Darren Thurston and David Barbarash Receive Stay of Charges; Crown Attempts to Cover Up Campaign of Dirty Tricks
from No Compromise Issue 17
 

By the Support Campaign for David Barbarash and Darren Thurston - September 25, 2000

More than five years of RCMP harassment against two Vancouver animal rights activists quietly came to an end last week. On Sept. 21st, Darren Thurston and ALF Spokesperson, David Barbarash received a letter from B.C. Crown Counsel Pat Donald, indicating that the Crown has entered a Stay of Proceedings on all charges against them.

Darren and David are committed activists whose issues of concern include animal/earth liberation, anti-fascist organizing, and prisoner support. Both are former political prisoners who have done time for acting on their beliefs. Most notably they were convicted for the liberation of 29 cats from a University of Alberta animal facility in 1992.

It is this history of involvement in liberation movements that lead the RCMP to falsely charge them with 23 counts of 'mailing a dangerous device with the intent to cause harm' in 1998. Specifically, those charges involved letters sent from Victoria to guide outfitters across BC in January of 1996. A group called the Justice Department laid claim to sending the letters which were booby trapped with a razor blade that was positioned in such a way that the recipient could cut their finger while opening it. Darren and David have always maintained their innocence on these charges.

RCMP harassment of the pair began in 1995 when four parcel pipe bombs were sent to individuals across Canada involved in far-right activity. Darren and David have been subjected to extensive physical surveillance, the implantation of bugs in their homes and vehicles, searches on four residences and two storage lockers, and the seizure of belongings including files, clothing, tools, books, computer components, and other personal effects. Most notably, the RCMP waged a campaign of dirty tricks against the activists that involved the use of undercover operatives. These operatives attempted to involve Darren and David in an arson on an abandoned building under the guise of fighting the trade in bear parts.

An order for disclosure of surveillance on this undercover operation likely led the Crown entering the Stay of Proceedings. Throughout the case, Crown counsel Pat Donald, and lead RCMP/NSIS investigator Leigh Ryan have both continually denied the existence of undercover operatives or any dirty tricks campaign. However, the Crown's own disclosure to the defendants contained some information about officers operating undercover. This information allowed the defense to launch an argument for more disclosure about the constables suspected to be involved. BC Supreme Court Judge Lysyk found this request to be within reason and had ordered that the Crown release the info in a timely manner. The Crown, in order to cover up its abuse of power and to quash any public discussion on the matter, chose to enter the Stay rather than disclose this incriminating evidence.

In the end, it is questionable whether the charges laid against Darren and David were ever meant to stick. This investigation, which proceeded despite the lack of evidence against the pair, allowed the RCMP to harass and maintain surveillance on many members of the activist community. Tapped phones, infiltration, physical surveillance, and cross-country interviews gave the RCMP a chance to develop profiles on dozens of activists. These profiles will stay in the RCMP filing system for many years to come. Not only that, but the investigation allowed the police to restrict the movements and activities of Darren and David, forcing them to report to RCMP headquarters once a week and stopping them from leaving the country, or even the province of BC without permission.

This case goes to show the lengths that the Canadian government is willing to go to criminalize a basic human right - the right to express non-violent dissent. The information as given above should serve as a warning to all people who dare to protest - what the RCMP did to Darren and David, they can do to anyone.

Darren and David would like to extend their thanks to all the people who supported them throughout this time of trial and send a message of support out to all those struggling for liberation of humans, animals and the earth today.

Please see the background document - Activism on Trial for more detailed information about the investigation, the case itself and Darren and David's political work. It can be downloaded at http://www.tao.ca/~darren/actontrial.pdf.