Sunshine Coast RCMP arrested 10 more logging protesters on lower Mount Elphinstone Monday after they were called in to enforce a Supreme Court injunction.
Some protesters fled into the woods and later complained they were not given enough time to remove their vehicles before the arrests started, but police said the protesters had ample time to clear out.
“They were all given an opportunity to leave and some did,” Sgt. Mike McCarthy told Coast Reporter. “Time was not an issue. It was people making a personal choice to stay and some not to.”
About half the protesters left the site without being arrested, McCarthy estimated. The 10 arrested were taken to the Sechelt RCMP detachment and several tow trucks removed the vehicles from the site.
“There’s no flexibility in the order,” McCarthy said. “It’s what a Supreme Court judge is asking us to do.”
Five protesters were released later that day on an undertaking to appear in Supreme Court at a later date. The other five, including two who had been arrested the previous week for violating the injunction, appeared before the Supreme Court in Vancouver the next day and were released on an undertaking to return on Dec 14.
The five who attended court were Penny Singh, Matthew Winfield, Douglas Fugee, David Quinn and William Mann, court documents show.
The decision to send only half the protesters to court was “based on the totality of the circumstances,” McCarthy said, declining to elaborate further as the case is still a civil matter.
One of those arrested and initially released, 79-year-old shíshálh (Sechelt) elder Xwu’p’a’lich Barb Higgins, sat in the front seat of the police cruiser when she was taken in and was held in a waiting room instead of a jail cell at the Sechelt detachment.
“They handled me differently because I’m an Indian and that’s my land and they know it,” Higgins said Tuesday outside the District of Sechelt office, where about 80 people gathered for a demonstration.
Higgins said three other women who had been arrested were allowed to sit with her in the waiting room, and police left the door ajar because one of the three, her daughter Hollyanne, is claustrophobic.
“They really treated us well,” she said.
Hans Penner of Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) was one of the protesters who did not get arrested.
“Before the majority of the RCMP cruisers came up, one group went into the forest, to protect it from inside basically, and I was one of those,” Penner said.
Speaking at Tuesday’s demonstration, Penner called the bust “a massive police action, well planned ahead of time.”
He said ELF was calling on Powell River - Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons and the B.C. government to investigate the Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF) and suspend its licence, pending the outcome of the investigation.
“There’s a good chance there’s going to be a change in government and this has to be looked at right from day one,” Penner said, describing SCCF as “a group of loggers who want to log some of the last natural forest left on the Coast.”
Contacted Wednesday, SCCF president and CEO Glen Bonderud said the board’s direction is following the marching orders set by the provincial government.
“The province is the landlord, and they make the rules,” Bonderud said.
During Tuesday’s demonstration, the group joined hands to form a circle with Higgins in the centre, and the elder said a prayer to the Creator, asking for divine guidance to all parties involved in the dispute.
The day prior to the arrest, Higgins and members of her family had moved a camping trailer to the site and posted a “No Access” sign, declaring it territory of the shíshálh people.
On Monday, just hours before the arrests, the shíshálh Nation council issued a statement to “all residents of the Sunshine Coast,” confirming that chief and council are the Nation’s elected authority.
“Only chief and council, and individuals properly authorized by chief and council, have the legal authority to act on behalf of the shíshálh Nation,” the statement said. “Members of the nimuhl shishálh tl´extl´ax-min (Sechelt elders) are not representative of the shíshálh Nation council, and have not been authorized by chief and council to deal with matters affecting shíshálh Nation title and rights.”
As of Wednesday, no protesters had returned to the logging site, Bonderud said.