Court action to be studied as remedy for illegal road blockades in B.C.: Clear The Road campaign launched
A June 10, 2022 news release (see original here) launched a flurry of media coverage when it announced: Intentional violations of the Criminal Code of Canada announced for next week may lead to a class-action lawsuit for damages, as well as any penalties imposed by the courts for disrupting highway users.
Numerous media outlets covered the story:
- CTV: Group proposes class-action lawsuit against B.C. old-growth logging blockaders
- Vancouver Is Awesome: Group floats class-action suit to clear out B.C. old-growth blockaders
- The Province: Save Old Growth protesters may be sued for damages by drivers delayed by blockades
Clear The Road described how a group calling itself Save Old Growth threatened to resume a nuisance-causing highway blockade campaign on Monday, June 13, after a pause following earlier arrests.
Tamara Meggitt, who is organizing Clear The Road, asked: "Have you missed a shift and lost your pay because of these unlawful activities? Lost out on a job interview, missed a medical appointment, or been forced to scramble for alternative childcare pickups?
“Are you a tradesperson who lost work? Were you unable to tend to your store? Did merchandise being delivered spoil or fail to reach its destination, causing your business a loss?
“If any of these things apply, we would like to hear from you.”
As part of a proposed class-action lawsuit earlier this year, Ottawa residents succeeded in freezing assets of blockade leaders after similar disruptions to civic life.
Clear The Road cites this precedent for a class-action lawsuit against those responsible for the illegal blockade strategy that previously targeted Metro Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo.
Freedom of expression is protected by Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but expressing a point of view about an issue does not confer the right to commit criminal acts.
“Save Old Growth is purely a nuisance campaign, as the organizers have admitted,” said Meggitt. “As they know, British Columbia already has world-leading standards in place for protecting rare ecosystems.
She added: “It isn’t environmentalism to block roads and force hundreds of drivers to burn extra fuel idling in an artificial traffic jam. That’s hypocrisy, and has a real impact on people’s lives.”
Earlier in 2022, motorists spent thousands of commuter-hours needlessly stalled in traffic because of the same campaign. On April 20, individuals faced criminal charges for intimidation and mischief after a Langford incident.
Public-interest research group Resource Works Society backed the Clear The Road initiative, saying in a Thursday statement: “Indiscriminate tactics like these hurt the innocent, and risk creating a backlash against progress in responsible forest practices.”
A petition from Clear The Road gathered nearly 1,000 signatures calling on police forces to ensure that blockaders face the consequences of their actions.
Blocking a highway is a violation under Criminal Code of Canada Section 423(1)g and carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.
Said Meggitt: “We were very encouraged by the response from police forces we spoke to. They know the law as well as anyone, and now we must rely on Crown prosecutors to follow up.”
Meggitt asked anyone stalled by a blockade to document the harm they suffer and share that with Clear The Road via [email protected]
“Evidence of damages is necessary so we can work with a law firm to get a class-action lawsuit underway.”
Those stuck in a traffic jam are reminded that smartphones with geotracking turned on will automatically capture key data that can be useful in establishing the particulars.
Citizen guardians will be logging Google Maps traffic data and evidence of criminal acts being counselled during any blockades.
Meggitt added that “these blockaders state they wish to provoke and anger the public to create physical conflicts that are then filmed for viral videos. What a horribly misguided idea. We also hope a class-action suit can provide a peaceful release valve for the frustration caused to folks just going about their day.”
Clear The Road monitors are planning to be on hand where possible to provide relief to stranded motorists.