A local woman has initiated an internal investigation into the actions of RCMP during her blockades of logging roads near Balfour, Argenta, and Meadow Creek in 2019.
At the same time, Jessica Ogden is being sued by Cooper Creek Cedar for their alleged losses caused by Ogden’s blockades of the company’s logging operations.
The police investigation is being carried out by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, an independent agency that is not part of the RCMP. The commission has hired a former RCMP officer to carry out the investigation.
During the blockades, Ogden stood on logging roads, blocking loggers from getting to cutblocks.
She said she was objecting to over-cutting and degradation of watersheds.
“I call myself a water protector, not a protester,” she said.
Ogden says she was trying to bring attention to the professional reliance model (sometimes called industry self-regulation), in which decisions about what, when and how to cut timber are made by professionals working for the timber companies, not by the forests ministry.
“I started learning about the professional reliance model and about the regulations that are no longer in place. The vision of what I had grown up to believe B.C. was always about started crumbling away.”
The blockades resulted in a series of arrests, court injunctions, jail time, and many tense interactions with loggers and police.
In her police complaint, Ogden alleges RCMP did not follow up on her reports of threats of violence by truckers, failed to respond to a 911 call, did not follow proper procedures related to a civil injunction, did not investigate damage to her vehicle by truckers, used excessive force when arresting her, and wrongfully jailed her.
“I saw myself as a peaceful protester being met with violence,” she says.
In each blockade, Ogden eventually stood down because of arrests or because of court injunctions enforced by the RCMP.
The investigation is ongoing and a completion date is unknown.
Cooper Creek Cedar’s lawsuit claims damages related to the blockades near Argenta and Balfour.
In her response, filed with the court this month, Ogden states she did not block the road at the Salisbury Creek site near Argenta and was not in the area at the time.
In one of its two notices of claim, the company states that in the summer of 2019 it had a provincial license to harvest 300,000 cubic metres of timber at Salisbury Creek in the Argenta area. The license has a five-year expiry date that cannot be renewed, so any timber not cut within the time limit would be lost despite the company having spent money on development costs and road building, the notice of claim states.
In August the company was doing field work preliminary to applying for cutting permits and road building permits, a process that could take up to a year, when it says Ogden blocked the road, not allowing the company to access its proposed cut blocks, according to the notice of claim.
The company further states it discussed its plans with the community in public meetings and assumed it had local support.
In a second notice of claim the company states it had a license along with cutting permits and road permits to harvest timber near Balfour Forest Service Road. It alleges Ogden blocked the road causing financial losses for the company and its contractors by preventing them from going to work.
The company asks for monetary damages to be assessed by the court, and for its legal costs. The damages would cover losses to the company and its contractors for an unspecified number of days of inability to log, and an unspecified amount due to alleged delays caused by the blockades. If the matter comes to a court hearing, the company would have to prove the amount of damages.
Also listed as defendants in the both notices of claim are Mick Grabowski and Brock Schneider, and, for the Salisbury Creek claim only, Tom Prior.
In her written response, filed with the court, Ogden does not deny that she blocked the road at Balfour. Her reasons for justifying the blockade include:
• The company did not properly assess the risks of the logging, relying on deficient information, leading to the probable destruction of local ecology, wildlife habitat and drinking water, putting communities at greater risk from flooding, landslides, droughts, and wildfire.
• The company is pursuing this court action to intimidate and harass her, and it caused the police and the BC Prosecution Service to “engage in a malicious prosecution that led to the incarceration of some of the defendants.”
• The logging will destabilize the climate because cut blocks release more carbon into the air than the young trees can capture and absorb, and that old growth forests are the best defense against carbon emissions.
• Clearcut logging threatens Canada’s commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
A court hearing date has not been set.