Just days before Easter our small village research office in Vancouver was swarmed by 11 officers dressed in all black combat gear, armed and imposing beyond belief (similar to those in the photo above.).
In the largest assault/raid in Environment Canada’s history the RAID team rushed into the office of 7 people, counting the 2 grandfathers and 2 women present. With heavy footfalls making a thunderous sound on the stairs leading to our upstairs office in they rushed. They barked forceful concise commands and shouted out asking whether there were any weapons or dangerous tools in the office. This was a picture perfect use of overwhelming police force. Just why they thought this necessary is a very key question we asked but were told they had good reasons to do so. When we asked about the fact that this RAID was two days before a CBC NEWS television special hatchet job on me and the village project, the reply was “just a coincidence.”
OK so sure we’ve got all manner of dangerous pointy tools to prod and poke and study microscopic plankton under the microscope in our office/laboratory. Oops pointy things disappear. A spare window in a closet next to the cubicle the 7 of us are detained in is removed. Did they think we might break it into shards and mount a counter attack, led no doubt by the two five foot nothing 100 pound women in the office or the two gray haired grandfathers. They had a search warrant which specified that they were allowed to take evidence and command assistance from everyone there. Herding the 7 people in our office down to our basement they boldly asserted that we had to comply with their every demand or face unpleasant consequences.
They were taking everyone’s phones right away and were clearly displeased that I had speed dialed our attorneys when they reached for mine. That I already had my attorney on the phone was clearly not in their plan, now they could not delay our timely obtaining of legal advice. Thank God our attorney who has been 32 years a federal prosecutor knew how to back the domineering trooper manner down and did so as I handed the phone to one of the officers. He told the guy and me he was on his way over and to stand down until he arrived. They were clearly unhappy at having the law become something other than what they said it was.
They stated that no one was being charged or arrested but that we were all required by the search warrant signed by an obscure justice of the peace that we had to assist. They stated that we could leave but if we stated we were doing so they would judge this as not providing the ordered assistance and they would charge us under separate statutes of obstruction. Soon we were all herded into one small office cubicle on an empty floor of the building and guarded with all black combat garbed “officers” on each side of us. Some of us sat in chairs some on the floor. They finally left 24 hours later at around 8 am the next day and allowed us to resume business, such as it was.
Amongst the most outrageous things that occurred were “interviews” where at the beginning they read many statements that they wanted us to affirm were true. One stated that “we were in no way being threatened, coerced, intimidated, or detained. ” Yeah sure being glared at by armed people in full combat gear, having to ask to be permitted to go to the bathroom, being told that anything we did or said that they interpreted as being “not providing the required assistance” would result in charges and arrest… We should swear under this duress that “we were in no way being threatened, coerced, intimidated, or detained.”
So now the entire scientific data collection of the office has been taken, notebooks and journals, electronic data, legal files, reference books, scientific paper collections, much of what we work with on an everyday basis. So far in spite of being told we would be given a list of what they took no such list has arrived. As we started to work we found that our desktop notebooks, for me my short term memory, which I rely on minute to minute during a work day is no where to be found. Much of our legal files are gone which contain the information our attorneys are now asking us to provide to help them understand our plight and prepare appropriate legal response. In the history of Canada has any company ever had its research materials seized, its data collections, its legal files communications with its attorneys. What forestry company charged with mucking up a salmon spawning bed has had all of its forestry data taken along with all of its scientists notebooks and journals and it’s legal reference collections, papers, and files. What tar sands company charged with letting oil get onto waterfowl has had all of its geological data seized, its notebooks and journals and it’s legal reference collections, papers, and files. Something extraordinary has happened here in Canada, something historic, something infamous.
In talking to the officers as the hours wore on it became clear as we heard from them that never in their personal history had they ever participated in a “raid”, their word, of this character. Once they started hearing about our work of doing ocean science for the village of Old Massett clearly many of the officers were wondering what the hell was up. We asked many of them that wasn’t it the normal process of Environment Canada to first come over to such a scientific office and ask for a conversation. Yes they agreed. They all knew what was alleged in the warrant that we had loaded 100 tonnes of an iron containing material on a ship in Canada for the purpose of “DISPOSAL.” They seemed honestly surprised to understand that much of our iron containing material was simply rock dust. They resisted our explanation that the reason we were putting the iron sulphate and iron ore rock dust into our ocean pasture was for the beneficial purpose of replenishing that which technological society has taken from the ocean so as to restore our ocean pastures. They seemed quite surprised, and some even appreciative, of the perfect chorus of all of us in describing the wonderful result of our efforts in restoring the ocean pasture.
They were all very surprised and claimed they had no idea about the fifty million tonne true “disposal at sea” of rock dust taking place at this time less than 100 miles away into the Pacific Ocean in the Strait of Juan de Fuca…nor did they care about that, “what’s that got to do with anything here”. What they cared about was doing the job they were there to do which was to apply overwhelming force and intimidation to a small group of village scientists working to replenish and restore the village ocean pasture. They were interested in only the 100 tonnes of our villages favourite rock dust which had been placed in the traditional sovereign ocean pasture of the Haida village of Old Massett for a beneficial purpose and as part of legitimate science studies aimed at stewardship and restoration of that Haida ocean pasture.
Now this is the stuff that justifies largest RAIDS in the history of Environment Canada. Yes raids, plural, as we would learn they were simultaneously raiding offices and home all over the Province of BC… the ship owners, the captains of the ship, Haida charitable organizations… It was such a large operation we were told by the officers they they had been flown in from all across Canada to conduct the raids. (Note the photo in this post is not of the actual EC RAID team, we weren’t allowed to photograph them, but save that there are only nine in the photo and we had eleven on us you’d never be able to tell the difference, that’s the whole point of the all black combat garb, oh yeah our SWAT look alikes didn’t wear the combat helmets.)
This is getting too depressing and its Easter Weekend, lets take a break…
Sadly SWAT teams won’t whistle, I can now testify to that fact. Even when they pin you down just before Easter! (They do wiggle their toes.)
Postscript: I’ve been asked why I have posted this account of the raid. Some express their fears that this posting of the truth might enrage our antagonists.
I spent many years in the company of Quakers. They have a simple code that they say will prevent bad things from happening over and over again. It is called “bearing witness.” If one bears witness, one tells of what they have witnessed and when they experience a wrong it is more likely that such wrongs will be harder for those who perpetrate such wrongs to repeat them. In my life I have come to believe in this.
If you wonder how this experience bore on me personally I was struck down with chills and fevers late Thursday and lay in bed shaking until into Saturday.