Protesters from the Fairy Creek old-growth logging blockades say their belongings are being improperly removed and treated as garbage by industry.
The forest company operating in the area in question says most of the items in question were either in defiance of the injunction against the blockades or abandoned.
People at the blockade say the RCMP is allowing Teal Jones — which owns the logging rights to Tree Farm Licence 46, including the Fairy Creek watershed — to take out dumpster-loads of their belongings and dispose of them at area waste disposal facilities.
According to protester Carole Toothill, most of the items are coming from camps which are not blocking roads or directly impeding industry, and thus should be exempt from the BC Supreme Court injunction. In addition to protesters, the camps house supporters and legal observers. Kitchens and medical tents have been torn down and disposed of along with other tents and living quarters, Toothill said.
Toothill says that photos provided by the RCMP of ramshackle camps full of garbage were taken after raids, and that most of the time, the camps are well-maintained.
“Overall, everything has been beautifully managed,” she said.
Teal Jones says it is just cleaning up the mess protesters left behind.
“Teal Jones has an obligation to keep roads in TFL 46 clear, so it has to be cleaned up, and that falls to the company. To do this, Teal Jones has contracted licensed firms to secure and return personal effects left behind at abandoned protestor camps or after arrests are made,” the company said in a statement. “Garbage and debris is gathered based on advice from the RCMP.
“The overwhelming majority of the material Teal Jones removes is garbage. The thousands of pounds of garbage removed by Teal Jones’ employees includes tarps, tires, buckets, plastic garbage, rebar, PVC pipes, wheelbarrows, spoiled food, wet clothing, diapers, personal hygiene products, lawn chairs, mattresses, used furniture and other remnants of the unauthorized camps and structures the blockaders left behind.”
RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Chris Manseau said personal items taken from Fairy Creek are being stored by Teal Jones, and people need to reach out to the company in order to have it returned.
”Teal Jones makes good faith efforts to remove any personal effects before disposing the garbage,” the company statement said. “Teal Jones has also returned personal effects in accordance with requests from the Rainforest Flying Squad’s liaisons. The process for reclaiming property is clearly communicated to blockaders.”
Toothill disputes this claim and says most items are disposed of indiscriminately.
“It does not get sorted,” she insisted. “It gets taken straight to the dump. We’ve probably lost tens of thousands of dollars worth of stuff.”
Toothill said she and her companions recognized stuff from one of the Fairy Creek camps in a dumpster at the Duncan-area Bings Creek waste facility. One of them was able to retrieve a blanket, but employees wouldn’t let them into the dumpster to retrieve the rest of the items, and police from the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment refused to help.
Manseau said that protesters have been given chances to remove their items before they are confiscated and that police have made efforts to return items when possible.
“Persons not wishing to be arrested have been given the opportunity to transport belongings left at sites for those being escorted from the area,” he said. “Through conversations with members conducting the enforcement, items such as bags, tents, medication and even drones, that have been located have been returned to their rightful owners.”
In addition to tents and other belongings, protesters say they have also had their vehicles removed and damaged by Teal Jones or its contractors.
Vehicles that are towed by Teal Jones, the protesters say, are held in private lots that aren’t designated as vehicle impound lots, and the valuables are removed. Protesters are required to pay $2,500 to get their vehicles back.
The vehicles being towed are in direct contravention of the injunction, Teal Jones said.
“Only those vehicles identified by RCMP as being illegally parked are being removed,” the company stated. “The cost of retrieving vehicles reflects the expense of towing vehicles out of a remote area, storage and security, and the damage done to Teal Jones.
“In some cases vehicle owners have removed their tires, positioned their vehicle at a narrow point, and taken other steps to hinder access and make removal as difficult as possible. That strongly indicates the people parking those vehicles know they’re doing so illegally. Obviously, anyone parking a vehicle in direct contravention of a court-ordered injunction should expect that vehicle will be towed.”
Manseau said any seized vehicles are not the responsibility of the RCMP.