Safety first …unless it’s the planet or the RCMP work site at Fairy Creek

RCMP protester extraction methods at Fairy Creek “insanely dangerous” — and positively insane, in light of catastrophic global heating

Police prepare to extract forest protecters at Fairy Creek, Vancouver Island, BC. Image @arvinoutside

I once worked at a nonprofit with an admin manager who was extremely zealous about rules and protocols. There was a small window in my office door. Being an introvert — an occasionally moody introvert — there were times when I just wasn’t up to the whole panopticon worker surveillance thing. I took an old poster, cut out two small eye holes, and taped it over the window from the inside. That way, when the agents of power wanted to see what I was up to, they had to make conspicuous, Monty Pythonesque stops and position their heads at just the right level. Thanks to my minor modifications, the annoying vehicle of control provided some comic relief for us in the office, a giggly and harmless way to ‘stick it to the man.’

Except that apparently it wasn’t harmless. Said admin manager came along and informed me that the view into my office had to remain unobstructed for safety reasons. Something to do with WorkSafeBC (or possibly the admin manager’s personal neuroses.) After all, one never knows when a paper cut could turn fatal.

Which brings me to a proposition. I would like to propose that the area RCMP office or WorkPlaceBC bureau or whoever’s job it is to prevent accidents on RCMP job sites on Vancouver Island — and I mean workplace decapitations, amputations, and run-of-the-mill whole-body crushing affairs — consider hiring the aforementioned admin manager, or someone of like proclivities. I’m talking about in a dedicated workplace safety role, because apparently those positions at the RCMP and at WorkPlaceBC are either vacant, or those who hold them are themselves vacant.

I say this mindful of the constraints faced by workers at these venerable “public safety” agencies, like the very real career-ending potential of speaking truth to power, eg., “Dear Boss, you can’t possibly be considering using 45-tonne machines designed to move boulders and demolish buildings to extract human forest protectors chained to blockades at Fairy Creek. Much as you may like to see them go, the risk of squashing them into oblivion or, at the very least, separating their torsos from their limbs is simply far too high. Besides, it constitutes an explicit contravention of WorkPlaceBC regulations. See, it says right here that the whole purpose of the regulations is to “protect workers and other persons present at workplaces from work-related risks to their health, safety, and well-being.’

Image @FairyCreekBlockade

“The whole problem for us, Boss, is that these protesters are in fact present on the site, and we want them absent so Teal-Jones & co. can get their noses back in the trough and carry on with the business of razing the island’s last remaining old growth heritage and major carbon sink and ancient natural medicine chest — sort of like the way local police in banana republics act as private security for notorious, human rights-abusing Canadian mining companies in places like Guatemala and Papua New Guinea. Since Fairy Creek is currently a bona fide RCMP work site, I’m afraid there’s no wiggle room around this one, Boss. You can’t do it.”

Image @Josh DeLeenheer

Well, Boss — the RCMP, I mean — has gone ahead and done it, and what’s more, they’ve done it with the help of a few choice techniques used by robocops from Beijing against the Hong Kong protesters, like impersonating protesters to get on the ‘inside’ and disrupt the peaceful forest occupation, denying media access, and using sleep deprivation strategies from the playbook of bastions of human rights like Guantanamo Bay. The RCMP has been imperilling the lives and limbs of protesters with excavators at Fairy Creek for weeks now as a matter of fact, without a peep from anyone at WorkPlaceBC, despite a cascade of public complaints.

Image @mikegraeme

The RCMP’s shock-and-awe protester-extraction methods at Fairy Creek are so dangerous that experienced excavator operators have responded with, well, shock and horror. Felix Amuir, owner of Amuir Excavating on Gabriola Island, said “It’s totally crazy what they’re doing. That’s not how anyone should operate equipment. If you did something like that on a job site, you’d be uninsurable. If you called my insurer and told them I was doing that, they’d drop me like a hot potato. I’d be done. You can’t risk human life like that.”

Image @arvinoutside

Moving excavator controls just a few centimetres causes the bucket to move feet. They’re not precision instruments. Amuir explained that if anyone operated an excavator on a job site the way the RCMP is operating them to extract protesters at Fairy Creek, WorkSafeBC could — and should — shut the site down. And yet WorkSafeBC has remained silent. What are we supposed to do, call the cops?

Having just spent several days festering in the deadly cauldron of the climate change-induced “heat dome” that has casketed the province and caused a massive spike in human deaths, you’d think the RCMP, committed as they purport to be to public safety, would think twice and opt to start protecting the forests and those who protect them, and not the interests of the profit-driven sods who want to cut them down.

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Lisa Warden, PhD

Freelance writer, independent scholar affiliated with the Animals and Society Research Initiative at the University of Victoria, and Fellow at Sentient Media.