Federal Green Party deputy leader gets jail time for Fairy Creek protests

A prominent protester and leader during the Fairy Creek old-growth logging protests was sentenced to jail time in Nanaimo, B.C., on Wednesday. 

Angela Davidson, also known as Rainbow Eyes, received 60 days of jail time, after being convicted of seven counts of criminal contempt earlier this year, though she received credit for 12 days of time already served in pretrial detention.

Davidson, who is of the Da’naxda’xw First Nation and a deputy leader of the federal Green Party, was also ordered to do 75 hours of community service for her role in the protests.

She was found to be in breach of an injunction granted to logging company Teal Cedar, obtained after thousands of protesters occupied roads in the company’s logging zone in 2021, in what is regarded as the largest act of civil disobedience in Canada.

A group of protesters in a muddy forest environment listen to a person playing the drums.
Protesters are pictured at the Fairy Creek logging blockade in Vancouver Island in September 2021. Thousands of people blockaded the roads in and around an area being logged by Teal Cedar. (Ken Mizokoshi/CBC)

Though hundreds of prosecutions for criminal contempt collapsed as courts found that RCMP did not properly read the injunction to protesters, Davidson was handed a months-long sentence due to repeated violations of the injunction.

The 38-year-old was first arrested in May 2021, after she chained her neck to a gate. She was then told she was in breach of the injunction and instructed to leave by police. When RCMP returned an hour later, she was still chained to the gate and she was arrested.

She later breached her bail conditions by returning to the area for a variety of reasons, according to the sentencing decision posted on Wednesday

In three instances, according to the decision, she returned to protest the logging. Later, in November 2021, she returned to the injunction zone to deliver food, and then returned twice in January 2022 to join a search party for a missing person

WATCH | Davidson says she is happy to go to jail to protect the planet: 

Fairy Creek protester condemns ‘colonial system’ before receiving jail sentence

7 hours ago

Duration 1:01

Angela Davidson, also known as Rainbow Eyes, spoke to the CBC News before receiving a 60-day jail sentence for her role in the 2021 Fairy Creek old-growth logging protests. When asked about her part in the protests, Davidson said she would do it again to protect the planet and old-growth forests.

Just before she was sentenced, Davidson said that she believed she was acting in accordance with natural law and her beliefs, an argument used in court as she lobbied for minimal jail time and community service. 

“I would do it again, yes,” she told reporters outside the Nanaimo courthouse. “There is no price too high to protect our Mother Earth and we know it.

“The message comes from Mother Earth. It comes from forests and the Amazon, Asia, Africa — to stand up for the trees right now, before it’s too late.”

Sentencing beyond Crown recommendations

The crown was seeking 51 days of jail time, and either 75 hours of community service or a fine of $2,500.

The defence argued that, due to the non-violent nature of the violations, Davidson should serve 13 days in jail, with credit for time served resulting in one day, and a period of house arrest.

Davidson also argued that one of the mitigating factors in her sentencing was the intergenerational impact of residential schools, and the removal of Indigenous children from their homes and the resulting loss of their culture.

An Indigenous woman hugs another person while carrying a drum.
Davidson was accompanied by dozens of supporters during her sentencing hearing. (Claire Palmer/CBC)

However, B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson said that an important factor in criminal contempt sentencing was the idea of “denunciation and deterrence” to prevent future contempt charges.

“The repeated and deliberate breaches of the injunction … require sanctions that are greater than probation or house arrest, and certainly must be greater than the periods of house arrest proposed by Ms. Davidson,” Hinkson wrote in his sentencing decision.

The judge said that Davidson’s sentence for each of her criminal contempt charges must be served consecutively, rather than concurrently, which resulted in a jail sentence longer than the one sought by the Crown.

Hinkson noted that her breaches of the injunction were “continuous and flagrant” and that her offences did not arise from the systemic factors noted in her background.

Upswell of community support

More than 50 people showed up to rally outside the courthouse last month, when the sentencing hearing began, to show their support for Rainbow Eyes.

“We 200 per cent stand behind her in what she’s doing and what she stands for,” said Liz Davidson, Angela’s mother. “We’re so glad that she is following her heart and her culture.”

A white woman wearing a multicoloured jacket speaks to a camera.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, seen here in Nanaimo, B.C., on April 24, 2024, says that the sentence handed out to Angela Davidson is a disproportionate enforcement of justice. (Claire Palmer/CBC)

On Wednesday, a similar turnout of supporters included Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who said the jail time that Davidson faced was a “disproportionate enforcement of justice.”

May compared Davidson’s sentencing to previous court decisions against the RCMP, saying that the police force’s use of media exclusion zones was a much more significant violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“We’re proud to stand in solidarity with Rainbow Eyes,” she said.


Posted in CBC