states the role of the unit is to facilitate peaceful resolution of public disorder issues and ensure a consistent, standardized and impartially administered police response.
“From the Trans Mountain pipeline to Wet’suwet’en territories, from Fairy Creek to Argenta, C-IRG routinely violates the rights of Canadians and Indigenous peoples to secure the interests of corporations,” Cherry said.
The complaint filing includes 73 witness statements alleging the C-IRG and other RCMP units embarked on a widespread campaign of excessive force, breaches of civil liberties and human rights violations against civilian protesters.
“C-IRG’s conduct raises troubling questions about the rule of law that requires action by provincial and federal officials,” said Ben Isitt, a member of the legal team representing several witnesses and a City of Victoria councillor.
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