PORT RENFREW, B.C. — The RCMP have begun enforcing a court injunction banning blockade camps set up to prevent logging in areas of southwestern Vancouver Island.
The Mounties are temporarily controlling access to the Fairy Creek watershed area near Port Renfrew to enforce the civil injunction and allow loggers with Teal-Cedar Products to start work, they said in a statement.
A checkpoint has been set up at a forest service road leading into the area and will remain in place until the company has finished its work, it said.
There are enough police officers are in the area to keep the peace, it said.
Kathy Code, a spokesperson for the protesters, said the checkpoint at the McClure forest service road affects their camp at the Caycuse watershed near Cowichan Lake, while another road to Fairy Creek remains accessible.
As of mid-afternoon Monday, Code said the RCMP were not yet blocking that access to Fairy Creek, which is south of the Caycuse area.
The RCMP have indicated they're willing to talk with blockade supporters and assist "with their decision whether they are going to be arrested or not," said Code, who has been involved with the blockades since last August.
The Mounties have issued a 24-hour notice to the group to leave the Caycuse camp, the Rainforest Flying Squad said in a statement Monday.
While there are safe spaces near the blockades for people who don't want to risk arrest, Code said, other supporters are preparing for the possibility they could spend several weeks in jail and face thousands of dollars in fines.
The RCMP have suggested that officers would give those at the campers six hours' notice before moving to make any arrests, Code said.
The Mounties said people who attempt to enter the controlled area at the checkpoint will be turned away unless they meet certain criteria.
Chiefs of the Pacheedaht and Ditidaht First Nations are allowed to enter, as well as B.C. government officials, lawyers, doctors and journalists accompanied by members of the RCMP's communications team, they said.
Other people found in breach of the injunction order and who refuse to leave the controlled area will be arrested, they said.
A designated space for protesters and other observers will be set up within the injunction zone but outside the controlled area, RCMP said.
"This space will be suitably located to allow for peaceful, lawful and safe protest and be visible to employees of Teal-Cedar Products, their contractors, the police and media."
The B.C. Supreme Court granted the injunction April 1, clearing the way for logging activities in Fairy Creek, which protesters say is one of the last unprotected, intact old-growth valleys on southern Vancouver Island.
Teal Jones vice-president Gerrie Kotze said after the injunction was granted that most of the watershed that falls within the company's tenure is unavailable for logging and its plans at Fairy Creek been "mischaracterized."
The company plans to harvest a small area at the head of the watershed, well away from the San Juan River, Kotze said in a statement last month.
— by Brenna Owen in Vancouver
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
The Canadian Press