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News brief: Heavy handed Westfor legal tactics aim to intimidate mainland moose protectors

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KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The fight to protect mainland moose from habitat-destroying clearcut activity by the WestFor Management consortium moved from blockades deep in the Digby County forests to the courtrooms of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Lower Water Street in Halifax.

Members of Extinction Rebellion Nova Scotia who were involved in the blockade were fighting a broad and sweeping interlocutory injunction that would bar them from interfering with access anywhere where WestFor is licensed to harvest. 

The nine forest defenders also face criminal charges of contempt of court, and Westfor has initiated a lawsuit against the protesters claiming economic damages in order to apply the initial interim injunction as well as the extension now being sought.

Nina Newington, who took part in the blockade, was one of the few people allowed inside the courtroom, since access was restricted because of the pandemic. We spoke with Newington during the recess at noon.

Much of what was discussed by the WestFor lawyer in the morning related to the broad scope of the ban, she said.

“Westfor wants to be able to stop any blockades anywhere at any time. Effectively, they’re saying we want to be able to harvest timber wherever there are moose. And we don’t want the public to be able to intervene in any way without risking immediate arrest,” Newington told the Nova Scotia Advocate.

“The far reach of it all suggests that they really want to be able to do forestry regardless of its impact on the mainland moose habitat. That’s perhaps not a surprise, but it’s shocking nonetheless that they’re as indifferent as they are,” said Newington. 

The WestFor lawyer argued that there are lots of venues to raise issues with the department prior to harvesting, and blockades are not necessary.

Sandra Phinney, who was among the forest protectors who were arrested, doesn’t think that’s true at all.

“You have to go to the Lands and Forestry site every single day to find out what all is on the chopping block, and then you have to read through all that legal stuff and all the terminology. They’re not calling it clear cutting today, they’re using words like variable retention. When I did find out and I was able to write letters to the premier and to the department everything was ignored. There was a petition with over 30,000 names on it, and the government’s not paying attention. It’s criminal,” Phinney said.

Keith Joyce, an outdoorsman from the Municipality of Claire, knows the woods in question very well, which made it an easy decision to join the blockade. He too was arrested.

“It’s such a beautiful place to camp, to canoe, to kayak and hike. I just had to do something,” he explains.

During a recent trek through the area he noticed lots of moose scat, he says. Bear scat was the most prominent, but moose scat was a close second. 

“Someday, Lands and Forestry will be the ones in court for issuing clear cutting orders and not us for protecting it,” said Joyce.

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. 

See also: Mike Lancaster on Lands and Forestry and protecting the mainland moose: “Something is not working, that much is clear”

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