Court quashes Elaho valley injunction, citing right to protest

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Mr Justice Vickers yesterday, June 6, issued an eagerly anticipated decision relating to the dispute between loggers and protesters in the Elaho Valley. In the case of International Forest Products v. Kern et al. Mr. Justice Vickers set aside the injunction given to Interfor by Mr. Justice Parrett on September 17, 1999. The basis upon which the injunction was set aside was the court’s finding of illegal activity on the part of employees of the forestry company.

In the course of his reasons for judgment, Mr. Justice Vickers set out the importance of protecting public interest issues including the right to lawfully protest, the right of public access to public forests, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, rights which were emphasized in the arguments presented by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, intervenors on the application.

Mr. Justice Vickers held:

Preserving the legitimate interests of those who wish to lawfully protest, the interests of the media in fairly reporting on the events and the right of the public to access public forests must all be borne in mind in the drafting of an order.

On the application, John Dives, counsel for the BCCLA, argued that, if the injunction were to remain in place, it should be restricted in its scope so that it would not restrain the lawful activities of non-parties. While holding that it was unnecessary to decide this issue having set aside the injunction, Mr. Justice Vickers concluded that any injunction granted by the court should not be so wide as to enjoin non-parties from doing something that does not affect the private rights of the parties before the court.

Mr. Justice Vickers was also critical of the failure of law enforcement officials to deal with these logging protests such that the burden falls upon the courts. The result in this case is that persons are now serving jail sentences for breaching a court order which has now been set aside.