Environmental activists are denouncing as a slap on the wrist the probation sentence a B.C. judge issued yesterday to five loggers who were part of a mob that "terrorized" protesters and burned their camp.
A provincial court judge handed down suspended sentences to five loggers for their roles in a 1999 confrontation with protesters in the Elaho Valley, B.C.'s hottest antilogging battleground.
In contrast, environmentalists point to great-grandmother Betty Krawczyk, who defied a court injunction barring protests against the logging of the valley and was sentenced to a one-year jail term.
"The real travesty of justice here is that the old Douglas firs are being cut in the Elaho Valley and environmental protesters are receiving one-year jail terms, while the criminal assailants are receiving no jail time and that the company itself is not being investigated for their potential role in the violence," Ken Wu, spokesman for Western Canada Wilderness Committee, said outside the courtroom.
Judge Ellen Burdett sentenced the loggers each to a year's probation, as well as ordering them to take anger-management courses, perform 40 hours of community service and write letters of apology to the victims. Four of the loggers also have to pay more than $1,000 in restitution, a portion of which goes to the victims.
"A real harm was done in this case, both to the individual victims and the community of Squamish," Judge Burdett said.
The loggers pleaded guilty last month. Richard James, who works for International Forest Products Ltd., pleaded guilty to assault in the September, 1999, incident, which led to three environmentalists being sent to hospital.
The four other loggers -- Donald Kulak, Alexander MacLeod, Leslie Zohner and Thomas Lloyd -- pleaded guilty to mischief for their roles in destroying the protesters' camp in the Elaho Valley.
Judge Burdett said that more than 70 loggers "terrorized" a group of protesters, burned their camp and threatened them. The victims have since launched a separate civil action against the forestry workers and their companies.
In her sentence yesterday, Judge Burdett noted that there was provocation by protesters in the months leading up to the incident. She also said there was "tacit corporate approval" by Interfor that resulted in the mob-like attack, but said there was no evidence the company was directly involved.
Steve Crombie, a spokesman for Interfor, said he was surprised by the judge's comments about the company's involvement. He said a foreman had suggested to protesters on the day of the incident that they move because loggers were getting restless.
Interfor didn't know about the attack until well after it occurred, Mr. Crombie said. "It's baseless and we don't really know where it came from," he said in an interview.
Mr. Crombie said the company documented 49 incidents in 1999 between August and November in which protesters tried to provoke violence or set up blockades.
"It does not justify what our employees have done, but it is what our employees have to deal with on a daily basis," he said.
After the 1999 incident, Interfor employees had to take part in an anger-management program.