Kevin Murphy
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Criminals or Critics? Reflections on Clayoquot


Over 900 individuals were arrested for blockading the Kennedy Lake logging road during the summer of 1993. Eight hundred sixty of those were brought to trial (Hatch 1994). I was one of them. This mass arrest and following cattle car justice was the result of cumulative public discontent. The public are aware of the corporate vandalism that has and remains to take place on their property. My motivations for participating in this act of civil disobedience grew out of my growing knowledge of the separateness of our economy and our ecology. Labeling their decision the "Clayoquot Compromise", the government standard ‘decide, announce and defend’ (D.A.D) planning process was recognized and rejected by the public. Those who recognized the obvious economic and ecological damage of doing business as usual in Clayoquot were forced to leave the planning process as the government allowed the trans-national logging companies, MacMillan Bloedel and International Forest Products, to continue logging operations while land use debates were under way. The government did not recognize the public awareness of the situation and continued the process without full interest participation. The result, the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. This event denotes a shift in public sentiment regarding wasteful industrial forestry practices from that of being a necessary evil to becoming a criminal act that will no longer be tolerated (Pendleton 1995).

On November 23rd, 1993, I stood before Mr. Justice Hutchinson of the Supreme Court of British Columbia and pleaded not guilty to a charge of criminal contempt of court. I did however plead guilty to attempts at preserving biodiversity, preventing clear-cut logging in old growth temperate rain forest, addressing unsettled aboriginal land claims and opposing the whole-sale rape of BC’s ecological and economic capital. The outcome, I spent a week in jail and twenty-one days under house arrest with an electronic monitoring device strapped to my ankle. Almost five years latter, I can now reflect on the occurrences of the summer of 1993 and conclude that the arrest of myself and some 900 other individuals was an important and necessary event displaying the publics desire for increasing the intensity of public involvement with regards to our natural resources.

Peace Camp!The Clayoquot Sound protesters, I believe, were the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. An event that brought about massive forest policy change and brought the public to the land use decision tables. Most importantly, however, is the paradoxical situation in which the private sector attempted to use the court system to turn critics into criminals. When the dust settled however, the real criminals in the eyes of the public, were those who perpetuated and clung to the wasteful industrial logging practices that the public now perceived as criminal (Pendleton 1995).


Clear-Cut or Selective Democracy

During the summer of 1993 a beautiful thing happened on a logging road that entered the largest remaining intact temperate rain forest on Vancouver Island. The Clayoquot Sound civil disobedience protest saw over 900 individuals arrested (Hatch 1994). Why was this beautiful? Simply because a diverse group of concerned citizens of not only Canada, but the world, united and enforced clear-cut democracy on those who prefer a more selective approach.

During August, 1989, the Province of British Columbia developed the Clayoquot Sound Sustainable Development Task Force. It’s task, to resolve land use disputes in Clayoquot Sound (Greer and Kucey 1997). The process failed miserably because the "architects" of the process, the BC Ministries of Environment and Regional and Economic Development, failed to implement the "...fundamental precepts of consensus based negotiation" and because the process "...failed to effect the necessary transition from a competitive to a collaborative negotiating orientation" (Darling 1991). It was these architectural flaws that created an environment suitable for a selectively democratic process favouring the corporate/government agenda of continuing single use management, industrial logging.

It was recognized by the Friends of Clayoquot Sound, during the Sulphur Pass conflict (summer of 1988), that BC’s new "Regionalization Framework for Action" called for the reflection of community "...needs and aspirations" and sustainability (Darling 1991). Out of this grew the "...sustainable development strategy for Clayoquot Sound Steering Committee" (Darling 1991). Six months latter a twenty-seven page document was presented to the BC Environment and Land Use Committee. It was rejected by both industry and government and in its place, The Clayoquot Sound Sustainable Development Task Force was announced. It was conceived by a private meeting between the Minister of Environment and the Mayors of Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino. "Neither the Tofino Steering Committee, the Native Bands of Clayoquot Sound, the friends of Clayoquot Sound, nor any other stake holder was consulted or otherwise involved in the meeting" (Darling 1991). In essence, the public involvement process plummeted from the possible total participation level of citizen control to that of complete non-participation; manipulation and therapy (Arnstein 1969). Short term economic gain won out over democratic community involvement. Government and industry opted for the practice of selective democracy over clear-cut democracy.

After spending 12 days in court, a week in prison and 21 days under house arrest, it became very clear to me that democracy is not upheld or enforced by law. It is fought for continuously by responsible individuals who recognize and accept their collective role in the democratic society. The Clayoquot mass trials were largely "show trials" (Hatch p.107). Their purpose, to "show" the public the consequences of civil dissent. A truly democratic system would have dealt with the fundamental issues rather than host a kangaroo court. Insults to democratic society were witnessed daily throughout the entire process. One of these was the refusal by the courts to allow trial by jury. The court injunction applied for and administered by MacMillan and Bloedel set the seen where the criminal offense was not perpetuated against the destructive logging practices of MacMillan Bloedel, but against the judiciary. This created a circumstance where the offended party (who was not evenMy home for a very long week... present for the ‘offense’) was the judiciary. The flaw here is that the offended party was the judge, the jury and the person responsible for passing the sentence! Prominent Vancouver lawyer, Richard Peck, pointed out that historically, contempt trials were conducted by jury (Hatch p.111). There was also a continuous flip flopping of the court as to whether the diverse group of Clayoquot Protectors (aka Protesters) were individuals or a single entity. When it pleased the courts to treat the defendants as a group, they did. And vice versa. For example, as the mass trials progressed, previous interpretations of ideas and events from individual defendants were transposed onto the current defendants and the judge disallowed the current defendant’s interpretation of events. The courts painted a very diverse crowd of 860 people with the same brush. By doing so the court once again ignored the democratic rights of individuals. Perhaps the most flagrant example of the court attacking democracy was Mr. Justice Bouk’s statement that the judiciary is "... sort of allowed to make the rules as (the trials) go along" (Hatch p.108). Law in our society is based on precedent. A justice making up the rules on the fly undermines all ideals of law in a democratic society (Hatch p.108). It is not surprising that as I sat through this circus the lyrics of a Billy Bragg song rang through my mind "...The judge said, ‘This isn’t a court of justice son! This is a court of law!"


The Clayoquot protest became the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. There has been no other circumstance in Canadian history where over 800 people were arrested (and tried) for an act of civil disobedience (Dearden p.236). According to United Nations crime statistics (United Nations Web Page), Canadians are an extremely law abiding society. The average Canadian pedestrian at 4:00 AM would probably wait for the flashing ‘WALK’ sign before venturing to cross a barren intersection. The extreme measures resorted to by the public marked a turning point in government and corporate methods of public involvement. The public wanted their say and they wanted to be heard. This public action also denotes a pivotal point in defining what indeed a criminal act is in BC. Society decided that the current industrial logging practices in BC were in fact criminal acts against not only nature, but public property. The result, the Forest Practices Code and the "criminalization of logging" (Pendleton 1995).

The private trans-national forestry companies, MacMillan Bloedel and International Forest Products, used the law to protect their private interest on public land. The law enabled them to continue their destructive practices, but once the smoke settled, a shift in public sentiment became apparent. The public now view those who destroy ecosystems for short term profit from that of a corporate ‘white collar’ crime to viewing these individuals and corporations as common criminals.

World Views and Motivations

Which restaurant would you prefer: the ‘Block and Cleaver’ or ‘The Common Loaf’? The answer, may lie in your world view. If you happen to subscribe to the expansionist paradigm, your choice may be Ucleulet’s ‘Block and Cleaver’. If, on the other hand, you consider yourself as having a "steady state" or ecological world view, you may prefer Tofino’s ‘The Common Loaf’. The reasoning behind this assumption is that Tofino was forced into recognizing other values than those prescribed by the expansionist paradigm due to a sudden decline in forestry jobs. The 1984 amalgamation of Tree Farm License (TFL) 21, covering Clayoquot sound, and TFL 22, covering the Alberni Valley, the Alberni Canal and Barkley Sound, to form TFL 44 created a situation where, based on economics, industry concentrated it’s cut in areas other than central Clayoquot Sound. This strategy "...further entrenched the industry as the major employer in Ucluelet and Port Alberni" (Darling 1991). A climate suitable for the development of an ecological world view was created in Tofino as the community was forced into recognizing other land use values than timber extraction. Meanwhile, in neighbouring Uclelet, the expansionist paradigm flourished. Passed and present forestry practices near Uclelet created a situation not conducive to other resource values. For example, the view of denuded land is not conducive to tourism. "Thus, the industry’s harvest agenda, driven by corporate rather than community objectives, inadvertently set the stage for conflict" (Darling 1991).

M&B Hired guns read the injunction.
Some of the Mac Blow hired guns read the injunction.
The RCMP gave these individuals access
to private, sensitive records of all arrested.

"Protection of the environment is a responsibility shared by all levels of government as well as by industry , organized labour and individuals." The latter quote is taken directly from the Canadian Environmental Protection Act : Enforcement and Compliance Policy (1993). It, along with many scientific and economic facts are the easily defensible reasons behind my ‘criminal’ actions. The major motivation however, the intrinsic value of our natural world, was a difficult value to defend. The steady state or ecological world view subscribes to the belief that the economy is "...inextricably integrated, completely contained, and a wholly dependent subsystem of the ecosphere" (Rees 1995). Such a philosophy, or as I believe, fact, places many values on nature rather than merely monetary worth. This concept can never be accepted among the current corporate extractive industries. Such a union can only result with the acknowledgment that our economic capital has been irrevocably damaged and society as a whole will recognize what it has lost to the voracious appetite of corporate extractive industry. The expansionist ideal is that we take from the natural resource loop, and convert the raw material into money for the economic loop, assuming that both will grow endlessly. Like our neo-classical economic system, our courts view the intrinsic value of nature as an externality because quantifying it is currently to difficult. The intrinsic values along with the collective social interest; forests, fish (M’Gonigle and Parfitt 1994), clean air and sustainablity were lost in the paper work as the trials rolled on.

Criminals or Critics?

The very essence of individualism is the refusal to mind your own business. This is not a particularly pleasant or easy style of life. It is not profitable, efficient, competitive or rewarded. It often consists of being persistently annoying to others as well as being stubborn and repetitive...

Criticism is perhaps the citizen's primary weapon in the exercise of her legitimacy. That is why, in this corporatist society, conformism, loyalty and silence are so admired and rewarded; why criticism is so punished or marginalized. Who has not experienced this conflict?

John Ralston Saul

Hardened Crimminals!
Some of the 'Criminals' fresh out of the holding pen in Ucleulet. Twelve days of court, prison time
(one week for me), 21 days electronic monitoring and 250 community hours to go...
From left: Joanne, myself, Ernest and Kevin.

Problems and conflicts have occurred throughout history and will continue to occur. Solutions are always sought to solve these issues and critics are always present to evaluate the proposed and imposed solutions. The BC Provincial Government and MacMillan Bloedel imposed their solution to the Clayoquot dispute with very little public involvement. The effected communities, the provincial, national and global public have made it clear that the solution to the dispute could not work. These people became aware of the problem because of the sacrifice of 860 Clayoquot critics.

John Ralston Saul eloquently describes the critic’s sacrifice and the conformist material rewards. This is very applicable to what took place at the Kennedy Lake Bridge in Clayoquot sound. Thousands of citizens blockaded or supported blockades who were displaying there criticism for their government’s corporate logging policies. The corporations and the government quickly defended there decisions by labeling these individuals as ‘criminals’ instead of accepting them for what they truly were, critics.

This coalition between the BC Provincial Government and MacMillan & Bloedel was completely understandable if one considers the following. On February 8, 1993, the BC Provincial Government held 1.5% of MacMillan Bloedel’s outstanding shares. On February 9, 1993 the BC Provincial Government was made aware that the major shareholder in MacMillan Bloedel was placing 49% of outstanding shares on the market. By the end of the day, the governments stake in MacMillan Bloedel had leaped from 1.5% of outstanding shares to that of 3.5%. The Provincial government made its land use decision concerning Clayoquot sound on April 13, 1993, after more than doubling its share holdings in the corporation. Mr. Justice P.D. Seaton found that there was no conflict of interest in this purchase. After reading his decision which was spent largely defining ‘conflict of interest’, and after being exposed to the system of justice we rely on. I am very skeptical of the outcome.

The critics of the Clayoquot Sound land use decision were making society aware of the fundamental transformation society, as a whole, must make to become truly sustainable. This is a very discomforting for many who have profited or become accustomed to the current paradigm. We are being driven by "...institutional inertia" (M’Gonigle). A few of the Clayoquot Sound critics worked in the forestry industry. It was these individuals, intermingling with the rest of the critics who represented " emerging social consensus... hidden beneath anger and frustration. It offers us many ways to get there, and ironically, it is articulated by the very people who seem on the surface to be diametrically opposed to one another, the environmentalist and the mill worker" (M’Gonigle 1994). There may be room for optimism when more of the industry workers and environmentalists recognize their common goal.

No Body Likes a Critic

I was a criminal, according to our penal system, from August 31, 1993 until August 31, 1994. I am no longer a criminal, in the eyes of our penal system as I complied with Justice Hutchison’s orders which restricted my ability to continue my criticism with my physical presence at Clayoquot. I was, throughout the whole ordeal, and remain to be, a critic.

Seventy-one percent of the Canadian population were against the protests and 66% of the population were in support of the injunction to stop protesters. The most important statistics to be considered however, are that 67% of the population now oppose clear-cut logging, and 64% want more government scrutiny and enforcement of environmental laws (Pendelton 1996). Nobody likes a critic, but they are a necessary component to a functioning democratic society. The Clayoquot sound protesters are not criminals in the eyes of the public, rather critics. And they gave the government and the corporate forestry sector 860 thumbs down.


Arnstein, S.R. (1969). A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of the American Planning Association. 35: 4. p. 217

Environment Canada (1993). Enforcement and Compliance Policy, Canadian Environmental Protection Act : p. 14.

Darling, R.D. (1991). In Search of Consensus: an evaluation of the Clayoquot Sound Sustainable Development Task Force process. p. 4-12.

Greer, D. and Kucey, K. (1997). Deciding the fate of the rain forest: conflict and compromise. In Seeing The Ocean Through The Trees. Ecotrust Canada. p. 19-28.

Hatch, R.B. (1994). The Clayoquot Show Trials. In Clayoquot & Dissent. Ronsdale Press. p. 105-149.

M’Gonigle, Michael, & Parfitt, Ben. (1994). Forestopia: A practical guide to the new forest economy. Harbour Publishing, Maderia Park, BC Canada. p. 14-15

Pendleton R. Michael (1997). Beyond the threshold: the criminalization of logging. Society & Natural Resources, 10: 181-193.

Rees, William, E (1995). Achieving Sustainability: Reform or transformation? Journal of Planning Literature, Vol. 9, (4): 343-361.

Saul, John, Ralston (1995). Speech given at the Vancouver Writers Festival.

Seaton, P.D., The Honourable Mr. Justice. (1993). Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the allegations of conflict of interest (MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. share purchase and Clayoquot Sound land use decision). Pursuant to the Inquiry Act, R.S.B.C. 1979, chapter 198, part 2.

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