Policing

The RCMP spent $3.75 million in five months of enforcement at Fairy Creek

A document obtained by Capital Daily breaks details some of the costs of enforcing the injunction

By Jimmy Thomson
November 17, 2021
Policing

The RCMP spent $3.75 million in five months of enforcement at Fairy Creek

A document obtained by Capital Daily breaks details some of the costs of enforcing the injunction

By Jimmy Thomson
Nov 17, 2021
Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily
Policing

The RCMP spent $3.75 million in five months of enforcement at Fairy Creek

A document obtained by Capital Daily breaks details some of the costs of enforcing the injunction

By Jimmy Thomson
November 17, 2021
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The RCMP spent $3.75 million in five months of enforcement at Fairy Creek
Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily

The RCMP spent $3.75 million enforcing the court injunction at Fairy Creek over the summer, according to a breakdown of costs obtained by Capital Daily through an Access to Information request.

The majority of that money—$2,450,204, or 65% of what the police force spent—was spent on personnel costs, while the amounts spent on transportation and telecommunications, professional and special services, rentals and leases, and utilities, materials, and supplies are also broken out. 

The RCMP did not respond to a request for clarification of some of the line items in the budget summary, recommending instead that we file another ATIP request. The request was first filed six months ago.

The level of spending is comparable to the $13.1 million the RCMP spent enforcing the Coastal GasLink injunction in Wet’suwet’en territory between January 2019 and March 2020, a figure obtained last year by CBC News.

In a sworn affidavit in July, RCMP Chief Superintendent John Brewer made the same comparison, saying he expected this injunction would require “significant police resources” because in his own experience both TransMountain and Coastal Gaslink enforcement actions had required 150 officers.

The Coastal Gaslink enforcement action in Wet’suwet’en territory cost about $873,000 per month on average, while the Fairy Creek cost works out to $750,800 per month. The document covers a five-month period from the start of the fiscal year on April 1 to Aug. 31, 2021. Enforcement didn’t begin until mid-May, though RCMP had a presence in the area in the weeks leading up to that date.

Rainforest Flying Squad spokesperson Kathleen Code was surprised at the $3.75 million figure—saying it was lower than she expected—and suggested it wasn’t accounting for all factors, like existing staff time. 

“I would really like to better understand what it is they’re reporting on, for one thing,” she said. “They’ve had the benefit of extensive resources.” 

Police conduct a briefing on a road near the Fairy Creek HQ. Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily

The RCMP did not provide additional context regarding the expenditures before the time of publication. RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Christopher Manseau responded to an initial inquiry from Capital Daily with an explanation that “that ATIP request is the extent of the information available.” 

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A spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General declined to answer questions from Capital Daily about the total costs to BC for the RCMP enforcement, or the costs since August, but said in an emailed statement, “Police operate at arms-length and independently of government and government does not interfere with police operational decisions. Under the current Provincial Police Service Agreement, policing costs are subject to the 70:30 cost-share agreement between the Province and the federal government.”

Under that arrangement, BC would be on the hook for approximately $2.6 million of the $3.75 million the RCMP spent over the summer. 

Enforcement of the BC Supreme Court injunction began on May 17, 2021, and since then RCMP officers have been a ubiquitous presence at the blockades, sometimes conducting raids or arrests—which have now surpassed 1,100—and often controlling access by protesters, members of the public, and media. 

RCMP officers dig a protester out of a blockade device. Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily

Blocking media access has landed the police in hot water, with BC Supreme Court Justice Thompson ruling at the end of September that the RCMP had infringed on civil liberties, including impairing “the freedom of the press to a marked degree." Given the effect police conduct was having on the court’s reputation, he declined to renew the injunction.

A temporary order was later put in place to continue the RCMP enforcement until Thompson’s ruling could be appealed; Teal Jones, the logging company with active operations in the area, had said it had already felled $1.27 million worth of trees that were at risk of deteriorating on the ground. The appeal hearing began on Nov. 15.

Overall, Justice Thompson said the RCMP enforcement had been reasonable. “On the totality of the evidence, I find that the police have generally used reasonable force to effect arrests and control crowds, and reasonable means to remove protesters from trenches and devices,” he wrote. Other elements of the RCMP response in Fairy Creek, however, have drawn criticism, including from Justice Thompson, who said videos of the use of pepper spray on a crowd of protesters showed “disquieting lapses in crowd control.” 

The police force said at the time it was protecting an officer in danger—a Capital Daily investigation later found that to be inaccurate.

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The RCMP spent $3.75 million in five months of enforcement at Fairy Creek