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 BCs
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.
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. Its
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 BCs 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
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 defendants 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 Bouks 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
isnt 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 Ucleulets Block
and Cleaver. If, on the other hand, you consider yourself
as having a "steady state" or ecological world view,
you may prefer Tofinos 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 its 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 industrys harvest agenda, driven by corporate rather
than community objectives, inadvertently set the stage for conflict" (Darling
Some of the Mac Blow hired guns read the injunction.
The RCMP gave these individuals access
to private, sensitive records of all
"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 (MGonigle 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
John Ralston Saul
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 critics 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 governments 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
Bloedels 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" (MGonigle).
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 "...an 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" (MGonigle 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 Hutchisons
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.
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
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Environment Canada (1993). Enforcement and
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Greer, D. and Kucey, K. (1997). Deciding the fate of the rain
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MGonigle, Michael, & Parfitt, Ben. (1994). Forestopia:
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the Commission of Inquiry into the allegations of conflict of
interest (MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. share purchase and Clayoquot
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