Denial of access

RCMP officers threaten to arrest Ricochet journalist

An RCMP officer threatened to arrest Ricochet journalist Brandi Morin, who was covering a police raid on an anti-logging protest camp on southern Vancouver Island. 

Morin and photographer Amber Bracken (who is a member of the Canada Press Freedom Project’s advisory board) were reporting from the camp for Ricochet and IndigiNews when RCMP officers moved in to arrest protesters. 

A video shared by Morin shows police carrying away an arrested protester. In the video, an RCMP officer can be seen pointing at Morin and saying “Go – go back there.” 

In the video Morin shared, two officers can then be heard telling her to move back. One threatens several times to arrest her if she does not move. In response, Morin can be heard telling the officer that she has a right to document the event. 

On Twitter (currently called X), Morin said one of the officers “grabbed” her after threatening to arrest her. 

Later in the video, an officer can be heard describing the area as a “media exclusion zone,” to which Morin responds, “You guys aren’t supposed to be creating exclusion zones for the media.” 

In response, the officer can be heard saying: “I need to make sure that you are in a safe zone. This whole area is a temporary exclusion zone, if you – I’m allowing you to stay here, but really, you should be out back there.” 

This incident took place during protests against old-growth logging on southern Vancouver Island, on the territory of the Pacheedaht and Ditidaht First Nations, between Aug. 9, 2020 and Sept. 28, 2021. 

Police enforcement, arrests, and most media coverage of the blockades took place after logging company Teal-Jones obtained an injunction from the B.C. Supreme Court on April 1, 2021, which banned blockades of logging activities in the Fairy Creek and Caycuse watersheds

By Aug. 2021, the Fairy Creek blockades and protests were approaching the record for the largest act of civil disobedience in Canada’s history, reported The Narwhal.

Concerns over press freedoms arose during police enforcement in 2021 due to numerous incidents where media workers were denied access to raid sites, intimidated and arrested by the RCMP. 

On May 26, 2021, the Canadian Association of Journalists and a coalition of news organizations and press freedom groups, including Ricochet Media, The Narwhal, Capital Daily, Canada’s National Observer, APTN, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, The Discourse and IndigiNews, said they planned to take the RCMP to court over excessive restrictions on media.

The court ruled in their favour on July 20, 2021, with B.C. Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson affirming media rights by adding a clause to the injunction instructing the RCMP not to interfere with press access unless there was a clear and genuine operational reason to do so. 

Despite the court order, RCMP officers continued to restrict media access. Police arrested a Victoria Buzz photojournalist and seized his equipment at the main Fairy Creek blockade on Aug. 10, 2021, and threatened to arrest media workers or refused to allow them through police lines on multiple occasions after the ruling.

On Sept. 28, 2021, a B.C. Supreme Court justice refused to extend the initial injunction, saying RCMP enforcement of the order “led to serious and substantial infringement of civil liberties, including impairment of the freedom of the press to a marked degree.” 

On Jan. 26, 2022, the B.C. Court of Appeal reinstated and extended the injunction to Sept. 26, 2022. 

The B.C. Supreme Court later extended the injunction again until Sept. 26, 2023. In that decision, Justice Thompson reiterated his earlier criticism of the RCMP’s media obstruction, noting that the RCMP’s “expansive exclusion zones, and associated checkpoints and searches, were unlawful, and that the degree of interference with liberties of members of the public and the media was substantial and serious.”