Anyone who wants to understand just how far some animal rights activists will go for their cause should read this account of Canada’s investigation in the activities of David Barbarash and Darren Thurston.
The two ALF activists spent time in jail in 1992 for stealing 29 cats from a University of Alberta laboratory. Americans for Medical Progress in a story on the dropping of the charges, notes that although Barbarash likes to pass himself off as a mere information liaison for the ALF, he told a Vancouver Sun reporter this week that he had participated in numerous ALF actions since his conviction, “none of which I am going to tell you about because they were all illegal and I’ve never been convicted or caught.”
If the Vancouver Sun article is correct, however, the major thing keeping him from being convicted at the moment are Canada’s police reporting laws.
Barbarash and Thurston, it turns out, are the main suspects in last year’s mailing of razor blade laden packages to fur farmers and medical researchers in the United States and Canada. The Vancouver Sun, relying on court transcripts, documents provided to them by Barbarash and Thurston, and their own investigation sums up the evidence the police collected against the duo:
On Oct. 14, 1995, police tailed Thurston and Barbarash to the Lower Mainland Mini-Storage on Richards Street, where Thurston rented a storage locker and placed a brown file box inside, court was told.
A month later, on Nov. 7, police got a warrant to secretly search the locker. In the box, they found, among other things, brown envelopes that contained a card to which a razor blade was attached. There were also letters and communiques from a group calling itself the Justice Department, and photocopies of instructions on how to build explosive devices.
Two days later, police secretly marked the locker so they could determine if anyone had been inside. Then, in December, police got another warrant for the locker, and this time used an ultraviolet pen to mark envelopes containing the razor blades. The pen’s ink was invisible to the naked eye, but it would allow investigators to identify the envelopes if they were ever sent.
In January, the Victoria Times Colonist received a press release from the “Justice Department.” It bore the ultraviolet markings. Guides and outfitters later received razor blade letters bearing the same markings.
So why are the charges being dropped? According to the police, because the Canadian intelligence service was also investigating Thurston in connection with a series of pipe bomb attacks he was a suspect in. The police decided to cooperate with the intelligence agency investigation. Under Canadian law, however, since the police coordinated their efforts with the intelligence agency, everything about the intelligence agency’s investigation has to be disclosed in order for the case to proceed — a move which the intelligence agency has blocked for national security reasons despite the police desire to move forward with the case.
The charges could be reinstated at some point, but apparently that is very unlikely under Canadian law. This is certainly a very bizarre legal situation all around.
How a sweeping investigation went awry for the RCMP. Rick Ouston, Lindsay Kines, and Chris Nuttall-Smith, The Vancouver Sun, September 28, 2000.