Courts Release 73-year-old Forest Defender on Time Served

On January 25, 2001, "Grandma K," Betty Krawczyk, was freed after serving four months of a year-long sentence imposed upon her for her actions in blockading logging roads in the Elaho Valley of Canada. Her trial judge justified the lengthy sentence because of "criminal contempt." Vancouver Judges Ian Donald and Kenneth McKenzie overturned the sentence, quoting extensively from the original trial transcript.

What follows are excerpts from the transcript of her original sentencing hearing. Betty Krawczyk is responding to a challenge from the judge to explain why she has done what she has done—blocked a road—and why she doesn't respect the law. She has pointed out that in fact she respects the law greatly and wants it to be in harmony with the universe, the trees, the spirit. Then she continues:

"In my opinion, my attempt to try to help stop Interfor's rapid destruction of the Elaho Valley by standing in front of the logging trucks was not an evil, criminal, crazy thing to do. In my scheme of things, it was the eminently sane thing to do. I believe it to be crazy and insane to stand by mutely while our collective life support systems are being destroyed.

"I do not regret my actions in the slightest. And when I am in jail I consider myself a political prisoner and I act accordingly.

"But, in reality, the only real freedom that anyone actually finds is with the confines of one's one mind and spirit. It sounds trite, I know, but that kind of freedom really can't be imprisoned.

"You can put me in jail, sir, but I will not be your prisoner. I will not be Interfor's prisoner, or a prisoner of the Attorney General, or a prisoner of these nice deputy sheriffs, or a prisoner of BCCW. I am only a prisoner of my own conscience, sir, and only of my own conscience and that makes me a free woman, a free person.

"And, as a free person, I refuse to enter into any sort of collusion with this court in terms of potential house arrest or electronic monitoring as part of my sentences. I will never be a party to assisting in my own punishment in ways that would force me to internalize prison, to internalize confinement, to internalize guilt, to internalize the power of Interfor and the Attorney General's office to punish me for trying to protect public property, property that every citizen has a right, not only a right but also a duty to protect and enjoy and love.

"As well, sir, I will not accept any kind of community service as part of punishment. I have done more than my share of community service in  my lifetime. I have done it freely and as a labour of love and I will not have it imposed on me as punishment. I will also resist paying a fine, however small. To pay a fine, at least for me, would be tantamount to admitting guilt. This would imply that my actions in the Elaho were harmful and antisocial and must be atoned for. And again if I pay the fine, however small, I would have to internalize a sense of guilt that I do not feel.

"There have been actions in my life that I truly regret and feel sorry for, but trying to protect the ancient forest of the Elaho is not one of them. I love the Elaho. I love all of the old growth forests of British Columbia. To fight to preserve what one loves is to act in harmony with oneself and with nature.

"So, sir, I refuse anything that would dilute the reasons of why I am here, of why I tried to stop the logging of the Elaho. So I refuse fines, community service and the internalized guilt of a shamed and shameful compliance. You must lock me up, sir, or let me go. Thank you."

—Reprinted from Green Fuse Newspaper

The background photograph was taken by Dean Rimerman of redwood trees from Headwaters Forest in Northern Humboldt County, California.

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