Activists wait for RCMP to clear old-growth logging blockades on Vancouver Island

Chad Pawson / Greg Rasmussen
CBC News
Posted: Apr 21, 2021

A group of activists say they have no intention of ending their anti-logging blockades on Vancouver Island, despite a court injunction and opposition from the political leadership of the Pacheedaht First Nation.

Since August, dozens of people have blocked access to roads in Fairy Creek to prevent Teal Cedar, a division of the Teal-Jones Group, from logging the old-growth forest within its 595-square-kilometre tenure.

But a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted the company an injunction against the protesters earlier this spring, writing that police would be necessary to ensure the order is respected.

When CBC News visited the area this week, activists, who call themselves forest defenders, said they and hundreds of supporters are ready to be arrested by the RCMP.

“I think they thought we were just going to go away,” protester Duncan Morrison said. “We are here for the long haul until Fairy Creek is protected.”

A series of camps have been set up in strategic locations to prevent logging trucks from moving in, with kitchens, outhouses and shelters for sleeping. A legal defence fund has also been established.

Protester Shawna Knight says she’s prepared to be arrested in order to protect trees that have been growing there for hundreds of years.

“The biodiversity they provide and the habitat they provide, there’s nowhere else like it in the world … That’s why they’re so special,” she said.

The term “old growth” in B.C. refers to trees that are generally 250 years or older on the coast and 140 years or older in the Interior. Sierra Club B.C. estimates that more than 140,000 hectares of old-growth forest is logged each year in the province.

Industry representatives say old-growth logging is vital to B.C.’s $12 billion-a-year forestry sector.

“Old growth in certain areas is critical for the annual harvest,” said Bob Brash, executive director of the Truck Loggers Association.

“The less that everybody harvests, the less that they can support the sawmills, the less that they can support the value-added plants, the less revenue that comes to the province.”

Teal Cedar estimates the trees in its Fairy Creek tenure are worth about $10 million.

The Fairy Creek operation sits on the traditional territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation, which has signed agreements with the company, and a revenue-sharing agreement with the province for all timber cut on their land.

In a written statement earlier this month, Pacheedaht Hereditary Chief Frank Queesto Jones and Chief Coun. Jeff Jones asked outside protesters to stand down.

“All parties need to respect that it is up to Pacheedaht people to determine how our forestry resources will be used,” the statement said.

But other community members have joined the protest.

“Our political elite have been duped,” Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones said. “You don’t cut down the forest. You leave it up and you go there and pray and meditate.”

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His niece Kati George-Jim, also known as xʷ is xʷ čaa, is also waiting for police to arrive.

“It is really difficult as an Indigenous person and a person who has relationships to these territories to witness, because it pulls on family divides and pulls on how colonialism has impacted our people,” she said.

The RCMP have yet to say when they will act on the injunction and clear the roads for logging trucks.