Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Kevin Coady has granted WestFor Management a permanent injunction to prevent Extinction Rebellion protesters from blockading roads to licensed harvesting sites at Rockypoint Lake and Napier Lake in Digby County.
But Coady ruled against a request from the consortium of sawmills to broaden or extend that injunction to other sites licensed to WestFor in 2017 by the Department of Lands & Forestry.
The court had granted Westfor a temporary injunction early last December after members of the non-profit group Extinction Rebellion set up blockades in October and November on logging roads near Rockypoint and Napier Lakes. The intention was to prevent cutting on these sites, where there are known concentrations of the endangered mainland moose. Nine protesters were arrested by the RCMP on December 15 for ignoring the court injunction and will go to trial later this year.
Coady described the actions of these individuals as “civil disobedience” and “a last resort” to try and protect the mainland moose. He did not order the group to pay the costs of the legal proceeding in which WestFor came out a winner.
“I am not prepared to award costs as against Extinction Rebellion. This organization, and similar public interest groups, are well-intentioned and play a role in our modern-day democracy,” wrote Coady.
That written decision also concluded that the group’s evidence about the precarious state of the mainland moose was “irrelevant” to the case before the court.
On page 12 Coady wrote: “Extinction Rebellion is a public-interest litigant and its submissions are rooted in the public interest. However that approach does not displace the rule of law. It was availed of the opportunity to launch a judicial review of the Minister’s decisions and processes. That opportunity has been lost. It cannot be addressed in this proceeding.”
In going to court to request a permanent injunction against the protesters, WestFor had to prove continuing blockades would cause the company “irreparable harm. WestFor lawyer Ian Dunbar pointed out that the $348,000 the company had spent to build logging roads to the two sites would be lost as well as the $240,000 paid to obtain the two harvesting permits.
Coady accepted WestFor’s evidence that future blockades would create these impacts. Then he explained why he was denying the company’s request to broaden the injunction to apply to other harvesting areas for which it has paid to obtain licences from the province.
“WestFor has not provided sufficient evidence to establish the high degree of probability that Extinction Rebellion will obstruct or otherwise interfere with future operations. It relies on Rockypoint Lake and Napier Lake blockades to support its position. Similarly it relies on the “herbicide protests” and protests on the Halifax Macdonald Bridge. I have reviewed Extinction Rebellion’s social media posts and find they advocate for general resistance but not specific action.”
Author and protestor Sandra Phinney was one of the nine people charged by the RCMP for disobeying the temporary injunction last December. Phinney told the Examiner she is “thrilled with the outcome and grateful beyond measure.”
The fate of the mainland moose also came up for discussion at yesterday’s Public Accounts meeting. Last year’s court decision by Justice Christa Brothers ordered Lands & Forestry to follow its own regulations in Nova Scotia’s Endangered Species Act. The department was ordered to implement recovery plans for six “at risk” animals, birds, and plants at the centre of a court case brought by several environmental groups.
The mainland moose was declared endangered back in 2003. The Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act says “core habitat” for the animal must be identified 12 months later. That still hasn’t been completed. Bob Petrie, the director of the Wildlife division for Lands & Forestry, explained some of the constraints before concluding:
“We are very close to making a recommendation about what constitutes core habitat for mainland moose. For the past year, the Moose Recovery team has been focused on core habitat as one of its core missions. They have completed a review of the recovery plan to ensure it was up-to-date; they are actively working on core habitat identification now. That has entailed a lot of analysis — creating new datasets from out forest harvest data — and deliberations on what constitutes core habitat. Is it for moose to take shelter during the hot summer? Is it for them to have their calves, for feeding, or a combination of all the above?”
Petrie told the Public Accounts Committee Recovery plans have been implemented for three of the six species named in the court order and progress is well along for the other three. Petrie said the department has added four staff (for a total of seven) to develop recovery plans for a total of 63 endangered, threatened, or vulnerable species in the province.
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