In sentencing Fairy Creek protester, judge weighs good character against risk to police

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One of those arrested during the Fairy Creek blockades on Vancouver Island in 2021 was sentenced to seven days in jail, less a day served – because a judge said he put police at risk by his actions.

While reviewing the sentence, British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Douglas W. Thompson said Jonaven Moore⁠ – a 42-year-old carpenter and University of Victoria student who lives in the community of East Sooke⁠ – is a “good and caring citizen” who was trying to bring attention to the climate crisis.

Judge Thompson also pointed out that Moore had pleaded guilty and that it was a first offence. He said first-time offenders are rarely given prison terms.

Ultimately, the judge said the manner in which Moore was blocked meant he deserved a harsher sentence.

Like many Fairy Creek protesters, Moore got stuck on a logging road on Crown land licensed to the Teal-Jones logging company.

On May 28, 2021, just 10 days after police began enforcing an injunction prohibiting people from disturbing Teal-Jones’ work, Moore sat on a platform, hanging from a pole that extended from a bridge and over a cliff. The post was restrained by a vehicle blocking the bridge, and Moore was tied to the post with a device called a “sleeping dragon”, which is particularly difficult for police to open.

Police said they were extracting protesters to arrest them in contempt for violating the injunction and clearing the way for the business.

A protester against ancient logging at Waterfall Camp on southwestern Vancouver Island near Port Renfrew, British Columbia sits on a cantilevered platform above of a ravine, making it difficult for police to make an arrest on May 28, 2021. (Kieran Oudshoorn)

Judge Thompson said Moore’s setup was far more complicated than those of others around him and that police had to take “a significant risk” to extract him. He says Moore knew about it, but did it anyway.

In his decision, Thompson cited MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. vs. Simpson, a 1994 case involving Clayoquot Sound protesters.

He said when determining a sentence, consideration must be given to “moral culpability” and whether the protesters are acting in defiance of the courts or as a political statement.

Overall, he said, climate activists have a rational cause.

He continued: “The rule of law seeks to promote and safeguard peace and order, but clear warnings are being given that, on the current course, the future will be disorderly in ways barely imaginable. A reasoned assessment of the appropriate sanction for conduct that corrodes public order must account for the motivation of activists to bring about actions likely to avert the societal disorder that will likely result from short-sighted inaction.”

Considering all of this, Judge Thompson sentenced Moore to seven days in jail, less a day. He was credited for the day he spent in jail when he was arrested.

An excavator approaches to remove a car from a forest road blockade near Fairy Creek on August 18, 2021. A protester remains trapped in a tree stump, on the left. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC News)

“It’s no small thing to jail a first offender,” Judge Thompson said. “However, I agree with the Crown that it is necessary to do so in this case to give sufficient weight to the principles of exposing Mr. Moore’s dangerous driving and deterring others who might be so reckless.”

Moore’s sentence was complicated by the fact that the Crown had made an earlier error by accidentally offering him and others charged with contempt a plea bargain involving a fine or community service.

The Crown had no intention of making a lenient offer to Moore, and says it would have suggested more than seven days in jail, but thought that was fair considering the previous error.

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