One Year Later, RCMP Investigator Questions Tree Sit Raid

Complaints to the RCMP have triggered an investigation into a military-style police raid on a small protest camp in Langford last year. In January 2009, former RCMP internal investigator Curt Acheson met with half a dozen community members and promised full disclosure about the February 13, 2008 operation, which involved at least sixty heavily-armed Emergency Response Team officers, police dogs, and tree climbers. RCMP officers from as far away as the Fraser Valley patrolled a kilometer-wide exclusion zone around the clock for three days while logging machines clearcut the route for Langford's new highway interchange.

Acheson is also investigating complaints that West Shore RCMP stood by and did nothing when a small rally beside Highway 1 was attacked by a much larger group of Bear Mountain construction workers two weeks after the raid on the camp.

At the heart of the complaint is the appearance of bias in how the police treated the environmentalists compared to how they handled the angry mob of contractors, according to tree sit supporter Nancy Powell. "There was a huge difference between the way the two groups of human beings were treated – the tree huggers versus the construction workers. On the one hand, tree huggers were tackled like football players. On the other hand, clearly misbehaving thugs were ignored altogether."

Powell and five other people were arrested and charged with mischief in Langford at civil disobedience protests in February 2008. The charges were later dropped. Acheson explained that it is not in the public interest to press criminal charges against peaceful protestors, and that the usual procedure involves filing a civil suit and obtaining an injunction. He said he would investigate why that procedure was not followed.

At the time, Langford administrator Rob Buchan told reporters that the city had taken legal possession of the property earlier in the week and then called in a complaint to have the camp and the treetop platforms removed. RCMP spokesperson Cst. Tasha Adams made similar statements to the media on February 13, 2008. Acheson agreed with the complainants that given the size of the operation, this scenario was extremely implausible.

Other procedures may have been disregarded as well. "At least one other complaint to the West Shore RCMP was 'lost,'" Powell says. "That's sad and that’s wrong. They invite people to come forward but when they do, the police conveniently lose the complaint."

The RCMP Public Complaints Commission initiated the current investigation, Powell notes. "I took my complaint to the right entity, the Complaint Commission, instead of the West Shore detachment."

Acheson said all complaints brought to him will be investigated, including anonymous complaints. He encourages witnesses to describe what they saw on February 13 and February 29, 2008. Acheson can be reached at

Stacks of Canadian Forces ration boxes left at the scene raised questions about possible Department of Defense involvement, although a spokesperson denied that Armed Forces personnel were present.

Acheson stated that he will file a report in March detailing who ordered the raid, who participated, and the final cost to taxpayers, which is estimated by some to be $300,000.

The Joy of Dissent, a celebration and commemoration of the Bear Mountain Tree Sit, is planned for Friday, February 13 at 5 pm at Camas Books, 2590 Quadra Street in Victoria.

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