House arrest, probation for old-growth protester who blocked Metro Vancouver traffic

VANCOUVER — A man who took part in four traffic-stopping protests in Metro Vancouver in an effort to save old-growth forests has been given a conditional sentence and six months' probation by a provincial court judge.

Benjamin Holt pleaded guilty to taking part in four protests, including one that snarled traffic on Grandview Highway and Boundary Road in Vancouver for 12 hours.

In a letter to the court, Holt said he felt, morally, that he had to take part in the protests, although he was sorry for the inconvenience the demonstrations caused other people.

However, his letter said it should not be necessary for ordinary citizens to put themselves out there to force the government to do the right thing.

Judge Gregory Rideout says in a decision released Thursday that public safety was of "paramount concern" after the blockades were set up in critical traffic arteries, stopping first responders from doing their work.

Rideout handed Holt a 60-day conditional sentence, some of it to be served under house arrest, in addition to a $500 fine, six months' probation and a condition that he not take part in protests that block traffic.

The Crown had asked for a 14-day jail sentence, while his lawyer wanted a conditional discharge, meaning that if Holt followed the conditions of his sentence he would not have a criminal record.

Rideout said it wouldn't be in the public interest to give Holt a conditional discharge because of his criminal conduct.

"I agree with the Crown that a jail sentence is warranted, but disagree with the Crown that a conventional jail sentence should be imposed rather than the imposition of (a conditional sentence order)," Rideout said in the decision.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.

The Canadian Press