KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – In mid-December RCMP arrested nine forest protectors associated with Extinction Rebellion Nova Scotia. The group occupied for over 8 weeks two blockades deep in the Digby County woods, determined to defend habitat of the threatened mainland moose from harvesters employed by Westfor Management Inc.
Moose need healthy, contiguous, and biodiverse forests to thrive. In Digby County even aged harvests, a.k.a. clearcutting, threaten to further erode the existing connectivity between the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and the Silver River Wilderness Area.
Nina Newington, who was among the people arrested, doesn’t know whether clearcutting has started. Nor can she find out because of the sweeping undertaking the RCMP made her sign after her arrest in order to be released.
“We can’t actually set foot on any Crown land that Westfor has a license to harvest, or any trail or road that provides access to it. That covers pretty well the entirety of Crown lands in Southwest Nova Scotia,” Newington says.
There are two court cases coming up to deal with the aftermath of the blockades, Newington explains. On January 26 and 27 Westfor will be seeking an extension of the injunction. That case will be heard at the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax. Then on March 15 the nine forest defenders will face the criminal charge of contempt of court at the provincial courthouse in Digby.
“Because it’s a criminal charge this can leave us with a criminal record,” says Newington. “That was a decision that was made by the RCMP.”
Despite all this the group’s spirit is far from deflated. This fight isn’t over, not by a long shot, says Newington.
“Not to say that we all don’t have moments when we are stricken with the thought of what could be happening to the forest now, but we remain determined. For us it’s just the next stage in our battle. The RCMP was clear that we could just have walked off, but we made a conscious decision to say no, that’s not what we are going to do. We are going to use the court process to continue to shine a light on this issue.”
“I understand that for many people the arrests have been discouraging, but gosh, most struggles take a long time and many people around the world take far greater risks than we have taken and fight for far longer.”
“Actions in support of the mainland moose are putting as much pressure as anyone has for a long time on the government to actually finally implement some of the reforms they have been chattering about. You feel stuck, and you just keep pushing, because that’s what you have to do. At some point something has to give. And when that happens, it could happen quite quickly. It’s not impossible that we will see reform. Industry and Westfor have such a grip on the department of Lands and Forestry that it really needs to be rebuilt from the ground up,” she says.
While in court the forest protectors will be supported by Ecojustice lawyers. Ecojustice is a charitable organization which represents environmental activists and organizations across the country.
That’s the same Ecojustice that last summer successfully argued that Nova Scotia failed to adequately adhere to the Endangered Species Act, using the mainland moose as one of the examples of the government’s neglect.
Extinction Rebellion Nova Scotia started a GoFundMe to raise money for the legal defense of the group. Ecojustice is conducting its support for free, but think of it as an act of paying it forward.
“Anything above the actual legal costs we will donate to Ecojustice. If we can raise the money then they can support other groups who can’t raise funds,” says Newington.
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