RCMP has begun enforcing the injunction at Fairy Creek Blockader's Caycuse location, but media access has been limited. After being rejected access Monday, we went to the blockade on a guided RCMP media tour to find out what's going on.
RCMP has begun enforcing the injunction at Fairy Creek Blockader's Caycuse location, but media access has been limited. After being rejected access Monday, we went to the blockade on a guided RCMP media tour to find out what's going on.
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Disclaimer: These interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
Jackie: My name is Jackie Lamport. Today is Thursday, May 20th. Welcome to the Capital Daily Podcast. On Monday, RCMP began enforcing the injunction against protestors at the Caycuse location of the Fairy Creek Blockaders. The same day, RCMP barred journalists from entering to report on the situation. Instead, they were offered a media tour the following day at 7 am. We went to the tour and also spoke with the Canadian Association of Journalists to learn what rights journalists have at injunction zones.
Jackie: On Monday, RCMP began enforcing the injunction at the Fairy Creek blockades. This came suddenly after a month and a half of relative quietness since the injunction was granted to the Teal Jones Group. Immediately after receiving the news, Capital Daily Managing Editor Jimmy Thomson packed his camera and a microphone and drove two hours to the cell service dead zone near Port Renfrew where the blockades exist. But upon arriving at the blockades, Jimmy, like every other journalist who made their way down to the witness and report on the arrests, was met by a roadblock and was refused entry.
Jimmy (audio clip in conversation with the RCMP): Hi, good, thanks, how are you? I’m with Capital Daily, and I’m hoping to get through the blockade.
RCMP officer (audio clip): Okay, nobody's going through today. You have to contact Corporal Manzo with the RCMP Media Relations, and he's the contact.
Jimmy (audio clip): I’ve spoken with Corporal Manzo but not today. Obviously, there's no cell service out here. Is there any way to get in touch with them from here?
RCMP officer (audio clip): Not from here. So, nobody’s going through today. But you have to get in contact with him.
Jimmy (audio clip): You’re not even letting media in?
RCMP officer (audio clip): No.
Jimmy (audio clip): Why is that?
RCMP officer (audio clip): It’s part of the injunction. It’s part of the operations right now. It’ll be in place tomorrow.
Jimmy (audio clip): Can you explain that a little bit more?
RCMP officer (audio clip): You’ll need to contact Corporal Manzo.
Jimmy (audio clip): But I can’t contact them from here.
RCMP officer (audio clip): You can grab that cell service and give them a call.
Jimmy (audio clip): Yeah, that's an hour and a half that way and then back here. Is there any way that I can contact you from here? Obviously, you guys are in constant touch with him.
RCMP officer (audio clip): We’ve been told to advise people that he’s available by phone.
Jimmy (audio clip): He doesn’t have any way of contacting you guys?
RCMP officer (audio clip): No.
Jimmy (audio clip): So how would you know if he had told me I could go ahead?
RCMP officer (audio clip): Cause that’s the direction I’ve been given. I can check with the command post. That's the direction I've been given is nobody coming through.
Jimmy (audio clip): I would really appreciate it if you could check with them. Because I mean, that doesn't seem reasonable. You're not letting media in.
Second RCMP officer (audio clip): Any piece of ID so we can verify it?
Jimmy (audio clip): There's no media accreditation body in Canada like this. I'm on the board of the Canadian Association of journalists. There's no such thing as a card that says I'm the media.
RCMP officer (audio clip): The instructions are to contact Corporal Manzo.
Jimmy (audio clip): That's the thing. The RCMP doesn't really have the authority to instruct the media; this is an issue.
RCMP officer (audio clip): We have an injunction to block them, and we're blocking the road today. You're not gonna come through here today. You can contact corporal Manzo and get further directions.
Jimmy (audio clip): There's enforcement action happening right now that you're not allowing the media to be there to report on.
RCMP officer (audio clip): There’s no enforcement action right now.
Jimmy (audio clip): You’re just blocking people from coming in. They’re enforcing the injunction.
RCMP officer (audio clip): We’re blocking the road right now.
Jimmy (audio clip): Right, as a result of the injunction. Well, thank you both for your time.
Jackie: To clarify the legality of blocking journalists from entering an injunction zone, I called lawyer Leo McGrady. Leo represents unions, employees, NGOs, journalists and media on labour relations, class actions, human rights.
Jackie: The actual act of blocking media from entering the exclusion zone, is that legal?
Leo: I don't believe that is. It's not been established affirmatively and by a court in BC, but as I say, there's a Labrador Court of Appeal division that is very, very strong, very progressive, very thoughtful. They review a whole series of developments in the law around freedom of the press and our access to information. And so, my expectation is that if the issue was raised in a court in British Columbia, it would be followed.
Jackie: Is there a case to be made for the journalists who were turned away on Monday?
Leo: Yes, there is. They ought to have access to the site, provided they meet those conditions, which I think they can easily do. So the answer is yes, they ought to have been granted access to the sight.
Jackie: Yesterday, the Fairy Creek blockader’s Instagram account, posted a video of a person the blockaders say is a member of the media being arrested for crossing the police line at the exclusion border zone. The person is seen holding a camera and a microphone and is wearing a camera bag. They are told they are being arrested for obstruction. We called RCMP to find out the identity of the person and we're told by Corporal Chris Manzo, the individual was not media. However, Ricochet Media says they have spoken to the man whose name is Gabriel Ostapchuk and that he is a documentary filmmaker. Capital Daily has not been able to confirm this information either way, as of the creation of this episode, but here's the audio from the posted video.
RCMP officer (audio clip): If you cross this line, you will be arrested for obstruction.
Voice of Gabriel Ostapchuk (audio recording): Obstruction? Obstruction of what? What am I obstructing if I cross this line? This is public land.
[Cheers from nearby protestors, chants of “No peace, no justice!”]
Jackie: I also asked lawyer Leo McGrady about the situation and if it was a journalist who was arrested.
Leo (audio recording): The way the case law is emerging. There is a very clear argument to be made that members of the media are not to be treated in the same way as the protesters and that that the injunction ought not to have been applied to them. And in the case that I was mentioning earlier, from the Newfoundland Labrador Court of Appeal, it's in the matter of Justin Brake; the court very clearly said that members of the media can’t be lumped in with other protesters. But, they do have a special status, and they are not to be enjoined, provided they meet certain basic conditions. The certain basic conditions are that they are the members of a media and be there in a reporting function, that they do nothing to interfere or obstruct with the police and that the subject matter of the process is a matter of public interest. And it seems to me Without knowing, as I say, the details of this particular journalist, but it's a fairly easy matter to meet those three conditions. I don't know of any media that has been at any protests that I've acted on that hasn't quite easily met those conditions. So I think there may be a very good argument that any consent charges ought to be dismissed, but perhaps more importantly, media have a right to be there. And that's not in aid of any economic interest of their employer or the media. It's in aid of our members of the public, our interest in a free press and free media and learning the details of this protest.
Jackie: On Monday, the RCMP announced that they would be organizing a guided media tour of the exclusion zone Tuesday morning at 7 am. Co-producer Emily Vance packed up and left Victoria at 5 am to be there. She now walks us through what happened.
Emily: The first thing that struck me was driving there, being completely uncertain about what I was about to walk into. And I counted after I turned off highway one. I counted eight logging trucks fully loaded with massive red cedar logs whizzing by me. So that sort of set the tone for the day. And when I arrived at the parking lot, there were probably between 10 and 15 members of the media there. In addition, there were two RCMP officers that would be our escorts for the day through the blockade. And I really arrived to sort of a scene of confusion. There had been a bit of controversy because right away, media members started questioning why we would be toured through the blockades with these RCMP members and why we wouldn't be free to wander through.
Jackie: So tell me what your first conversation with the RCMP was? How did they explain what this day was going to be?
Emily: The two RCMP Media Relations officers, RCMP constable Alex Berube and Corporal Chris Clark, were very friendly. They got us to sign in on a piece of paper saying our name and our outlet. And you know what kind of medium that we reported in. They told us that they would be leading us through the blockades in a media convoy. And we would be only permitted to cover the arrests in designated areas. And if we wanted to move from those designated areas, we would have to seek permission, or we would risk becoming a target of the injunction enforcement, aka getting arrested.
Constable Alex Berube (audio recording): You always have to be scored by either myself or Chris here as police officers for a number of reasons. But the number one is public safety and officer safety as well. Okay, there's going to be enforcement action. We’ll try and save you guys as close as possible for the enforcement actions. Before you move any further, we'll be setting up a perimeter. If you guys have any questions, feel free. If you guys want to move further, we just got to make sure that the team that's already on the grounds there that it's safe to do so. And if it is, we'll be more than happy to escort you guys there. Okay?
Unidentified media member (audio recording): What is the risk to public safety and kind of
keeping us in a group and restricting our access in the area? I appreciate us being brought out there. It's a crummy road or whatever. But once we get there, why are we asking you guys permission to move here and move there?
RCMP Officer (audio recording): I totally agree. But as you can see, we've got quite a number of vehicles heading up there. Arrests can range from a passive subject that simply isn't there. They're not actively resisting all the way up to assaultive behaviour. And we don't want anybody to get hurt. And certainly, if someone's in there and in the way, that increases the risk dramatically, okay? Also, for identification, I don't think you're going to be misidentified for anybody that's up there. But we don't want a situation where the enforcement action is occurring. And if they don't know who you are, and you're saying, “No, I'm allowed to be here, and suddenly I'm getting arrested.” So, those are the main reasons.
Jackie: Okay, so the pressure is on right away. Shortly before you arrived, you had received a phone call from our editor, Jimmy Thompson. What did he tell you?
Emily: The moment that I pulled up in the parking lot, Jimmy called me and keep in mind, we're probably five minutes away from losing service. So the situation is a little bit tense. Jimmy told me that at midnight, the night before, two members of Ricochet Media had been able to cross into the exclusion zone. Prior to that, on Monday, no media were allowed into the exclusion zone, and Ricochet really pushed. They questioned the legality of not letting media in to cover the blockades. And they cited court cases that the Canadian Association of Journalists later cited as well, the 2017 Justin Brake case, where essentially the Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador upheld the right of journalists to cover injunctions on private property. So right away, it was tense. And when after I got off the phone with Jimmy, I was under the impression that now media were allowed to go cover the blockades freely. I checked in with the two RCMP officers anyway, and they told me that they didn't know what I was talking about and that we would need in order to gain access to the blockades, we would need to go with them.
Jackie: There are more journalists with you, and you drive to the Caycuse blockade? What's, what's the first thing that you see?
Emily: So we drove for about 45 minutes on a logging road? I had no idea what to expect because we had been to a different blockade, you and I to the Fairy Creek blockades. But the first thing that I saw, when I pulled up, I heard the sound of protesters cheering and chanting and singing. The first people I saw, probably 15 to 20 people, were lining each side of the road, and they were waving, and they were greeting us. And they were excited that we were here. We pulled up, stopped, and there wasn't a lot of direction from the RCMP as to what was going on. And so we all began to get out of our cars. And pretty quickly, we saw that there was a massive group of people, about 75 to 100 people, that were all protesters lining the police exclusion area, they were holding signs, you know, they were singing songs of protest. And there were some very powerful emotional statements that were given. Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones spoke, and a number of other people spoke as well.
Bill Jones (audio recording): We are here to save our forests. We are here to save our future. Children and your children and my children. We are one. Our politicians are very skillful. That's their job, to divide. And we are teaching each other their game. That way, we will save our great mother's old growth, the last of it. There's gossip that I've heard from foresters that two years from now, we're going to be bald here.
Jackie: Where are you standing? Where do they put you in the zone?
Emily: At first, they don't really put us anywhere. So we park in our cars, and then we're in this sort of media scrum and protests unfolding around us. And on the other side of the line are multiple police vehicles. There's a heavy RCMP presence, or media relations officers are kind of standing around watching us. And then, at a certain point, they tell us that we can get back into our vehicles. So we get back into our vehicles, and then we drive across the exclusion zone. And after we drove across the exclusion zone, we parked at an area, another blockaded area. There wasn't anything going on. After that, we got out of our cars, and we weren't entirely sure what was happening. And then the media relations officers told us we were waiting. The RCMP were trying to determine the logistics of how we would all get down to the site where the first arrests would happen. And then we were asked to carpool by the RCMP, so we got in about three to four media members per car, and we drove probably another one or two kilometres down the road further.
Jackie: You get down the road, and that's when you see the protesters who are willing to be arrested. Do the arrests happen right away?
Emily: No, the arrests do not happen right away. So we get down there, and it's a very different scene from what was going on at the line of the checkpoint to the exclusion zone. There are two protesters. One is a 68-year-old woman, Val Embry, and the other is a young man named Michel. Val is holding a sign, and Michel is just sitting on a stump and playing a guitar. And it's kind of a quintessential BC protest scene. It feels like the calm before the storm. And so we're told that an RCMP officer will come and read the injunction. That’s when the arrests begin; we’re only going to be allowed to stand in one place. And so we're given an option of two different places. And of course, keep in mind, this is a group of disparate media. We have TV reporters, we have radio reporters, we have photojournalists, and we have print reporters. So we all have different needs. And you know, at first, there's quite a lot of confusion. So I ended up going up to Constable Clark and saying, “Hey, is there any way that we can split into two groups by chance?” And then he says, “Yeah.” So I deliver the message to other media that we can split up, but we're still 50 feet away. And I think it's important to note that during this time, the journalists led in the night prior were given free rein of the site. And so everything happens really quickly. The injunction is read, the protesters are given 20 minutes to vacate the site. They can change their mind, and the police said they would escort them out of the exclusion zone. They don't, of course; we were stationed about 50 feet away when the first arrests happen. And I can't say that any of us got the coverage that we really needed.
Jackie: So they were controlling your view of the arrest?
Emily: And the rationale, trust me, we questioned it many times. The rationale that was given was that they didn't want us to get in the way of the arrests and that it was an uncertain situation. And you know, they didn't know what we would be up against, and they were worried for our safety. This is a 68-year-old woman who's the first to be arrested.
RCMP Officer (audio recording): There's a civil injunction order in place issued by the Honourable Mr. Justice van der Hoeven of the British Columbia Supreme Court. Be informed by you blockading this road and preventing Teal Cedar and their contractors from conducting their operations. You're in breach of this injunction order. I asked you to step aside and remove the blockades, or you'll be arrested for civil contempt of court by not stepping aside. I confirm you understand your jeopardy.
Jackie: So the first arrest happens, and then the man who was also there playing guitar is also arrested. I understand that you then decided to challenge the RCMP his control over what you could see.
Emily: Yes. So when it became clear that rules were being enforced differently for different media. That is when the designated media zones kind of fell apart. So I jumped in on a conversation that another journalist was having with Corporal Clark. We both started pushing back and saying, you know, thank you for thinking of our safety. But that consideration should be up to ourselves and up to our editors. This is no more dangerous than any other situation that we may cover, and we just push and push. And this is why we are walking to the area of the second arrests. The officers don't really concede. But I think that it's worth noting that the tone shifted considerably. And especially when some of the TV people have deadlines, it's already 9:30. And they have to be thinking about filing for the five o'clock news. We're in the middle of nowhere, and they're starting to get frustrated because they’re not able to get their shot, and neither are we. So this is when people start. I mean, it was all relatively cordial. But we were making clear that we weren't getting what we needed, and it wasn't fair, and it bordered on illegal.
Jackie: So the next arrests, you do get a better view of what happens?
Emily: Yeah, so we're taken down to the arrests, and we're told to stay in the spot, 50 feet away from these two protesters who were chained to a gate. And right away, one of the reporters says, “I'm just going to get some quotes from them and walk towards them,” and then we all follow suit. And the media relations officers can't do anything. And despite the fact that they had told us that there was a potential we could get arrested, that arrest was their last resort. So we’re out thinking nobody's going to arrest a journalist here, nobody's going to arrest you, there are 15 other journalists. To the RCMP Media Relations officer’s credit, they were conceding, and they were starting to see things from our point of view. So we walk up to two protesters who were chained to the gate. It was an incredibly powerful image; an Indigenous woman named Rainbow Eyes and a man named Brandon Busbee were chained together. Their arms were linked together inside of what looks like a PVC tube. And then Rainbow Eyes had a bicycle, a lock around her neck that was affixed to the gate via a heavy chain. And she also wore a red hand paint across her face, the symbol of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. And she was very powerful to listen to.
Rainbow Eyes (audio recording): We're chained to this ugly gate; it’s horrible. And it's a representation of industry. We're here to stand for the people who have lived on these lands for generations. Government and industry are trying to take our lands from us, and it's ours. So we're here to stand up, and the time is now. Colonialism is finished. We recognize we're waking up to the world that we're living in. So we're just standing up tall, like the trees, because we hear the trees call. That's why we're here.
Jackie: After you speak to Rainbow Eyes, she, alongside Brandon, are arrested. Did you witness this one closer up?
Emily: We did witness this arrest closer up. So at first, they told us that we would have to stay behind the gate when the arrest were going to happen. And then at that point, you know, that kind of fell apart, we were all moving closer. And we had actually split into two groups; a group of us went up to the officers and said, “Hey, this could take a while. We have RCMP that need to physically free these people from the gate. So for those of us on deadline, do you mind if we wander through the blockade?” Corporal Clark had to take it back to his commander? And then they said, Yeah, you have free access to the blockade. So we wandered around. I will say it's worth noting, though, we were told that the tactics used to free these two protesters were secret police tactics. So while they did allow us free rein to wander around, several officers held up a tarp so that we could not see what was going on.
Jackie: And that's for a bike lock, right?
Emily: Yes, that’s for a bike lock.
Jackie: After this arrest, are things wrapping up for the media? What do you do next?
Emily: I stand around, and I witnessed the tarp situation because I thought it was interesting. So we watched Brandon and Rainbow Eyes get walked up to the RCMP vehicle. And then, after that, I just continued down the logging road. I spoke with another protester named Udi, and Udi was even more intricately linked to a structure. So he was sitting inside a cedar tree, and the bark had been shaved off. It was a cedar tree that was not growing anymore. It was a log, and it was placed dug into the ground, and a human-sized cut out was carved into it that he was sitting in. And then he was also chained in a variety of ways that I couldn't quite see. He did not want to tell me because that's classified information. I had a really interesting conversation with Udi as well.
Udi (audio recording): Well, we're here as a movement to stand up for the old growth, and we're also here to take a stand against colonial injustice. So it's, it's a united movement, these two things come together. The provincial government has not done an adequate job of protecting British Columbia's remaining intact ecosystems. And so because of that, we've had to get here instead of John Horgan.
Emily (audio recording): Do you have a message for people who are at home and something that they can chew on?
Udi (audio recording): I'd like everyone to remember that this is a united movement. Anyone who believes in the preservation of intact ecosystems, human sovereignty, even something as cliche as world peace. Those are all people we're looking for to join our movement, and there's so many ways to participate and help. Those can all be found online with a quick Google search. I just encourage everyone not to not to feel intimidated. Definitely don't feel like this movement is already over because it's just begun and we’re looking forward to seeing a bunch of new fresh faces on the ground and joining this cause.
Emily (audio recording): We've been speaking a lot with the media relations officer that's been leading us through and he said they're expecting it could take up to a week to arrest everybody here. What do you think about about that timeline?
Udi (audio recording): Well, these are delay tactics that we're engaged in right now. And every day that industry doesn't get through this road is another day that these trees behind us can live. Some of them have been living for 800, 900, and 1000 years and every day counts.
Jackie: After this conversation, do you start to walk back up to the beginning of the exclusion zone?
Emily: I do. I start to walk back up. I think it's worth noting that it was quite rainy on and off, I was exhausted, and I was hungry, and I was tired. So I begin walking back. Along the way, I ran into a photojournalist that had been at the encampment for about six weeks, Camilo Ruiz; he had also covered the Wet’suwet’en protests pretty extensively and stayed at the camp as a photojournalist. And he talked to me about the differences and similarities in the amount of press freedom granted then versus now.
Camilo (audio recording): Because I have a camera, I want to document their abuse of power.
Emily (audio recording): What’s your role here, and how long have you been here?
Camilo (audio recording): I am an independent photojournalist, and I've been here on and off for the past six weeks, I want to say almost two months. Probably more on than off; I’ve spent a lot of time here.
Emily (audio recording): Why did you come in the first place?
Camilo (audio recording): Because it was the right thing to do. The injunctions were served, and I knew arrests were coming.
Emily (audio recording): Was this your first time doing something like this?
Camilo (audio recording): No, about a year ago during the second raid on Wet’suwet’en. I saw the first one, and obviously, I was troubled by it. And when the second one came, I knew when the buildup came; the raid was coming. You just feel it, and you could feel the tension. And I was like, “What can I do?” I tried reaching out to contact people. It's very busy, and I didn't hear back from anyone. And I was just like, fuck it; I’m just gonna drive. I have a camera. I've been doing photography for like ten plus years, mostly analog, so digital was new to me. But I got my camera, my truck and I went, and I drove. I got to a blockade that prevented arrestees from being shipped to jail, and it was a camp set up at the 27-kilometre mark. I watched this whole interaction between Indigenous leaders, land defenders, allies, legal observers, and it’s the same scenario as this. I stayed overnight, and the next morning, I was arrested, along with legal observers and land defenders, even though I was clearly identified as media. I had a reflective vest said I was, and there was no mistaking me and my giant camera.
Emily (audio recording): There was a lot of outrage about that at the time, but press freedom was one of them. How do you feel about this situation? Is it similar or dissimilar?
Camilo (audio recording): I don't know if you’ve spoken to Jerome Turner yet, but he's here. I met Jerome at the 27-kilometre mark at the camp. He was in the group of media that went to town because they had to file and post and publish and edit, and I stayed at camp under the assumption that like they might not let media back in. So I stayed where I knew there wasn’t a risk of arrest. So when Jerome came back, that was in my memory, the first use of their like, exclusion zone, where media was in this corner and don't leave, and Jerome pushed back push back and went to go shoot when he wanted to and see what he wanted to, and he was detained. And I think they threatened court action then, and they threatened court action last night because they were not allowed if this morning again. So this time, it's interesting seeing them use the same tactics. And if we look at the first arrest, most of the media respected their exclusion zone. A few of us didn't, I didn't, and by the next arrest, you can see that illusion of their power just sort of faded away pretty quickly. So I think they know it's illegal. And when DLT (Division Liaison Team) came here to talk to us, they said media would have to be in this zone and set up before anyone else came here before any of this, I guess.
Emily (audio recording): What’s been your experience with the RCMP here?
Camilo (audio recording): Two-faced. I'm going to bring it back to what's omitted because I think it was an eye-opener for everyone. And I think the most symbolic video is the one where you have the two DLT officers communicating. And it's their last chance to have a peaceful resolution, and the Mohawks are not going to move. So these two cars and one of them was female, just trying to keep it civil. And then when clearly that's not working, they just back away. Within seconds, there's like an armed fight. That’s the two sides. And just don't trust the DLT. We saw that in the morning. They weren't good on any of their words to the people here and their concerns. Yeah, people are going to get arrested, and they wanted to know the logistics of where they will be processed and where can we get their vehicles, their valuables? We're in the middle of nowhere, and this is hard terrain that’s hard to get to. And they don’t want to cooperate.
Emily (audio recording): Yeah, we've been on unable to find out where arrestees are being taken or how long they'll be held or anything.
Camilo (audio recording): It’s not like they don’t know this information.
Jackie: At this point, things are starting to wrap up for you and other media. How do you get back? Do they just let you leave?
Emily (audio recording): They just let me leave. I walked for over an hour to get back to my vehicle. I couldn't find the other journalists that I had carpooled with. Luckily they had left their vehicle unlocked. So I was able to get my backpack, but I walked, and it was a long walk, and it took me quite a while to get back to my car. And it really made me think it's so difficult to get out to these remote areas and truly see what's going on that having this kind of hampering on press freedom just makes it more difficult to get the story out. In order to cover this story, I woke up at 4 am. I had only found out about the assignment the evening before I drove to Lake Cowichan. I had to get gas and fill up my windshield wiper fluid. Like I had just washed my car, and it was covered in mud. At the end of the day, I was covered in mud. I had to borrow equipment, you know, to make this happen. And still, when we got to the site, it was difficult. So I think it just speaks to how crucial press freedom is when there especially when there are already so many barriers to journalists and the public witnessing what's going on. Interestingly enough, actually, the RCMP put out a statement last night saying they were going to change how media was able to access the blockades and coverage of the blockade. So Corporal Manzo, who is in charge of the media relations for this, told me this morning that journalists will be allowed 24 seven access into the exclusion zone. Except for if there is active enforcement action, aka arrests taking place at the time, then they will still have to be escorted by a Media Relations Officer. I wonder how much of that freedom of mobility that we enjoyed yesterday would be enjoyed by a journalist who was afraid to push back for whatever reason.
Jackie: So except for a rest so that people are here allowed to be there when nothing's happening. But as soon as something's happening, you have to be accompanied by somebody who's going to control what you see.
Emily: Yeah, exactly. It is a step forward to from not allowing media in at all. However, we'll see what comes of this and what we hear from bodies like the Canadian Association of Journalists.
Jackie: We are speaking to Brent Jolly right after this. Okay, Emily, thank you so much for putting in so much extra work on this and waking up at 4 am and doing this last minute. And we'll have to see how this develops because I assume it's gonna happen quickly.
Emily: The RCMP officers told us that they don't know how long it's going to take. It's hard to tell what kind of protests will be ongoing. It's my pleasure to cover this and stay on top of it, and obviously, as we've been talking about, it's really important.
Jackie: To find out typical practices, why the RCMP is doing it this way, and what it means for press freedom, we spoke with the Canadian Association Journalists Managing Director Brent Jolly. Brent, thank you so much for joining the podcast today.
Brent: You're welcome. Good to be here.
Jackie: I want to first start with just getting the standard rights for journalists at injunction sites.
Brent: Journalists are allowed to be at injunction sites so long as they are following the rules. Typically, they might have to stay within a certain distance away from activity that's going, sort of basic things like that, that you're not going to interfere in the execution of the events that are going to take place there. It's pretty basic stuff. So I hope it's pretty clear to journalists when you go into that kind of situation.
Jackie: Yesterday at the site, the RCMP were containing media. Originally, they were containing media to a certain spot about 50 feet away from the first arrest. Is that something that's something that they have the authority to do?
Brent: Yeah, that's appropriate. If that's what's in the injunction, that's something that they can typically do. So I would say that's within their rights, for sure.
Jackie: In this situation, though, originally, they were not letting journalists pass through to the exclusion zone at all. It was said that if they did pass, they were at risk of being arrested for breaching the injunction. Is that something that they are allowed to do?
Brent: No, that's something that that's where we would definitely come in and try and intervene because journalists have a right to be there, they have a right to be documenting what's going on, especially for a public agency, like the RCMP. These kinds of things are in the public interest. And journalists have that the right to be there, especially when you look at some of the court cases that have been upheld recently.
Jackie: They did walk that back, and around midnight, some journalists were allowed to pass through and be there. But the journalists that had arrived in the morning for this guided tour, we're still not allowed the autonomy that the journalists who arrived the night before were allowed this separation. Is that something that's not really okay?
Brent: In situations like this, you'd like to know the typical engagement rules and rules and regulations and standards. I think that making things clear so that you don't get yourself in an unfortunate situation where something crazy does happen. That's just generally good practice so that we can understand sort of what the rules are, for sure.
Jackie: The guided tour, that's something that was a little bit off for some people. Is that something that would typically happen, a guided RCMP tour?
Brent: Typically not. It's probably up to the journalist if they would like to do like to go along with that. But typically, the journalists are there to do their job. They’re not there to interfere with the execution of an injunction or a raid or anything that goes on that the RCMP is taking part in. I find that slightly concerning in terms of setting precedents because we've had a lot of constriction of access issues over the course of the pandemic. And I think that's something that we need to make sure doesn't become the norm. So I would definitely be concerned about that. But I'm glad to see that the RCMP was slightly better behaved in this case and allowed the journalist some more autonomy to go about doing their work.
Jackie: Yeah, I mean, they did eventually through the day, but at the beginning, it was kind of a controlled effort. What do you think the reason would be for the RCMP trying to control when the media can come in and where they can go?
Brent: I think it's about controlling the story. Sometimes they are simply might not know what's going on, and, and, or what's going to happen, and they want to make sure that there isn't a whole lot of evidence there to sort of see what's been going on or what happened or what should have happened and didn't or what errors were made. So, I think that's a transparency issue that journalists are there to provide. I'm also conscious of how police set very broad or large distance As a way so that maybe you could be there at a camp, a protest zone or something like that. But, still, it’s so far that you can actually get audio or video where you need a telephoto lens to see what's going on. So, I mean, there are different degrees of this that you really kind of have to be aware of and really consider.
Jackie: I know that this is kind of speculative of police strategies. So I'm not going to claim that this is what's happening. Do you think there's a possibility? I know you just mentioned controlling the story, but do you think that there's the possibility that they don't want powerful pictures or audio to encourage other people to come down and also support the protest?
Brent: It's possible. I mean, I think that theory is logical. It has validity in this kind of case, or in other cases like it that have happened. In this specific instance, I'm not sure what their ultimate end goals are; I’d like to know. But I'd have to buy a pretty expensive tool or crystal ball or something for that to happen. I think that that does hold water, for sure.
Jackie: My co-producer Emily Vance was down at the camp yesterday. She said that during the arrests, while they were unchaining protesters from trees and such, RCMP had put up a tarp and hid the unchaining from media view. The reasoning was that they were using secret techniques to break locks that the public wasn't allowed to know. Does that sound reasonable?
Brent: That sounds like a fairly loaded explanation, to me not knowing exactly what secret techniques they have in the handbook there that they're trying to go with. But yeah, I mean, I think that that's sort of the that's the rigour in a lot of places, like the United States, everything after 911 national security, no matter what it was you're trying to go in and by law for a hotdog stand in the national security violation, for some reason, because they didn't want to get into that. So, I mean, where there's smoke, there's fire, there have been situations like that in the past. So again, completely plausible that that was just a very loaded explanation for why they were trying to do what they were going to do. But without outside of public view.
Jackie: The RCMP did release a statement Tuesday evening that they are going to be changing the approach to allow media in the media will now be allowed past the exclusion zone 24 hours a day, with the exception of when there is going to be enforcement happening. Yeah. Do you think there is still going to be some more leeway made by the journalists? Or do you think that this is kind of where we're at?
Brent: From what I've heard from some people on the ground, the police forces there who are actually enforcing the regulations have been fairly Famenable and fairly well behaved? So I mean, just coming back to your earlier point, perhaps that is written to avoid having more people come in and create a big kerfuffle. I don't know. I mean, that's just a public relations strategy, perhaps. So people were given some verbal warnings and things like that. But in this case, from what I've heard from those on the ground, it was very different, for example, what happened in Wet’suwet’en last year, where everything sort of just collapsed. And so they've been fairly good, about so far about moving people around and being clear and understanding that they're not going to jail, journalists, willy nilly just because they're not strictly adhering to regulations, as they've been put out there.
Jackie: Just to go back to the original issue of media not being allowed to pass and being turned away on Monday. Do you think that there's gonna be any legal action from journalists against the RCMP?
Brent: I think that there was some discussion, there was some discussion about filing for injunctive relief to sort of seeing if the RCMP dug their heels in. And that was a process that was going on yesterday. I know. And I was, I was privy to it. Trying to figure out, what would because potentially, this could be a precedent setting issue, if we're able to be there at the very moment when it's heard by a judge to say, yeah, we're going to intervene on this. That would be a huge, a huge step. The way that the RCMP backed off a little bit yesterday, based on what's been reported and what I've heard, I think it might not be the best for a precedent-setting case that in that way. So, we'll keep watching. And there will come a time when that happens. And I think that the advocacy that went on yesterday through Twitter and press releases and all that kind of stuff. I don't have any evidence that it had an impact. But I mean, I'm, I'm optimistic that it did. And that maybe the RCMP took that to heart and said, “Look, this is not a fight we want to have right now. Let's just do what's right.”
Jackie: What do you think this says about press freedom in Canada?
I think it's volatile. And it's something that you continually have to fight for. It's unfortunate because although there are laws on the books, court cases that have been decided, in the the heat of the moment, you really never know because this is the case that we've seen. I mean, just on between Monday and Tuesday, we didn't know how this was gonna develop if we didn't need to seek injunctive relief to gain access. So I think from a big picture point of view. I mean, there's there's Canada is often seen as you know, this bastion of goodness and everything and I think there's there's a lot of good to be had here but there's also a lot of things that we do need to recognize and between what happened to Karl Dockstader at 1412 Land Back Lane a little while ago, now. So it’s in that moment; you can never really predict what law enforcement is going to do. And so every time, it feels like Groundhog Day, all over again.
Jackie: So again, this is just another fight that we have to do to make sure that we have the freedom going forward.
Brent: Unfortunately, it's become part of the job. There's a lot it's tough for journalists. There's always this debate of journalists being advocates and objective parties. But I mean, I think that we need to be advocating for journalists’ rights at the end of the day and from the position of the CIA. That's what we're going to do when we're not gonna be going anywhere. So count on us to be there.
Jackie: Brent, thank you so much for this.
Brent: Absolutely. Happy to do it, Jackie.
Jackie: Thanks for spending some of your day with us. If you enjoyed the podcast, feel free to give us a rating, we appreciate it! And make sure to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. We post new shows every Monday through Friday. My name is Jackie Lamport. This is the Capital Daily Podcast. We’ll talk to you tomorrow.