The Supreme Court of BC granted a local timber company an injunction on Aug. 27 against people who had been blocking a logging road near Argenta since Aug. 16.
Justice Joel Groves ruled that Jessica Ogden, Michael Grabowsky, Tom Prior, Brock Snyder and “persons unknown” must allow Cooper Creek Cedar’s employees free access to the road that leads to an area the company intends to log.
The company applied to the court for the injunction after RCMP declined to attend the blockade without one, the company’s lawyer, Matthew Scheffelmeier, stated at the hearing in Nelson court.
Groves said he would follow an accepted three-part legal test to determine whether an injunction should be granted.
The first is whether there is a fair question to be tried.
Scheffelmeier argued the company, based on its tenure and licensing agreement with the province, has a legal right to use the road to harvest timber. The judge agreed.
The second element of the test, Groves said, was whether the protest blockade will cause irreparable harm to Cooper Creek Cedar.
Scheffelmeier argued the protest would cause delay in the logging operation and a loss of access to future timber because the company would miss a harvesting deadline and hence would suffer a loss of income. He also argued that interference itself amounts to harm, in that the delay could damage the company’s reputation because it could be seen as a company that could not supply its customers in a timely way.
He also said that since the defendants were not property owners and had no other major assets, there would be little chance for the company to recover damages from them in the future.
The defendants argued that the reverse is true.
“I say the same thing about them,” Snyder told the court. “We won’t be able to recover damages [to the environment] from the plaintiff now or in the future. In this time of climate emergency, we don’t have time to wait for the trees to grow back.”
Snyder argued the logging would cause irreparable harm to biodiversity, water quality, wildlife habitat, road safety, flood control, and ecosystem complexity.
“That’s why we are standing on the road,” he said. “It’s a last line of defence. We are getting in the way of their money.”
The judge sided with the company, stating that the larger environmental issues presented by the defendants, while important, were not relevant to the narrower focus of the injunction hearing.
He said the environmental concerns of the group are political, and should be taken up with elected representatives.
“These concerns are justifiable,” he said. “But they are concerns not advanced by illegal activity.”
Ogden said she was not present at the protest except for one hour. Scheffelmaier presented evidence, mostly from Facebook posts, that he said showed Ogden as an organizer and publicist for the event, even if not present.
Prior said he did not block traffic at the site. Scheffelmaier presented evidence in an affidavit of an employee of Cooper Creek Cedar that alleged that Prior did obstruct traffic.
Prior also said the company did not have the right to log because it did not have First Nations consent.
The third part of the test, Groves said, was the balance of convenience between the two parties.
Groves ruled that the company would be more inconvenienced by his not granting the injunction, than the defendants would be inconvenienced by granting it.
“The company has a right to access the road and the right to log,” he said. “The protesters do not have a right to block a road.”